Have you been busy lately? For a while I’ve been trying to think of a different way of measuring my life in response to that kind of question. I like the word fruitful, but ‘How have you been? Fruitful?’ conjures up baskets of apples, buckets of persimmons and bottles of ginger beer. And occupied? It’s a bit too angular, and reminiscent of aircraft lavatories.
When I investigated the etymology of the word ‘busy’, it was immediately apparent why the word bothered me as a way to assess my state of being.
There it was, via an online etymology service: busy derives from the Old English bisig ‘careful, anxious,’ later ‘continually employed or occupied.’ I had a sense there was something anxiety-provoking about the word. According to the same site, it also has connotations of being ‘prying or meddlesome’, and ‘excessively detailed’, traits I also wish to avoid.
So, I abstain from being busy if it involves any anxiety, yes I’ll be careful, but not too careful! Not the kind of carefulness that makes me feel a little askew. Recently, I scrawled ‘find the balance between creative chaos and supportive order’ on my little green reminder board. I know I can do my administrative tasks in clumps that allow me to be careful but don’t make me anxious, I can indulge in staring out the window, let myself go for walks in the early hours so I bump into a swamp wallaby at my local reserve (I did this morning). I can refuse to respond to every beeping summons from electronic communication devices. Declare internet free hours, days, weekends. Give time for creative chaos. Artist Yinka Shinobare inspired journalist Sophie Heawood to hang a little looser. Cultivate unbusy-ness—go forth and be fruitful!