Saturday, October 23, 2021

Confession of the non-busy

In January 2018, one of our pastors preached on a topic that included use of time.  After the service, I told him I was probably the only person he knew who says, "I'm never busy." I almost never have too much to do. So I offered to write him a note about it. Today I found the note, but I'm not sure I ever gave it to him, and I don't know if I ever entered it here as a blog. After 18 years and my sloppy way of adding tags/subject headings I often can't find what I wrote even a few months ago.

"Here it is; the confession of a non-busy church goer. My husband says that isn’t true, but let me explain.

I’m efficient and reasonably neat, I’m a modest cook, and I don’t obsess much over details. I keep up with laundry, but don’t do a lot of cleaning. The bed is made as soon as I get up, dishes can wait a bit. I’m careful with money, tithe my income, invest wisely, and have no debt. We’ve never had a credit card balance—ever. We paid off our home mortgage in our 40s, and never had a college loan. That’s not being so smart—it’s mainly because we were born in 1938 and 1939 to parents who had been through the Depression.

When we were younger, we (mostly my husband) did do home maintenance like painting and repairs, now we hire that, and it’s more efficient and safer. I did wallpaper a bedroom once, and I think in the 1960s-1970s I might have made curtains. When our children were at home 1967-1987 I did things I don’t do today—like sewing, driving car pools, Campfire Girls leader, choir mother, but usually pretty short term, like BVS, or volunteering at their school. I didn’t push the kids to be joiners, but that was a losing battle, because if I didn’t enroll them in sports or after school activities they had no one to play with because all their friends were doing something away from our neighborhood. Still I had limits—mainly because I didn’t want all my time tied up. Some mommy stuff I did to actually keep busy—to feel a part of things, which I think you addressed this morning.

The modern women’s movement really took off in the early 70s and there was a lot of pressure on women to bring in a second income. I crunched some numbers and figured out it didn’t pay, but did return to work part time (no summers) when the kids were about 3rd-4th grade. But keep in mind, our Upper Arlington middle class life style in the 70s would be poverty today—one TV, one car, no AC, rarely eating out, no phone contracts or cable bills (our cable bill is higher than our mortgage was when we had one—not adjusted for inflation), etc.

When I was working (as an academic librarian, veterinary medicine, Agriculture, Latin American studies, Russian language studies from 1966-2000 with time out from 1968-1978 for children, etc.) I avoided joining committees. However, it was required for my promotion and tenure to Associate Professor, so I didn’t volunteer much for task forces, or ad hoc stuff. Committees are time eaters and empire builders for the chair, whether at work, in organizations or at church. I was busy one year—the budget had been cut and I lost some employees and had to do their work, but it only lasted about 4 months. I was blessed with some great assistants. Before my annual review I would put a box under my desk and put everything from the top of the desk in it so the office would look good when my boss visited. 6 weeks later I’d go through it, and most stuff could be tossed. I still do that occasionally because my desk at home gets messy.

I believe people are busy to feel a need. God made us to be creative, be in relationship with Him, and after the Fall, to work. Our modern life is really pretty easy, but it’s sedentary. I think I read recently that because of our lifestyle and life span, the average adult American has about 40 years of leisure counting week-ends, holidays, and retirement.

But the key is pressure. I just hate feeling pressured, and it doesn’t matter if it’s internal or external. As I’ve aged and my memory isn’t what it once was, I’ve had to start making lists, something I resisted for years. I feel pressured with a list waiting for me. But. That energizes many people. They need something pushing, nagging, chastising them for not doing better, not doing more, not being more efficient. They thrill at making a line though something on the list. That just doesn’t work for me—makes me feel rebellious and anxious, like a failure. I try not to schedule more than one thing a day—can’t always avoid it—like maybe a medical appointment and lunch with friends may fall on the same day. I try to consciously schedule something social, because I know it’s good for me, like exercise.

I know people who say to me, “You blog? (or you paint? Or you have time to read?) I just don’t have time to do that.” And my response is, “I don’t have time to play tennis or golf.” (I hate competitive sports and am no good at it, never have been.) People are as busy as they want to be, and everyone uses time differently. I’m retired. If time is money, I’m a millionaire. Every verb we use with money we use with time. Spend it; invest it; use it; waste it; etc."

If I wrote more, I haven't found it.  If I've posted this before, I also haven't found it!


Dan Nieman said...

I like your comments on being non busy.

I woke at 10 a.m. I knew it was raining, so I wouldn't walk to church. So I took care of the dogs, attended online service, washed clothes, did last night's dishes, and by noon had the time to spend with family and read.

Norma said...

I wonder what the church lockdowns of 2020 will do to church attendance in the long run. It was shocking how quickly we became accustomed to finding something else to do on Sunday morning. And watching a video of a service just isn't the same.