Why is some busyness better than other busynesses? And why, once again in these May days surrounding commencement do I still bristle slightly when someone asks “so: you get the summer off now”? No, I don’t get the summer off. I wrap up this academic year as program chair, I prepare for next year, I work in the studio, I search for new design work to support this full-time teaching habit, I say hello to what I’d love to call a personal practice of design and making, there is DesignInquiry in June, and this year Cora graduates from High School and the whole fam converges here. So in spring the get-done lists don’t disappear and I am somehow still busy everyday catching up because I thankfully wake up every morning and the world keeps turning.
Maybe my pressure of using summer correctly is where the uncomfortable pause to the question “so: you get the summer off now” lives?
Last night a friend told me I was a Renaissance Woman after I’d admitted the sweater I was wearing was just off my needles yesterday. I told her that yes, I want to learn to be a good knitter but the more I get into it I get frustrated because no, I won’t be raising my own sheep, spinning or dying wool and I still don’t understand the gauge, fiber and needle connection; I just want to knit stuff to wear. It’s like after wedging 20 1-pound lumps of low fire clay to practice throwing I realized I needed to do this with 100, maybe 200 pounds. Plus if I’m serious about it I really should learn the chemistry of glazes and not just dip my bisque ware into the bucket marked ‘tomato red’. I get lost in wanting to learn more about something because the novice gets beat up by the expert that I could be if I only focused.
The bar keeps moving. Busyness that fills each day gets sized up instead of massaged, thanked and happily mis-managed. Virginia Wolfe was 46 when she wrote in her diary that: “one must be a miser; only have time for essentials.” This is not helpful except to point out that essentials needs definition. Busyness alone can become a burden when it’s backed by the judgement of amounting to something. But busyness can also be a playground of doing that sneaks up to becoming the essentials. Or not. And isn’t that OK Virginia? Maybe the essentials are what are not written on the summer list and that can be good enough.