About the word “busy,” we’ve all heard — or even uttered — these sentences: “I’d love to, but I’m too busy.” “Some other time, since I’m so busy.” “I’m as busy in retirement as I’ve ever been.”
In 1986 sociologist David Ekerdt introduced the concept of the “busy ethic.” He claimed “retirement is morally managed and legitimated… by an ethic that esteems leisure that is earnest, occupied, and filled with activity.”
Ekerdt explained why we may adhere to a busy ethic:
- It legitimizes leisure. We’re uncomfortable with idleness, so best to seem busy.
- It symbolically defends us against aging. If we’re active, we’re still youthful.
- It justifies time off. We can take “vacations” from our pursuits.
Yes, society likes us to fill our days with activity. We boast of being busy. In our later years, good health — physical and mental — rests, in part, upon our state of busyness.
AT STAKE IS CHOICE
Studies of aging indicate our patterns of behaviour do not change just because we get older. If we take up skydiving, for instance, as former President George Bush did on his birthdays turning 80, 85 and 90, we’ve likely been daring all our lives. If we favoured reading, we may opt in retirement to read the more than dozen major novels of Charles Dickens, as did my friend Ken. If we relished multiple activities, we’ll continue being active as we age.
Copious activity, however, may leave some of us cold. In another post, I wrote of the value in crafting a daily agenda. But it needn’t be rife with activity; we can build contemplation into our days. As my friend Drew says, “sometimes I want to stare at the four walls.”
In the past, others may have dictated much of our activity but now we control our agendas. Depending on our personality, we will incorporate more, or less, activity. Inactivity does not always equal indolence.
Just as I erased the word “routine” from my vocabulary, so goes “busy.” Let’s turn down the noise and follow whichever choice leads us to a balanced, happy life. •