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OCCUPIED

"It's bathtime now." "I'm too busy." Astonished pause.

"What did you say?"

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"I'm too busy."

Parent sits down to consider this and watch her two year old daughter water the flowers. The tone and emphasis are just right. The difficulty is that when the mother makes this request she expects it to be accepted. Her daughter obviously expects the same acceptance.

It's a good opportunity to reflect on aspects of being busy. I tend to identify it with duty: doing those jobs that have to be done, but which I don't particularly enjoy doing for their own sakes. They are completed as quickly as possible so I can spend more time doing other things that are never associated with being busy. That's how it is at the moment. On the other hand I recall a number of years ago, when I worked in an office, during slack periods I would feel uncomfortably guilty because I wasn't busy. I couldn't justify my presence there. It's sufficiently long ago now to admit that on occasion I invented work in order to look and feel busy. It seems unbelievable now. The difficulty was being stuck in one place for a given length of time with just one kind of work to do. Reading a book, however mind-improving, or watering the pot plants didn't have the appropriate bustle.

Being at home full-time completely changes one's outlook. You're doing things all the time, in different places and for different reasons. They're all necessary and justifiable if there's anyone around who needs convincing. When you've finished one you go on to another. There's no such state as having nothing to do. However, I realise from my daughter's comments that I consider I'm "busy" when I'm in the kitchen. It's when I'm doing one of these chores that I say "I'm too busy." Apparently she considers this is probably what I really want to do. It appears we interpret the word differently. I would never dream of making more washing up in order to extend being busy. On the contrary it gets done with great dispatch so we do more worthwhile things like gardening, going for a walk, reading, writing. None of these come under the heading of being busy.m I feel no guilt about spending most of the day doing them. In a way it's rather like the modern classroom where children comfortably and happily shift from one activity to another. But come to think of it, a well run classroom is often approvingly called busy.

Have children intuitively grasped the good aspects of being busy: doing something entirely enjoyable with full concentration? -- while we adults have fallen into the trap of phony busyness which becomes an entity in itself with no purpose. No doubt Tamara sends me into the kitchen because she considers this will be a lovely treat. After all she was too busy when she was watering the flowers, which she does many times a day with immense pleasure, if I'm not too busy to fill up her watering cans. I notice she is still too busy to go to bed when she is on the swing, and now the sandpit is receiving her full attention.

I shall make an effort to review my feelings about being busy and in particular any remarks using that tiresome word "too." In the meantime decisive action must be taken against all forms of busyness which I am beginning to suspect are being used as delaying tactics. I could never get away with being "too busy" for so long. "We head for the bathroom: under deafening protest.


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