When I say 'hello' on the phone sometimes, the other end of the phone asks me, "you sound busy. You busy? Your hello says 'busy'."
"I only said hello! You gleaned all that from two syllables?!" And then we break into some Abott and Costello routine.
Here's an odd confession.
I can't skip things that are on my schedule/calendar. I've tried a number of times but when I do I get attacked by royal pangs of guilt. 'Bad, Bri, bad. You skipped out on yoga or picking up dry-cleaning, or replying to so-and-so-'s email.'
If the tasks are not on the calendar, I can skip them but if they are, I can't not keep them.
This is the reason why I wouldn't sluff as a teenager.
My classmates would always ask in disbelief: "Why don't you want to go to a party instead of 19th century English poetry?"
"Because my schedule says I'm in class from 8-2, you know what I mean? Then, it's MTV after class. And then I've got ping-pong. And then Inspector Morse is on at 8 (Man, I used to LOVE Morse!). So, no, can't skip."
I laugh now when I am reminded of this seemingly odd behavior. I laugh but I still 'get' what my teenage version meant by "well, it's in my schedule to do this, so, yeah, I've got to do it."
Ok, consider this rather insipid illustration by Hugh Grant's character in About a Boy. This was the only minute in the film worth my time and interest. I turned off my attention after that. I get Hugh Grant's discussion of 'units of time'. It somehow makes perfect sense to me.
Sticking to a schedule helps many process information. Answers are often hidden between tasks. Panacea is to be found between tasks. Being busy keeps one in motion and being in a state of moving keeps one interested and in that very process interesting. Aren't most things about the latter, anyway?
It matters being busy. It matters because busy-ness brings a level of perspective that one cannot have when having too much time to mull things over.
My academic background has made me especially aware of this. Doing a close reading of half a 13-th century poem for a year can eventually test one's patience and one's relationship with time. I get general anxiety when I have much time on my hand to do one specific thing. The thing becomes less daunting, hence handleable, when done in the company of other things. The phrase that gets used by those in my life is, "you look like you're in your head again." I know what that phrase stands for. It stands for restlesness or rather fear of restlessness.
I got to thinking abou what we were doing this time last year on my drive back from work tonight. And this time last year I got a call from the phone operators of Real Time with Bill Maher informing me that we had won some complimentary tickets to a live taping of the HBO show at their studio on Fairfax Ave. in Los Angeles. Since we were heading to LA that weekend, the phone call could not have been timelier.
Seeing a live episode of Real Time was not just fun. It was another great example of how indispensable being busy is to me. Getting to the studio in time was nigh heroic. If you've ever driven in Los Angeles, you don't have to think too hard why. Los Angeles traffic is the stuff nightmares are made of. Our day this time last year consisted of a lot of activities and we made the taping of the show in the nick of time. I like it when I make it to things in the nick of time. I don't like to wait. Waiting sucks. Waiting makes me clench my teeth, move restlessly, and get aggravated at the thought that time, my time is being wasted.
Being busy matters because it gives many of us the impression that we count, that we are important. And the impression of being something, more often than not, has more weight than actual substance. Impressions are the stuff actual encouragement is made out of and encouragement is rarely inconsequential. Being busy reinforces a pattern of movement/motion and it is at the core of being dynamic, with a pulse, alive.