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  • Writer's pictureDana Halle

The Art Of Keeping Busy

I was speaking with a friend yesterday about my WIL class with Martha Beck. I realized during the conversation that I have shared the pieces I wrote in a rather random order. I will look back and figure out the actual order soon, but in the meantime, this is the first piece I wrote.

FYI, there were guidelines for writing. For example, we were limited to 500 words. So, to the extent you wish you knew more about any particular subject, let's talk. I'm happy to elaborate. That said, the 500 word limit was good training. It gave me the chance to practice being concise. It also ensured that folks reading the pieces where not overwhelmed with information.

It wasn’t her fault. Emotions were not discussed. Ever. When things got hard, you kept busy and she was a quick study.

Her training started young. She was three years old when Great Grandma Fanny died. Grandma was a larger-than-life love-dispenser with bear hugs and wet kisses. And then she was gone. Her absence echoed through the family, but no one talked about it. They kept busy and moved on, and so did she.

She was thirteen years old when her parents divorced. She loved her family of four, her Mom’s cooking and crafts, her Dad’s laughter and guidance, summer trips to “the shore” and winter trips to Vermont. And then he was gone. Life as a family was replaced with visits to New York City, but no one talked about it. They kept busy and moved on, and so did she.

She was in her early thirties when Dad died unexpectedly. She was married, with an infant and toddler. Dad was a constant companion and champion babysitter. She was still his “pride and joy,” but it was his grandkids who put the twinkle in his eye. And then she got the phone call. Reinforcements arrived, but she didn’t want to talk about it. She kept busy and moved on.

She was in her mid-thirties when she gave birth to her third child and learned he had Down syndrome. The news was crushing. She knew nothing about how to raise a child with a disability. As friends arrived at the hospital, they were sent home. She didn’t want to talk about it. She kept busy and moved on.

She was in her fifties when 2019 delivered its 1 – 2 – 3 punch; Her marriage needed attention, her mom suffered a massive stroke and her sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 Follicular Lymphoma. It was too much to handle. She felt lost, but she didn’t want to talk about it. She kept busy and moved on. She was so busy that it took her two weeks to find the time to work on the first assignment for Martha Beck’s Write Into Life Class.

The writing exercise was called “Confusion to Clarity.” She was supposed to write from the perspective of a historian looking back on 2019 to describe why the “lostness” she felt was really a good thing. Seriously? “Easy,” she thought. Only it wasn’t. As part of the “Inhale” process, she wrote and wrote and wrote, but could not find her focus. After several pages of bullet points and details, she was exhausted and took a break.

The next morning, she wrote this:

I keep busy to avoid unhappy emotions

I keep busy to avoid stressful situations I keep busy to avoid uncomfortable conversations I keep busy to avoid being alone I keep busy to avoid feeling overwhelmed I am always busy Being busy is my “go to” strategy for managing challenges in life I am too busy I need to learn how to be still

During the course of her life, and without intention, Rose had developed and finely tuned her craft – The Art of Keeping Busy. Although, initially, she felt like the events of 2019 were “too much to handle,” these events delivered the perfect balance of emotional stress and physical fatigue to cause her to break away from her regular routine. It was only then, after all job-related obligations were on hold, that she was free to notice that every single minute was still filled with activity. 2019 was her wake-up call; it was her call to stillness.

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