Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

Everyone I know is busy. Crazy busy. Ready to fall apart busy. I can’t complain to anybody about how busy I am without getting a return complaint about how busy THEY are. I was complaining to one graduate student about how I have 22 papers to grade in one class and 47 in the other, all coming in during the next two weeks, for a total of 69 papers. He topped that right away: he has eighty students total, and he assigns more work than I do, so right now he has 160 (!) papers to grade.

I complained to another friend about all the grading I have to do, plus the SIX articles I’m editing for a quarterly at the University of Maryland, plus the paper I have to prepare to give at a conference at the University of Maryland next month, plus the long-overdue abstract of the paper I have to prepare on Rousseau for an edited collection. Oh, and plus writing those Petrarch-inspired poems for the Tupelo Press Poetry Project that I agreed to take part in. Oh, and writing my blog!

She countered that she is also behind on everything. She needs to remove her bathroom wallpaper and paint the room – AND tile it! She needs to recarpet the bedroom. Oh, and her kitchen needs to be updated if she is ever going to sell her house.

Now, of course, down deep I still believe that I’m the busiest. Or, at least the only one who has a right to complain. Why did my graduate student assign all those papers, anyway? Why can’t my friend just leave her wallpaper alone?

But, of course, they could equally well say: why did I take on this editing job? Why did I accept the invitation to write the piece on Rousseau? And do I really HAVE to write sonnets inspired by Petrarch during a week when I have so much else to do? And will anyone really care if I forget to blog?

The truth of the matter is that none of us has a right to complain. As Arnold Bennett points out in his little gem of book published in 1910, How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day, we all get exactly the same amount of time every single day. Bennett writes: “You wake up in the morning and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. . . . No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you receive.” Bennett concludes, “We never shall have any more time. We have, and have always had, all the time there is.”

Time to grade papers, remove wallpaper, write sonnets, and blog. Time to use however we choose.

1 comment:

  1. I know too well the busy feeling! Does having over a hundred corporate tax returns due October 15 count? One thing I've learned is that time is fungible. Right now, alas, I have to choose to get the corporate returns done, but I can use my time later to finish my Betsy-Tacy scrapbook!