I like to be busy. Give me some down time, and I might log onto our photo-storing site and organize the visual record of this past month into subdivided folders. If I’m going to watch a movie or televised sporting event, I will crochet for a charitable hat drive to keep my hands busy. Audio books are wonderful while I’m driving or working out. And then don’t forget the husband, the kids, the house, the cooking, the gym, helping a friend or two, the Home & School board, instructing at Sunday school, volunteering at the library and with the nonprofits I believe in, and then there is this blog I write…
The laptop on the kitchen counter is command central. No matter where I am in the house or what I am doing, I gravitate back to that spot in the kitchen. I even use an app that allows me to text from my phone on that laptop. I can monitor how the blog is fairing, I can promote on and participate in social media, and I can manage my volunteer work. All this while preparing meals and snacks, supervising the kids, and checking items off a to-do list that reads like the Constitution.
Don’t pat me on the back. There is something about people who spread themselves thin that is beyond obnoxious. What are we trying to prove? Is it about besting other moms and fueling the fire of the Mommy Wars? Are we competing with our significant others for “busy” points? Are we hoping for a heart attack to take us out permanently so we can finally–finally!–lay down?
“How in the world do you do it all?”
Something has to give, and usually it’s that my house gets cluttered or that I put off one task to complete another, and my master schedule gets adjusted. The things that interest me the least suffer the most:
- gardening, (the vegetable garden is currently a hot mess, but the flowerbeds are weeded–thanks to my husband),
- housework (creative collections of toys in rooms where they shouldn’t be, a stack of papers to go through, a kitchen floor desperate to be mopped),
- putting away laundry (isn’t it enough that I washed and folded it?)
Some evenings I have to ignore it all, go to bed with a book in my hands and shut off the rest of the world. Some days I have a little anxiety going on, and my mind won’t quiet down enough for me to get through daily tasks without preoccupation. Then I tell myself even Meryl Streep doesn’t win an Oscar for every role. My goal is to bring my “A” game every day, but that pace is impossible to maintain.
“Don’t you ever sleep?”
It’s currently 1:20 AM on the morning this blog post goes out, and I’m still writing it. My kids are early risers, right along with the sun, and I will suffer in the morning for the hours I’m keeping. For the record, I am not a night owl, and this feels like torture for a person that is allergic to caffeine. Since a a sugar high is out of the question, I sit at the computer while my sleepy head bobs like a rhythm- deficient Hip Hop lover, unable to keep the beat.
So why do you do it? Why do you insist on taking so much on?
Four kids and not an oops! baby in the mix. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment? Why can’t I sit down to watch a movie and allow myself to be engrossed in a story well-told? Can’t I pick up take-out for one night and forego the home-cooked meal? I can skip a gym day here or there and not suffer for it, right? If I’m not on the Home & School board, I’m sure someone else will be. All of the volunteering, maybe that’s me ego-tripping, thinking that I’m needed at various places to do various things.
Some of this is personality. There are times I have to literally bite my tongue to wait my turn in a conversation. I like to share my thoughts and opinions, I like to collaborate with others, I most definitely enjoy being in the know.
Some of this is me being a do-er, the type of person that likes to be in the thick of the action. I thrive off of being a part of things, and I crave the satisfaction of knowing even the smallest of contributions has contributed to the greater good.
But here is the bigger reason: I know I can have it all, but not all at once. This is the harsh reality we all face at one point or another. Somewhere in my head, my brain realizes that. Yet, the cancer that had invaded my body makes my sense of urgency all the greater. I’m approaching mid-life, it’s all downhill after this (or so some people say). How much time do I have left to make my mark on the world?
So I move at a frantic pace. The sum of the busyness plus the quieter moments of contentment fulfill me. I’m making the most of every day, when this time last year I was broken, physically, mentally, spiritually. I feel a sense of purpose, and I possess a clarity. Most days I want to be in the throes of it all. I feel alive and productive. I suppose it’s part of the deal when you survive something terrible. I may be filling up my days with activity but it helps me to be aware of the poignant moments and how meaningful they are. Today’s examples:
- There was time to hear Baby #2’s story about how it was his friend’s birthday today, and that friend wanted to play on the “good” soccer team at recess. She gave the team’s captain the first cupcake from her birthday treats, in the hopes that he would pick her for that team. When the deal fell through, Baby #2 had her take his place on the team, and he played on the lesser-skilled team.
- While I was halfway through the vacuuming, Baby #4 asked me to read him a few books. I stopped what I was doing and we cuddled up on the couch for 20 minutes, not squandering the opportunity to rock out to “Pete the Cat.”
- Baby #3 was excited to mail out the cookies we made for his older cousin, who is away at college for the first time. As we left the shipping store, he told me “I really love him, Mommy. It’s nice to show him that by sending him a package. Every time he sees me, he makes me feel special.”
- I was shocked at the end of Back to School night to realize I had not one substantial question for any of the teachers, since Baby #1 has done such a tremendous job communicating every aspect of her school day to me. That is no small feat, considering she is usually our most disorganized child and she is at a new school this year.
I will keep up the pace, being cognizant of when I require a break in the action: a night out with girlfriends for drinks and laughs, a long conversation at the kitchen table with my husband, a spontaneous dance party with the kids, a short, hand-written note mailed to a nephew, a few moments of solitude in the early morning to center myself, closing my eyes at night and mediating on all that I have to be thankful for. I won’t let a chance to contribute to something or someone important to me pass without considering what I can offer of myself. Busy is tiring, but busy is good. Busy is alive.