The other day, at work, as I waited for my lunch to warm up in one of the two microwaves, a woman stepped to the other microwave and – when she popped open the door – was surprised to see someone else’s food inside.  She decided to leave it there, in case that person came back.  But, they hadn’t by the time my food was done.

“They either forgot,” I said jokingly, “or they returned to their desk, and someone grabbed them, saying, ‘I need you to look at this.’”

“Exactly!” she laughed.

Friday morning, as I retrieved ice from the break room, I noticed two halves of a bagel in the toaster.  A few seconds later a man rushed in and snatched them out.

“I forgot!” he said with a sharp chuckle.  “I went back to my desk and got caught up in something.”

“That happens,” I replied.

I’ve seen that before – several times.  It’s happened to me.  I get busy with one thing and then another.  And then, yet something else comes into play, and it goes on and on and on.

That’s how the world functions now – idleness is no longer just a vice; it’s an impossibility.  None of us can sit still for very long.  Like hyperactive children, we have to be doing something.

I know I have to stay occupied.  My mind runs like a Bengal tiger going in for the kill.  That may explain my past insomnia.  I look at my stack of books and magazines and list of Internet news articles that I want to read and keep telling myself I’ll get to them at some point.  Hopefully.  Before I die.

People hate the term “multi-tasking,” one of the few curses born of the 1990’s; a decade that showed how energetic and prosperous we could be.  Then again, multi-tasking may be partly responsible for the extreme productivity of that era.  People rushed to get so much done within a small window of time.

In the late ‘90’s, I was an administrative assistant at a large bank in Dallas where multi-tasking had become embedded into the corporate culture.  We couldn’t just sit at our desks and look pretty.  No one had that much time.  Our division supported an affluent clientele, and those people seemed to demand a lot.  Thus, when one of them called, I had to act as if though I’d been waiting for them all day and had nothing else to do, except tend to their needs.  But then, the bank demanded a lot from us.  One morning, my boss arrived for a meeting, when he should have been at a doctor’s appointment.  I was scheduled to sit in on the meeting for him.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, as he staggered towards his office.

He’d forgotten about the appointment.  The meeting had taken precedence in his mind – the way the Ebola virus overwhelms the human body.  He stood there for a moment beside my desk.  I could see the veins in his forehead undulating.  He contemplated whether to proceed with the meeting or head back out to the doctor’s office.  I finally convinced him to visit the doctor.

“Your health is more important,” I told him.  “You have family.  This shit can wait.”

Work can always wait.  Nothing really is more critical than your health and your family.  Proof: just a few months later that same boss got laid off after nearly 24 years at the bank.  All the time and energy he’d put into his job?  Bam!  Smashed into the floor like a dirty cockroach.  It didn’t seem to matter.  The company had a budget.

But, I know that my busyness is of my own design.  It’s self-imposed.  I did it to myself.  I used to get upset when people disrespected me, before I realized I would let them.  It was their fault that they couldn’t bring themselves to treat me with any sense of decency.  But, it was my fault that I didn’t talk back to them.  Now, I talk back, and occasionally that gets me in trouble.  But, I don’t want others taking control of me.  Yet, taking control of my life has often left little room for what’s really important: my aging parents, my dog, my handful of friends, my creative writing that soothes my cluttered psyche.  I have to step back and swallow the frustration, then spit it back out.

It’s actually good to be busy.  Idleness is a vice – unless you’re trying to meditate and decompress.  I’ve even had to force myself to do that!  But, it helps.  It’s bad, though, to be consumed by so many things at once.  Extremes are detrimental to your health.  And, they’re not worth the trouble.  They never are.


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