Newgrange 48x42" oil/cold wax on panel ©2011 Janice Mason Steeves
The question is, ‘what are you busy about?’”
~Henry David Thoreau
How can one person do it all? I have taken classes on getting organized. I set schedules and goals. I have no TV. But I feel that I'm constantly playing catch-up in my life: finding enough studio time, trying to catch-up on my art inventory, organizing my art classes, writing grant proposals, meeting art exhibition deadlines, donating to art auctions, writing blog posts, aiming to keep up on facebook, as well as walking my puppy, exercising, housecleaning and family life. And occasionally meditating.
I was brought abruptly to my senses last night though when a dear old friend called to chat. We talk now and again but not regularly. We've known each other since our now grown children were in Grade One. In the spring, she told me she was having very serious worries about one of her children who had recently confessed to having a drug addiction. We talked for a long time.
And then days began to pass. My busy, often chaotic life took all my attention. I wasn't sure how to follow up with my friend, and I soon got so far into my own world, that I simply forgot to call her. I didn't call to see how she and her family were coping with this life-threatening problem. Last night she called to chat and the conversation turned to her hurt at my not calling to check on her. She had gone through months of hell because she was so worried. I'm embarrassed to confess this. It wasn't intentional. It just happened. And I feel simply awful.
I don't have all the good answers that I see on other blogs and newsletters, where point by point, you can see the way to being a better person. I'm sick of them actually. Life isn't point by point.
Sometimes we make mistakes and we're brought face to face with our weaknesses.
Sometimes we need to step back, take the time to reflect and turn off the noise. I came across Pico Iyer's article "The Joy of Quiet" recently in the NY Times.
"The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context. “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” He also famously remarked that all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating. And — as he might also have said — we’re rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines.
So what to do? The central paradox of the machines that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make the best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual. All the data in the world cannot teach us how to sift through data; images don’t show us how to process images. The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen."
[Some] friends try to go on long walks every Sunday, or to “forget” their cellphones at home. A series of tests in recent years has shown..... that after spending time in quiet rural settings, subjects “exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper.” More than that, empathy, as well as deep thought, depends (as neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio have found) on neural processes that are “inherently slow.” The very ones our high-speed lives have little time for."Slowing down is the key, not working harder, longer and faster. Walks in the woods with my puppy and grandkids. Visits with friends.