“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ~Socrates
If I weren’t a bird watcher, I might have easily been convinced that someone was hammering on our house. It turned out, however, there was hammering, but it was on the neighbor’s house. There was no treat awaiting the Red-Bellied Woodpecker who hammered away on the edge of the house next door (the gutter would have made more sense, I suppose). I wonder if Socrates might have considered the busy and fruitless woodpecker when he spoke those most meaningful words — being busy often causes us to turn up empty-handed as if we were pecking on metal expecting to find a worm.
I often find that when I write, I really am writing for myself, as strange as that might seem. The fact that others either enjoy or are educated by what I have discovered is icing on the cake, as it were. It is usually the story that has driven the need for a certain quote — not so today. It is the quote that caught my attention and continued to peck away at me, like the woodpecker hungry for a worm. Socrates’ words landed on a mind that is well aware of how busy it has been lately. No, his words did not fall on deaf ears when they met me, and I hope that someone else hears, as well.
When I was a younger woman, and I know that many of you are younger men and women making your mark on the world, I proudly kept a calendar in hopes of filling in all of the slots and being able to see in black and white (and pretty colors) how meaningful my life was. After all, an empty calendar could only mean that I wasn’t doing the good things I was meant to be doing, right? Well, I sure thought that was right, but I’m going to let you in on something I’ve learned as life has kept moving regardless of my calendar: Keeping busy can help us to not focus on other people’s business or take our mind away from a stressful situation in our life, and that can be a good thing, but striving to be busy can also result in our taking away from what really is important, to spending time on what we think helps us make a name for ourselves and makes us more important.
The life of a busy person can be anything but full if they are not careful. You see, the schedule you set that takes you from the bed to the treadmill to the shower to the office to the lunch meeting to the conference call to the meeting at church to the PTA meeting at the school and finally home is the same schedule that seeks to destroy you. The schedule does not value you. Only you can value yourself enough to make a change.
Stop for just a moment. Are you hurrying through this, hoping it won’t be as long as last week’s so you can say you read it but not have to lose your whole morning? Take a breath. Breath in, breathe out.
Did you feel that? It’s as if your entire body responds to the moment of nothingness. In fact, our bodies and our minds are hungry for some nothingness to simply regroup. No one else will do this for you unless you are lucky enough to have a boss who really cares about your taking care of yourself. Stop filling your calendar to the point that it bursts with the barrenness of a busy life.
Tomorrow, I am spending the morning with my mother and the afternoon with my best girlfriend. That’s it. I’ve worked hard this week — a full day working at the voting machines (everyone should give it a try), two full days working on what seemed like a job that might amount to looking for worms in the eave of a house have left me ready for a break. People matter, relationships matter, and slowing down to enjoy a cup of coffee with someone I care about will mean a fuller life and a less full calendar.
When I was born, I was given a name. I don’t need to be busy to make a name for myself, and I wish I had learned that much earlier in my life. You have a name, too. Let people know you for the meaningful moments instead of the pressed together squares on a calendar that might for just a moment appeal to the scheduler in you. Use those markers to draw some pretty pictures or to do some Zentangle. Leave some blank spots on the calendar and the barrenness of being busy behind you.
Joy is the will which labors, which overcomes obstacles, which knows triumph.~ William Butler Yeats
Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right. - Henry Ford
The best way out is always through. ~ Robert Frost
Real difficulties can be overcome, it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable. ~ Theodore N. Vail
Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall. ~ Oliver Goldsmith
You must be the change you want to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi