Too Busy Or Just Bone Idle?


At last! A question dear to the heart of any working mother or busy creative or busy whoever trying and failing to get anything done. It brings to mind one of my all time favourite nonsense ditties; this gem from the film “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court” (1949). I always had it in my head it was sung by Danny Kaye but the Internet has it as Bing Crosby. No matter. The lyrics resonate with me most days.

We’re busy doin’ nothin’

Workin’ the whole day through

Tryin’ to find lots of things not to do

We’re busy goin’ nowhere Isn’t it just a crime

We’d like to be unhappy, but

We never do have the time

Too busy or just too lazy? My mother always used to say if you need something doing, ask a busy person, and over the years I’ve observed a degree of truth in this observation. In fact, when I recently declared myself to be so lazy, I just couldn’t things done, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by protests and expressions of disbelief. To outward appearances, I am busy. I certainly feel busy and inundated the whole time. But I can’t shake off the feeling that I am profoundly, irrevocably and irredeemably just plain idle. I feel all I achieve is somehow achieved in the face of and in spite of intense laziness.

I don’t know why I see myself as lazy when I’m clearly not. Maybe it’s more to do with how you define lazy. Maybe my all-time preferred default mode of stretched out on a sofa with a good book is at the heart of it. And why should I feel that’s laziness? Perhaps it’s a hangover from childhood, being told to put the book down and go and do something useful.

A while back I was delighted to read an article by the philosopher AC Grayling on the importance of daydreaming, and how we don’t do enough of it after childhood. Even without the book, just lounging around on the sofa and gazing at the ceiling is a productive and worthwhile activity. So where does this leave idleness? Someone else I read said there’s no such thing as a lazy person. Given sufficient interest in something or other, even the worst couch potatoes (assuming no extreme health issues) can garner enough energy to get up and do something.

Anyway, I’m lying stretched out on the settee as I tap this post. But only after already having done an hour’s dog walk, collected and returned a whole heap of costumes, dealt with emails and helped daughter with tidying room. I feel I’ve achieved nothing yet, and the day is half gone. Better read my book now to recover my equilibtlrium.

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2 responses to Too Busy Or Just Bone Idle?

  1. JSD

    Ooohh, I feel like I’ve got company in my ‘idleness’ and it’s comforting to be reminded that I don’t always have to be ‘doing something.’. Now back to my day-dreaming…

    • gillianholding – Author

      Sounds an excellent idea! I am very motivated these days to encourage daydreaming amongst my kids, I must say. One of mine spends about 20 minutes gazing into space every morning before she gets dressed. I wouldn’t dream of telling her to get a move on!

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