LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO BE BUSY
As I stared at her coffin, I was haunted by two words: too busy.
Her nickname was Mangoes for the fruit grown on her parents’ farm; an exotic creature from the wilds of far north Queensland.
On our first day at university she strode into the lecture theatre, flaming auburn hair and slash of red lipstick – a modern day Greta Garbo. I was a kid from the ‘burbs; she was my first girl crush.
To the sounds of the Go-Betweens, the Saints and the Aloha Pussycats, we cut a swathe through Brisbane’s band scene. She inevitably ended up with the lead singer; me, the monosyllabic drummer*.
After three years of reckless drinking, occasional drug taking, and anti-government protesting, we decided to grow up. Mangoes flourished in the world of the written word, rising through the ranks of newspapers.
I travelled the country, building a career in broadcast journalism.
A decade later, we reunited in Sydney, and from then on every Tuesday, we would share a bottle of wine over lunch – a 90s gris replacing the 80s Green Ginger. It was as if we’d never been apart.
With a rapier wit, she would dissect the issues of the week: the nasty boss in the newsroom; her son’s obsession with tractors; hubby and his gaping boxer shorts. We giggled like schoolgirls.
But life in the big smoke took its toll. Anxiety, and its shadow of addiction, forced the family’s retreat to the country.
Our long and languid phone calls became snatched chats while picking up the kids from school, driving to work, or chopping the veggies.
She was a loyal friend to the end.
But me? Weeks became months. Calls contracted to texts. Emails, to tweets. I was always “too busy”.
As Tim Kreider writes in a New York Times essay entitled The Busy Trap, “it is a boast disguised as a complaint”.
It’s not those working 12-hour overnight shifts, or commuting by bus to three minimum wage jobs, who make this complaint; it’s a middle class affliction.
“They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might face in its absence,” he writes.
We know our boss isn’t going to sit by our deathbed and say, “Thanks for all the hard work”.
Yet we fall into this tempting trap for a temporary boost to our ego. It makes us feel important – wanted, if not needed. Ultimately, it is destructive to our sense of self-worth.
So, I sit in a small funeral home staring at a shiny casket.
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