Friday, October 3, 2008

Busy is as busy does . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

I recently spent an eternity in a student dental hygienist's chair at a local technical/vocational school. Don't get me wrong, she did a wonderful job on my teeth and gums. Very through, which I really needed. The students there don't just scrape the tartar off your teeth, whiz a little polish over them, and send you on your way. They carefully check your teeth, one by one, to see if they've retained the proper gum depth or have receded, and they carefully check the rest of your mouth to see if there are any other problems, like suspicious spots. Having lost a sister to cancer in the roof of her mouth, I'm obviously cautious. But all this care takes time. A loooong time.

Added to that, I have a VERY hair-trigger gag reflex. I can watch the gory forensic shows on TV or read books or do research on same and not turn a hair. I mothered three boys, and we all know how gross small boys can be when they put their minds to it. (Or grown up boys when the mood strikes, sigh.) Still I never turned a hair over that either. But approach me with anything resembling a dental tool and the gag reflex quickly kicks in. For this particular visit they actually had to feed me peanut butter crackers and water to calm my stomach and finish the visit.

I survived this visit, as I usually do, but it dawned on me that the hardest part for me in a dental chair is . . . THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO BUT JUST SIT THERE AND THINK. No books to read. No TV to watch. No needlework to work on. No laundry to fold. No meal to cook. Just sit there with my hands tightly gripping a tissue, thinking my own thoughts. Wow, I am soooo not used to that, and it struck a chord in me. How busy (should I say multi-tasky?) am I every day? How busy or multi-taky are most of us? Most of the time?

At home I rarely watch television without something to do in my hands. Needlework to work, greeting cards to make or send, a book to read during commercials, laundry to fold, dinner to stir. Whatever I can find that needs doing. It's what we women do. I admire men (including my hubby) who can actually watch TV without doing anything else at the same time. So for me, time in the dental chair REALLY stretches out with nothing else to do. I'm thinking of taking my iPod next time and listening to a book. Except the ear plugs might get in the tech's way. Sigh.

I suppose the reason this "nothing to do but think" business struck me this visit was because I've been reading a book about time management for women. I have to say, it's a great book with suggestions on how to save time and get more done, yet the author doesn't advocate filling every single hour of our waking day with busyness. She strongly encourages women to budget their time, not waste it, but she also strongly encourages taking time to enjoy a sunset, watch the birds, interact with our family, particularly children, rest, regenerate, etc. In other words, we don't have to be doing something "important" every minute of every day. We need time for ourselves, to recharge.

Having spent many long hours at my computer for the last nine years writing my mysteries and other long hours promoting them, I needed something like this. I needed to stop and think about what really needs to be done each day . . . and more importantly, what doesn't. What to spend my precious twenty-four hours per day on, and what to let go.

What about you? Are you stressed out by trying to get everything done on time? Are you too busy living your life to enjoy it? Too busy getting things done? One of the things you can do (assuming you aren't already) is make lists. That helps you to see what's really important in your life and what isn't. What can be put off and what demands your attention in the here and now.

If you'd like to know the title/author of the time management book, contact me offblog at And if you think you need a couple of hours with nothing at all to do, call your local dental hygienist. By the way, the vo-tech schools that teach this class charge far less for a check-up/cleaning than you'd have to pay at the dentist's office. Just a thought.


Rhonda Lane said...

My dental hygenist uses a miracle substance on me when she goes excavating the plaque around my teeth. It's called Oraqix (pronounced "Ora-kix.") It's applied topically around the gum line. Win-win, right? It tastes like liquid earwax. Yee-uck! OMG, it's awful, but put up with it because ut I can tolerate the cleaning now.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Hi Rhonda, ewww, it does sound icky. I suppose we need all this stuff. Don't forget to make your hygenist give you peanutbutter crackers.

Julia Buckley said...

Lonnie, I hate the dentist, but for a different reason. I have ultra sensitive teeth--I hate feeling anything cold or hot or drill-like on them, and I'm a huge baby about it. One dentist even said, "Don't be a baby" to me while I was sitting in the chair. Needless to say he's not my dentist now.

But you're so right about multi-tasking. With all of these lateral thoughts we are expected to hold in our minds daily, we are sacrificing the ability to think more deeply about any one thing. Someday, they say, it will re-wire our brains and we will potentially lose the ability to be deep thinkers.

The other problem I have with multi-tasking (and today was an ENDLESS STRING of tasks) is that I constantly lose things. Yesterday I wrote a check, got distracted, and then couldn't find it. I wasted a precious twenty minutes searching my desk for the check I'd JUST WRITTEN. I am constantly losing forms, papers, books. But it's not because I have some sort of dementia--it's because I'm too busy, and my mind too distracted.

WE're not doing ourselves any favors by loading up our days. ALthough the problem for some people is that THEY don't load the schedule--their bosses do. :)

rjm said...

One dentist I went to taped cartoons on the ceiling for her patients to look at. Since her sense of humor ran to Far Side,it was cool. Until I had to remove my glasses and couldn't see them anyway.

Waiting for things is something I had to do often as a child. It's part of what drove me to be a writer, because all I could do while waiting (usually in a hot car--another story) was make things up.

As for taking time, one thing that has happened since we moved away from Nashville is that our new home has more land, and most of it is forested. There's a creek running through the backyard, too. So, when I'm stressing -- and I've been doing that a lot -- I wander down and check on the fish and the turtles and listen for the owl. Sometimes I lay in the hammock, which allows me to get in some of that deep thinking. There are times when I have to make myself do this, but it never fails me. I'm not big on self-pampering, but time to refresh and re-energize is time well spent.