Starbucks is buzzing. Drifting among the sounds of garbled voices is the constant grinding, banging and pounding coming from the baristas behind the counter. Busy people are coming and going. There are those who rush in, grab their steaming coffee, and then like the wind, blow out the door.
Sitting off in a corner are a couple of university students engrossed in their laptops. The lady next to me is typing feverishly on her phone. I am seated at one of the round tables waiting for a colleague to show up. She’s late. I automatically reach for my phone.
It just doesn’t feel right to sit there doing what may be construed as nothing.
I begin reading my eclectic Twitter feed. A post appears directing me to a feature about our addiction to busyness, a disease that has spread to all age groups, children, adults and retirees alike.
I’ve read numerous articles on this subject over the past few years. Many of them contend that new technologies and social media are huge contributors to the current amount of frenzy in our lives. We’re drowning in a sea of information, images and messages that clutter our minds and promote a perpetual sense of urgency and fear in us.
We perceive that the demands for our time at work, socially and at home are mounting exponentially. We are lost in the doing rather than in the being. Overbooked calendars and 9 pm work emails signify that we are important. We have value. And even when we aren’t busy, we’re determined to make the world think we are.
Living in the competitive culture of busyness gives us loads of acceptable excuses to avoid people, to be late for meetings and miss deadlines. It allows us to dodge obligations and actual problems. We get to complain incessantly and judge others who fail to meet our expectations. It justifies our impatient and rude behaviour. We are sustained by a fallacious sense of self-worth.
Surely this can’t be healthy for our minds, bodies or souls. Acquiescence to this lifestyle is a choice we make and one we can change – if it’s in our hearts to do so.
I sigh and continue scanning the Twitter feed. There’s an interesting post: “Louisa May Alcott’s book Little Women was first published on September 30, 1868.”
I remember this book; it’s on my long list of favorites. It’s a novel based on the author’s own childhood in which she pens a lively portrait of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March’s family life during the nineteenth-century. It starts in the middle of the American Civil War with Jo grumbling, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.”
The sisters’ stories are rippled with lessons about love, patience, kindness, forgiveness, hope and courage. These are the attributes they are taught by their “Marmee” to value and live by, no matter how busy they are. At the end of the day, are these not among the traits that truly define our self-worth?
Almost one hundred fifty years later, this old-fashioned novel continues to be popular. It has never been out of print. Two years ago, the Guardian ranked Little Women as 20 out of 100 Best Novels Written in English. Hollywood recently announced that it will be releasing a modern re-telling of the tale next year.
Perhaps it is time we stepped out of the busyness trap and dusted off old copies of Little Women. I believe we all need periodic reminders of what is important in life.