We are living in an epidemic of busyness.
According to internist, Dr. Susan Koven:
In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or X-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness. ~ “Busy Is The New Sick” Boston Globe
Just look around. I’m sure you can see it right now. People busy with their schedules. People busy wth their phones and their emails. People busy going from meeting to meeting. People busy shuttling kids from activity to activity. People busy doing stuff.
People are just so fucking busy.
And, of course, people are also desperately busy talking about how busy they are (subtly named busy-bragging). For many, bemoaning how crazy, unbelievably busy they are conveys a mark of social status.
To be clear, I’m not speaking about the kind of busy that comes with poverty — the working-three-jobs-just-to-house-feed-and-clothe-your-family kind of busyness. I am, however, referring to the kind of busy that goes hand-in-hand with material privilege. You know what I’m talking about:
I had to record a podcast, hire an au pair because our nanny of 13 years is leaving, figure out what to do with a kid who had a half-day of school, let in the repairman coming to fix the washing machine, comfort a friend freaking out about her ailing mother, do pre-interviews for a TV appearance, fly to New York for the media interviews, see my parents, have drinks with a fellow editor, [and] go to a hotel. ~ Hanna Rosin, Slate.com
"This busyness is of our own making; and its continuation is a choice we make."
Because of all the things we use to distract and distance ourselves from the pain and problems in our lives (and we use oh-so-many things to keep that shit at bay), the superficial glamour of busyness is the one that is acceptable, lauded even, by our society.
A few people truly have an astounding amount of responsibility and commitments that keep them forever locked in a cycle of busyness. And, I applaud those folks…because there is no way I could undertake that level of shit. But for most of us, keeping busy is merely another way to keep from being alone with ourselves, another attempt to stay numb against this truth.
We are afraid of ourselves.
We know we are most often defined by what we do. Our careers. What we produce. It’s the first question asked at parties, and often the first tidbit of information we share with strangers. The implication is that if we are not busy doing something, we are somehow less than. Not worthy. Or at least worth less than those who are producing something.
So, we fill our Facebook feeds and our calendars with self-important busyness to avoid just being still with ourselves. In the process, we not only miss out on the peace and beauty and joy that lies within ourselves, but we also miss noticing those same things in others. Our manufactured urgency has covered up joy with anxiety and worry.
We need our joy back.
Busyness is a motherfucker, and it’s time to let it go. Let’s stop defining ourselves by what we do, and start defining ourselves by our character, that essential essence of who we are. Let’s stop measuring time by the clock on the wall, and start measuring it by the experiences we share with those around us.