“My goal is to do less,” my friend told me last week. “Hanging out with you is my one thing.”
I was super grateful, since she’d driven 40 minutes north to see me while her toddler was in summer camp. Fewer friends these days make that kind of effort, with or without children.
“Is that weird?” she asked.
Noooo, I said. Actually… doing less? That’s my goal, too.
A friend once described me as someone who is “always in a hurry.” I realize that my SF life is crazier than it needs to be. I’m always “doing something” and “going somewhere.” Why? Is it a “California thing”? An “urban thing”? “What we all do”? I don’t know, but I don’t think I’m the only one.
To illustrate, B and I once went to a relative’s home. B’s relative has been a happy homemaker, by choice, for over 30 years. After we’d socialized a bit, B’s relative expressed her frustrations, saying, “I’m just so busy. I have to go do some work now.”
What?! She had no kids to raise, no job, no major life changes around her, no weddings or funerals, no upcoming events to plan. What work?!
She may have been referring to writing conversation topics on 3×5 notecards. Or alphabetizing takeout menus for convenience. I say this with no judgment, and maybe even some jealousy at this type of leisure. But, let’s be honest: This is not “work.” This is self-assigned busy-ness.
I’m not judging self-assigned busy-ness, either. I do it too. I fool myself into thinking I HAVE to go buy more socks. RIGHT NOW. I can’t eat my dinner unless I go buy more butter. I have to go RIGHT NOW.
But, again, let’s be honest about what this is. It’s not “work.” It’s not even a “priority.” “Priorities” are, you know, food and shelter. Then friends and family. I think I got that order right.
So what does “staying busy” do for us? Optimistically, I think these “jobs” gives us a sense of accomplishment or purpose. We finish each “job” and feel proud of ourselves.
Cynically, I think assigning these “jobs” allow us to boast to our friends, “I’m SOOOOO busy,” so they can admire our hard lives. This gives us an inflated sense of self-importance. Even though I’ve done, like, nothing.
If I want to have a sense of accomplishment, what if I do something that is not driven by my own materialistic interest? Like giving food to the homeless, planting a tree, or learning to play the guitar?
I like my material objects just as much as the next person. I don’t have it in me to give everything away and live a zen life, like I’ve known some people (mostly friendly Berkeley hippies) to have done.
But, like my friend, I’m trying to focus on what’s meaningful each day: a friend. A service. An event. Slowing down, as my bout with pneumonia taught me, is a good way to enjoy my life more fully.
So if I don’t get around to repainting my side table right away… honestly? I’ll probably be OK. If I make a subpar meal or two? Hey, I can still eat food.
I’m not gonna say everything will be totally different. But, like my friend: one quality activity per day? I think I can do it.
Now it’s time for an Abrupt ending to that thought, and an awkward segue: “Speaking of doing less per day….”
I just bought my Margaret Cho tickets for October!! I got them presale, so I will be sitting in the second row from the stage. HA! HA! HA!
Uh, I swear that was not gloating. I meant to say: Sorry for not telling you before they went on sale to the public. You can still buy yours– click on the Cho-tastic photo for the link to her site.
The show is gonna be sooooooo gay! In all meanings of the word.
And, uh, once you go, that’s your “one thing for the day.” My goal? I plan to overachieve, and start a letter campaign in favor of the Voting Rights Act beforehand. You’ll see me at the show, looking cooler than you.
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PS: I totally ganked the opening picture from a google-search website. It was an after-thought to this post. I found it on Eric Kim Street Photography. Interestingly, when I stole it (without permission), I scanned his post… and it was a cool, interesting post that had the same theme as this one (imagine that)…but about photography. Since I didn’t ask permission, I could at least encourage you to check it out if you are a photographer-type.