Underwhelmed by our insistence on being busy
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Apr 11, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Underwhelmed by our insistence on being busy

St. Marys Journal Argus

No matter who you ask these days, they are busy. Crazy busy. OMG busy. Or, in the case of email or text conversations, too busy to fully respond… but just time enough to tell you how busy they are.

Once in a while, it’s a fair response. But when friends and acquaintances consistently respond that they have no time to respond, we may have a problem on our hands.

It’s true, in a sense, that our world is more frantic than ever. Computers were to improve productivity, but we now intersperse actual work with much pointless point-and-clicking. The setting of the sun used to mean the end of one’s day, but the world has shifted to true 24-hour time. Factor in never-ending analysis of the latest trends — guilty as charged — and you have an epidemic of busyness.

We all have a myriad of responsibilities, from work to pleasure to volunteer, and occasionally, they collide in stressful ways. Many of us don’t seem to have those large, uninterrupted blocks of time to do things in an ideal way, and instead, we do what we can. Life seems to be a whirlwind of activity with little downtime between the current activity and the next 10.

I’m feeling emotionally drained just typing this. But as emotionally drained as regularly hearing how busy people are? That’s a tough call. While you may personally feel as if you don’t have a spare moment in your day, chances are — and experience informs me — that few people care to actually hear about it.

But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? A taut response of “I’m so busy” is an immediate, negative response to whatever the inquiry is, no matter how innocuous or demanding. It shuts down a discussion in two ways.

First is the obvious: the person doesn’t have time for much of anything, let alone you. Second, it precludes any real, honest discussion. If all someone is focused on is their own schedule and demands, how can they relate to anything or anyone else? The claim of being busy lends the claimant a sense of superiority: the message is that they are important, they are needed… more than you, at least.

There’s a new book called Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time that explores this very phenomenon. Forgive me that I haven’t read it yet (you can guess why I’ve not). The author, Brigid Schulte, a Washington Post reporter, suggests that our perceived state of busyness is as such because we try to cram so many different activities into our day, with no true “down” time due to technology.

Or at least, that’s the perception, Schulte suggests. Diaries of research subjects show that relaxation does exist via phone calls with friends, for example, or playing games online and physical activities. Our busy-obsessed world chooses to define these as obligation instead of the relaxation they actually are.

There’s a host of new-agey ideas online about how to stop being so busy, but Overwhelmed provides a simple solution. One of Schulte’s sources, a researcher who pioneered the use of time use diaries in research, says to just tell yourself you’re not busy, and believe it. Breathe deeply and get on with your day… and while you’re at it, don’t tell anyone else how busy you are, either. You’re wasting valuable time.

With local spring vegetables still on the horizon, bring in some seasonal warmth with a taste of the Mediterranean via this unusual side dish.

Pan-roasted Cabbage Wedges with Bagna Cauda Sauce

(From House & Home, April 2014)

Bagna Cauda:

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup unsalted butter

2 shallots, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

6 anchovies, patted dry, chopped

3 tbsp. lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste


1 green cabbage (about 3 lb.)

¼ cup unsalted butter

6 anchovy filets, patted dry (for garnish)

Flat-leaf parsley (for garnish)

To make bagna cauda, heat oil and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 10 minutes (do not brown). Add anchovies and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cool 10 minutes, and blend until smooth in a blender. With motor running, add lemon juice slowly. Taste for salt and pepper, and transfer to a clean saucepan.

Discard outer leaves of cabbage. Cut in half through core. Cut six even 1 ½- inch thick wedges through core (save remainder for another use). Heat 2 tbsp. of butter in each of two large frying pans over medium heat. Cook until nicely browned and tender, about 10 minutes per side. Season with salt.

Warm sauce over low heat, stirring well to emulsify. Arrange cabbage on serving platter, drizzle with sauce, then garnish.

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