please don’t


There are things you cannot change until you accept them. I have always hated the moments when people are deluded about themselves and their time. Protesting, “But it will be calmer soon…” or planning for some illusory moment down the line when they’ve organized themselves better, when this or that thing is finally resolved, yes…. then there will be time. Then they will embrace the life they really want for themselves. But that time never comes. Because this chaos you wade through now is your life… and without accepting it as the norm, you can’t find a sustainable way to step outside and change that norm.

I am not immune to this behavior – it just depends on the cast of characters. With most people I bend over backwards to put them first, dropping everything to be there for them. We’re told, after all, that what matters in the end –  and should matter all through the journey – is people, right? The people we care about. So if they are most important, I am going to treat them that way. But that only considers that these are the people who are important to me… there are still people who demand attention or time, but if I don’t perceive them as important, I am just as guilty as everyone else of putting them off with the endless protests of, “It’s so busy right now but it will calm down when…”. And it’s never going to calm down – first because I keep taking on more and more stuff that I want to do but also because, whether I like that person or not, they aren’t atop my list of beloved-important-people.

On the other side of this equation, people who are most important to me may not feel that I am important to them. Sometimes I feel this, even if it’s not true. Mostly because if you’re not a squeaky wheel, showing that you need attention or time, you’re probably not going to get it.

Busyness: One’s almost lover


“Are you too busy? You should be, and you should let people know in a proud but exasperated tone.” A recent Slate article about people claiming to be busy and thus wasting time and driving themselves mad with the assertion (because they probably really are nowhere near as “busy” as they claim) hit the nail on the head. People love to masquerade as the world’s busiest, most put-upon and wear this distinction like a badge of honor. The article asks a question I ask myself all the time: “If the time squeeze is so miserable, why do people brag about it?”

There is no real mystery behind it, though. If you know people – even if you generalize about them, you know that people need, want, crave and will put themselves through hell to get just a shred of recognition – some kind of recognition. People want to brag about misery and be acknowledged for suffering through it, regardless of whether it is self-created. The Slate article echoes these fears, citing a book called The Busy Trap by Tim Kreider, “Busyness is a virtue, so people are terrified of hearing they may have empty time. It’s the equivalent of being told that you’re redundant or obsolete.” People love to suffer and brag about it.

An article in the Washington Post excerpted another article on the subject (both articles I cite refer to a book on the subject written by Brigid Schulte), states, “And life, sociologists say, became an exhausting everydayathon. People now tell pollsters that they’re too busy to register to vote, too busy to date, to make friends outside the office, to take a vacation, to sleep, to have sex. As for multitasking, one 2012 survey found that 38 million Americans shop on their smartphones while sitting on the toilet. And another found that the compulsion to multitask was making us as stupid as if we were stoned.”

Considering the business of being busy, the PK Page poem “Suffering” immediately rushed to mind.

Man is made in such a way that he is never so much attached to anything as he is to his suffering.” –Gurdjieff

confers identity. It makes you proud.
The one bird in the family bush. Which other, ever
suffered so? Whose nights, whose days,
a thicket of blades to pass through?
Deeps of tears. Not ever to give it up
This friend whose sword
turns in your heart,
this o-so-constant clever cove-care-giver
never neglectful, saying yes and yes
to plumed funerary horses, to grey drizzle
falling against the panes of the eyes.

Oh, what without it? If you turned your back?
Unthinkable, so to reject it, choose instead
meadows flower-starred
or taste, for instance – just for an instant – bread.
The sweet-smelling fields of the earth
goldenly dancing
in your mouth.

suffering is sweeter yet.
That dark embrace – that birthmark,
birthright, even.
Yours forever
ready to be conjured up –
tongue in the sore tooth, fingertip
pressed to the bandaged cut
and mind returning to it over and over.

Best friend, bestower of feeling
Something to suck at like a stone.
One’s own. One’s owner.
…One’s almost lover.

Dashes of sugar, dashes of travel: A stuffed life


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