A good friend described the impact of busyness on our neighborhoods brilliantly: "Being neighborly used to mean visiting people. Now being nice to your neighbors means not bothering them." People's lives are shaped by how busy they are. Lives also are shaped by the respect and deference that is given to busyness - especially when it is valued above connection and community. If people are considerate, they assume that their neighbors are very busy and so try not to intrude on them. Dropping by is no longer neighborly. It is simply rude.
We treat socializing as if it's a frivolous diversion from the tasks at hand rather than an activity that is essential to our well-being as individuals and as a community. Soon our not bothering to call people (or even e-mail them) gets read by others as a sign that we are too caught up in the sweep of our own lives to have time for them. Our friends are not surprised. Our relatives may be indignant, but even they know how hard it is. An unspoken understanding develops. It's too bad that we've lost touch, but that's the way it is.
I read this just after writing my last blog post on the busy cycle I was finding myself in, and I found it so ironic. I value connection, and I try to align what I'm doing with what I value. But there are so many options out there and so many of them sound so good! This seems to be especially true in the month of May here in the Willamette Valley - I could probably go to at least three things each day that I would completely enjoy. It becomes hard to choose. And it becomes increasingly hard to focus on my priorities.
Yesterday my life coach told us of the Good Samaritan Experiment conducted in 1973. The researchers told half the group of seminary students that they would be speaking on the Good Samaritan, the other half were told that they would be preparing a talk on seminary jobs. When the time came to give the sermons, the researchers planted an actor in an alley that they each had to walk by to get to the lecture hall where they were to give their sermon. The actor was playing the part of the mugged man in need of help - groaning loudly enough for passers by to hear that he needed help. The researchers told some of the participants they needed to hurry and the others that they had plenty of time. The most important factor in whether they stopped to help was how much of a hurry they were in, even if they were on their way to give a talk on the Good Samaritan!
What I get from this is that I really need to be careful to not be in such a rush from being overly busy/over-scheduled, that I loose sight of my values. And really, it took me such a long time and so much hard work to figure out and to define what my values really are, that it is unfair to sabotage those efforts and let busyness get in between me and my values. Scheduling and letting go, evaluating and letting go even more. Breathing. Relaxing. Enjoying.
I want to, once more, be more aware of the joy in everything. It is my true compass. If I'm not finding joy, but duty or obligation, then the activity does not serve me. It is such a simple test, but oh so hard to remember to give consistently. Old habits sneak back in and I find myself, once again, needing to examine what I'm spending my time on and weeding out those items that creep in without joy.