I went to the co-op this afternoon to get gas in the car and bird seed for our feathered friends. While pumping my gas, the fellow at the next pump asks that totally pain in the backside question ‘What are you keeping busy with?”. This question gets harder to answer without getting into long explanations that begin to feel more and more self-serving. So, I answer, “No trouble keeping me busy!”. Where upon he goes on to ask me about the events he imagines I have been busy with, which I haven’t.
I’ve written about identity here in the past and it does continue to be an issue. Part of the issue is just describing to others who I am today. Guys tend to wrap a lot of their identity up in their careers and want to be able to peg a person in those terms. The question I ask myself is “What am I in those terms?” At times I will tell folks that I am a full-time student which is true. From the looks I get, I can tell that they don’t quite buy it. Following the look, I will sometimes add that I also run a consulting company specializing in sheep and goat nutrition which doesn’t fit at all with the first thing I told them. I may mention the fact that I am an itinerant preacher, which they can understand but leads to the inevitable question about being a pastor. Sometimes, I just tell people I am retired and leave it at that.
Why is it that people don’t ask thoughtful questions about ideas, maybe my health and family? Why is our society so focused on busyness as a measure of value? Is that ‘What are you keeping busy with?” just a polite greeting or an entrance/invitation into deeper conversation.
When I went into the co-op to get the bird seed, one of our old neighbors was there as well picking up some calving supplies. Her question: ‘What are you keeping busy with?”