Keeping busy

“I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer…”

The ‘Busy’ Trap

The above passage is from a recent New York Times essay from Tim Kreider. I recommend you check it out. It’s a quick, yet thought-provoking read.  The writer takes to task individuals who when you ask how they’re doing, deliver breathlessly a default response of “Busy!”

I especially enjoyed the way Mr. Kreider calls out those whose busyness is rated on a scale where the top end peaks at “Crazy Busy” (What’s that you say? You don’t know anyone who does this?).

It made me think about an email exchange I had with a friend whom I hadn’t talked to in a while. I was genuinely interested in finding out how this person was doing. I still don’t know. What I do know is that they’re keeping busy (It’s a topic for another day, but I wonder if I would have received a more in-depth response if I had picked up the phone, or – dare I say it – written a letter?!?!).

I found a sense of validation in this article. Eternal optimist that I am, when I’m asked how I’m doing, I flash my Colgate smile and let loose some rose-colored glasses positive response. No matter how many chainsaws I’m juggling, rarely would I bother someone – presumably interested in my well-being – with tales of woe of how busy I am. 

In the deep recesses of my mind – in a cubbyhole next to where I store my uncharacteristic cynicism – is housed the memory of an older, more seasoned professional who said to me a couple of decades ago that just because someone is moving really fast, doesn’t mean they’re really moving anywhere. I can’t help but play these words back in my head – suppressing a knowing chuckle – whenever someone goes off on how busy they are.

Even deeper in the folds of gray matter are memories of John Sr. A man who   held down two jobs – pretty much until I moved an orange and blue tassel* from right to left. In the 25 years I knew him, he never once had to say he was busy.

But don’t get me wrong, I’ve been in The Man’s band, shaking a tambourine and maracas like Davy Jones for more than a few sets in the live show that is corporate America. Where singing for your supper – sadly from time to time – includes belting out a few verses about how busy you are.  It’s a song whose lyrics I know nearly as well as the fifth track on the first side of the Voices album. 

While I understand there may be those times when it’s necessary to make a public display of busyness; it is refreshing to have a conversation with people whose busy amps aren’t cranked up to 11.

So, how are you doing?

*Apologies to the one or two of my fellow Newhouse grads visiting these pages for taking poetic license. I know our tassels were maroon!



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