Crazy busy in times of self-quarantine?

Less work, less commuting, less socializing … amount to more disposable time for us, right? Yes and no. We have more time at our disposal and yet we always manage to quickly fill it up with activities. Home Depot sales is picking up because of the surge in DIY home renovation projects, many of which involve kitchens. What good is a new kitchen without more home baking. My wife noticed that flour, especially the organic kind, is often running out in the local grocery stores.

I am as good as anyone else on occupying my time with various things. I posted earlier about 20 new things to do while self-isolated. One of the ideas I acted on was to start a new blog, Spanish As A Third Language.

Pandemic or no pandemic, we are busy people. Age makes little difference as well. I used to think retirees (and semi-retirees) must have a lot more spare time than full-time working people. Not true, at least not for the aging people I know. Time is a scarce commodity in between travels, before and after home projects, and around grandchildren’s school schedules.

If anyone should know how to cope with a crazy busy life, it is the Emergency Room doctors. Below is a TED video delivered by Dr. Darria Long, an ER physician.

Dr. Long proposed 3 practical steps to go from being crazy busy to being ready:

  1. Triage, triage, triage.
    Prioritize your tasks, and be vigilant in adhering to your priorities.
  2. Expect and plan for the crazy busy.
    Be prepared for the onslaught to make it easier for yourself. Simple acts such as writing down a to-do list helped me tremendously to minimize the number of daily decisions to make and to reduce stress.
  3. Take a wider perspective.
    Try to put yourself in the shoes of the affected people. Empathy. This will free your mind from your own fears and debilitating thoughts.

While Dr. Long takes the offensive in the taming of busyness, the late Father Henri Nouwen advocates the more defensive approach in meditation. In his book You Are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living, Father Nouwen has this to say about solitude.

“Every time we enter into solitude we withdraw from our windy, earthquaking, fiery lives and open ourselves to the great encounter. The first thing we often discover in solitude is our own restlessness, our drivenness, and compulsiveness, our urge to act quickly, to make an impact, and to have influence; and often we find it very hard to withstand the temptation to return as quickly as possible to the world of “relevance.” But when we persevere with the help of a gentle discipline, we slowly come to hear the still, small voice and to feel the gentle breeze, and so come to know the Lord of our heart, soul, and mind, the Lord who makes us see who we really are.”

March 17, ‘You are the beloved: daily meditations for spiritual living’

Solitude is not withdrawal from community, but rather …

Solitude is the ground from which community grows.

Henri Nouwen

“Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other. It is a fallacy to think we grow closer to each other only when we talk, play, or work together… but these interactions derive their fruit from solitude.”

June 11, ‘You are the beloved: daily meditations for spiritual living’

It is interesting that the 2 approaches are so different, yet they both share the importance of community engagement.

Finally, they are not mutually exclusive. It is not ‘either-or’ between them. First set aside time for solitude, and when pressed for time by multiple demands, triage vigorously.