My uncle once told me that he doesn’t like telling people that he’s a busy person. In his line of work, if he says that to people, then he is concerned that they’ll try to avoid ‘bothering’ him, or muddle through something on their own without help. He’s in the business of helping and supporting people, so that’s hardly ideal for him. He is a busy person though, really. He has a large, never-ending workload.
I try to take the same tact. I’d rather not tell everyone that I know all about how busy I am, but I usually am quite occupied with the myriad goings-on in my life. I commit to a lot of different things, and I’m always looking to add something else.
That’s not the worst thing in the world. It’s better to be too active, rather than not active enough. You don’t want to sit by while life passes you by. I’ve recently finished TAFE, and the problem now is that if I tell people that I have extra time, it gets taken up one way or another. Or I find other ways of filling it out.
Seneca once wrote “It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it’s been given to us in generous measure for accomplishing the greatest things, if the whole of it is well invested.”
I’ve often commented before on how I believe Seneca to be the grumpier of the great Stoic philosophers. When it comes to his insights in ‘The Shortness of Life’, though, he speaks many great truths, like the one above.
Something to be aware of, I would think, is over-commitment, at least partially in the manner that Seneca describes. He mentions that so many people are busy with their occupations that they don’t take the opportunity to live their life to the fullest extent.
I personally believe that the very worst thing to do, the very unhealthiest thing, is to spend all of your time on repeating commitments of one sort or another. I’m not talking about, say, reading the books you love, or writing, or art, or music, or something of the sort there (which are, ironically, things that Seneca seems to despise. See: grumpy). The very worst way that I could live my life, in terms of my mental health and happiness, would be to work every day, and spend the remainder of my time on simply maintaining my life – chores such as cooking and cleaning taking up the entirety of my free time.
That’s not to say that I somehow despise chores. I understand and accept that they are necessary and essential, and that I have a part to play there. I know that there will likely come a time when I’ll be having to take on a great deal of it not only for myself, but for any children I may have. The issue isn’t with housework, or shopping, or anything of the sort. The issue is with such things taking up all of our free time so that we don’t get the chance to truly live.
I can subsist on perhaps an hour a day of writing if I needed to. As long as I am doing something every day to improve myself, to keep my life from feeling static. For me, the most dangerous thing is an endless routine, yet so many people subject themselves to it, or are forced into it.
There are many people out there who likely don’t have a say in the matter, though. They could have many people dependant on them, such as struggling single parents. When you notice someone who is so heavily beleaguered, so heavily over-committed, often the greatest thing you can do for them is to give them a break. If we’re committed 24/7, we never get the opportunity to live.
If we never get the opportunity for the most important things in life, Seneca would say that our lives are short indeeed. So if you have the time, aim not to further burden a heavy mind, but instead ask – how can I make their life longer?