The Philosophy of Busy

Posted: April 17, 2015 in real life
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I keep myself pathologically busy in my life. My life would be full enough with my day job and my fledgling as a published author and my husband and our two young children. I am infamous for multitasking, always doing at least three things at once. Yet, to all this, I continually add. I plan and do more. Some might consider it an addiction or even a sickness, to cram some sort of activity or task into nearly every waking second of my time. My friends, who so justifiably enjoy their leisure time on their couches, will ask me when I appear drained with bagged under my eyes, “Why? Why do you stay so busy?”

The answer is deeper than mere compulsion. There is a philosophy, a way of life behind why I keep myself (and subsequently my entire family) so exhausting engaged, entertained, and active. Ultimately, the life choice comes down to two formative times in my past.

First, in and after college, I squandered my youth. The saying goes: “Youth is wasted on the young.” That sentiment was especially true for me. I spent these youthful and formative years lost in the defect in my brain. I let depression infect this time and prevent me from doing and experiencing so much more.

I spent my youth consumed by my own pain, indulging in every self-destructive behavior I could devise. I tortured myself. I was drunk and fat and unhappy. This decade later, I can only think of all the ways I could have better exploited that time, all the things I could have done and experienced before life’s obligations wrapped around me, restrained me.

Yes, I learned from this chapter in my life. No, given the choice I would not change it because I would not want to alter the result. However, that foolishness lingers at the edge of my memories like a nagging regret.

Then, shortly after the wasted self-destructive period in my life waned, I went to Iraq as a civilian contractor. I was still quite youthful and naive, but, at the very least, I was somewhat disentangled from the darkness in my own head. Just in time for my time in a war zone to crack my entire head open (figuratively) and give me an entirely new and life-altering perspective on life.

Iraq worked on me from several different angles. Prior, from the cushion and comfort of my American life, I told myself that I knew that other people lived differently; I told myself that watching and reading about it made me aware. I had no idea, and, more importantly, I know now that I still do not.

In Iraq, in a war zone, I was exposed to how people in that country were living, what they were doing to each other, what they were surviving.  More directly, I got see and even share a bit of how a deployed soldier had to live. I was fortunate enough to be a young civilian girl who they kept behind the wire and usually on the larger bases. However, I got just the slightest taste of the distance, the withdrawals from home, the isolation.

In both cases, I learned to appreciate how I lived at home and also see it through a new lens.

But it was the nature of a war zone itself that influenced my philosophy. It is true anywhere that we could die at any moment. However, that seems much more apparent and likely in a place where sirens are going off for rocket attacks and there is a daily wounded/abducted/killed tally. All of these new and morbid realities were terrifying on my sheltered psyche. I may have loved horror my entire life, but I loved horror in media, not in my real life.

Both of these experiences seemed to be translated and processed by my brain the same way, resulting in my near biological need to keep myself obsessively busy. The two compounded one another, evolved upon the preceding lesson. Both of them boil down to: do not waste time. Whether it be that you will be young once before it is gone or that you could die at any moment for a myriad of reasons, do not waste the time.

So I pack the time. I cram it and stretch it and exploit it. I do not think that I will want to do something some day because it has been so deeply branded into my brain that I am not guaranteed some day. I do not want to spend my last breath thinking I should have gotten out more or traveled more or seen more or done more. I do not want to be rested and bored. I can rest if I make it to a retirement home; I can sleep on my death bed.

Instead, I strive to channel Thoreau and Dead Poets’ Society; I endeavor to suck all the marrow out of life.

So yes, I work a demanding full time day job to support my family and finance all our adventures and hobbies. Yes, I write and publish at every single chance I get; I try to pour my soul out on the page. And I try to get those books out for people to read. Yes, I travel at every opportunity, personally and professionally. Yes, I run and workout and take zumba classes and barre classes and do races and hike. Yes, I set up endless playdates for my children and get them into dance and any other activity they want. Yes, I fill up our evenings and weekends with dinners and projects and trips.

Before the dementia sinks in, I want the corners of my wrinkled, aged mind to be free, uncluttered with any regrets and only teeming with more memories than I can hold onto.

I live. I live as hard as I possibly can.

(And this long winded babble may or may not be an attempt at rationalizing why this blog has been so neglected.)

*

In my book, Savages, I explore what time in Iraq would mean to a person as they try to survive the apocalypse. In my second book, coming later this year, I paint a picture of woman caged by regret for a life wasted on career.

http://christinabergling.com

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