I’ll never forget the day I stood, in deeply perplexed contemplation, the book “The Tao of Pooh” clutched tightly in my hand.
Rushing to speak with my roommate, gripping the book that she had lovingly loaned me to read, I charged, bewildered: “Arielle, do you think I’m a busybacksoon?”
She threw her head back and laughed, and it was all over.
“Yes!” She exclaimed, overjoyed that she could finally express her frustration at my hectic lifestyle , which differed so much from her own free- spirited saunterings through the streets, spending hours reading poetry and digging into explosively outrageous conversations, which I would always need to cut short, showing her the door. “I have a lot to do,” I would explain with an apologetic shrug.
A busybacksoon is a personality-type affiliated with “The Rabbit” from Winnie the Pooh, someone rushing from one task to another, always determined to accomplish. Yet, in her struggle to succeed, she spill things all over the place on her way, too busy for people, never having enough time even though she tries to make the most of every moment. “Sorry… busy…I’ll be back soon,” the Rabbit will call over his shoulder when invited to the latest social gathering or requested for a favor. In his vain efforts for successful, productive time consolidation, he becomes a busybacksoon.
And now Arielle was telling me, and “The Tao of Pooh” was telling me, and I was trying quietly to break the news to myself...that I was a busybacksoon.
Mostly it’s a crime to oneself, an obliteration of the self, a codependent unhealthy relationship with one’s ego, that leaves one’s soul whimpering in the corner, obediently and dutifully being a slave to the taskmaster, which lies within and balks orders. “ You have ten pages of science homework to do!” it exclaims, throwing up its hands and glaring. As the soul stands dutifully at attention, nodding fervently in agreement. “ And then you must call your friend Alice and wish her happy birthday, but you can’t talk long because the packages are at the post office, the children are hungry, the bills are piling, and you need to find another job. “
And these things are so important and there’s not enough time in the day, so you must brace yourself and resolve to get it all done and as quickly as possible and schedule in frivolous things in your life at two o’clock next Friday. Frivolous things such as lying in the grass and looking at the clouds, or exposing your deepest dreams and feelings to a friend in the corner of some eclectic coffee shop.
I stared at Arielle, my mind reeling, trying to figure out how to change my busybacksoon ways.
But old habits die hard, and I struggled with busybacksoon syndrome for years, a constant struggle.
Once Shabbos hit, I would light the candles and be hit by the holes in my life as the sun descended and it was all too late. What art had I done that week? What Torah had I learned? What people had I loved deeply? And my soul at last was heard in the Sabbath silence, crying out for attention and demanding proper upkeep.
But Sunday would come, and I had things to do, and that was that.
In my vain efforts to get things done and be accomplished, forever busy without any time, I was missing out on the essence of life, the magical, glorious, beautiful and delicious juicy quality of existence that is what we are meant for. The world is not an office and your friends are not your business associates. The world is a carefully orchestrated, operatic symphonic melody, and we are to listen for it and to dance to it. While we work, we are meant to dance. This dancing can and must happen in all places—in the study halls, the stock market, the gym, and the wedding canopy. The trick is to enter all of these arenas and know that this is what you are there to do—to dance.
It has been six years and counting since the busybacksoon revelation made a mark on my emotional history, a powerful lesson to gradually undue the stubborn resolve of a confused mind.
Life is changing for me now, but the struggle remains the same. “Do I have the time to speak?” I might be found, responding assuredly to a friend. “For you, of course!” And in those gradually increasing moments of triumph in choosing life, I breathe and I know. I know I am living.
I’m sorry God for not dancing as much as you wanted me to before. I didn’t hear the music. You were playing it loudly, but there was too much white noise. But I’m hearing it now, faintly. My hips are starting to shake free.
It is in the delicate balance between making a living and making a life that the dance of our existence really takes place.
And Arielle, thanks for your honesty. It has changed everything. How about a trip to a coffee shop, you and me?