When I see the bins of crayons at the store and glimpse those shiny yellow school buses making their way across town, I know we’re it’s Back to School time. Going back-to-school meant unblemished notebooks. It meant freshly sharpened pencils that didn’t have teeth marks and still had a full pink eraser.
And I have to admit that the back-to-school season always brings to mind new beginnings and fresh starts.
The Back to School time also seems to signal that it’s time to Pick Up The Pace. There are more demands on our time, more things to do. And suddenly, we are BUSY. (Oh, so busy!)
This, of course, is not the same Insanely-Busy time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it’s close.
We live in a culture that demands that we join the Cult of Busy.
We become accustomed to walking in endless loops on society’s Treadmill of Busy. We may swear that This Year Will Be Different. We promise ourselves that we will be more relaxed, less stressed, less competitive, less…busy.
No matter how noble our intentions, we find ourselves caught up in the momentum of everyone and everything around us. Yep, we get sucked right into the “Busy Slip-Stream” of everyone else’s frantic flow, like cyclists in the Tour de France.
We revere our too-packed calendars, and seek badges of honor to prove just how BUSY (and therefore worthy) we are. Yes, Busy becomes how we prove our worth, so we hold up our To Do list for others to admire and coo over, just so we can prove how valuable we must be!
But, baby, this isn’t a treadmill, and it isn’t a race. This is LIFE.
So, let’s have some frank talk about Busy as a Lifestyle.
First of all, I’m going to say what no one seems to talk about.
Busy is an addiction. It’s just more socially acceptable than illegal drugs.
I’m here to tell you, darling, that I have spent many years on my knees worshiping Busy, and it has been my Drug of Choice. I’m not going to lie, either. Being a part of the busy culture brought me a whole slew of benefits.
Here are just nine of many of the benefits to Worshiping at the Altar of Busy
- When you are busy – oh so busy – you don’t have time for feeling. No, darling, if you run from here to there as fast as possible. You make sure every hour of your day is jam-packed with Things To Do. That way, you can numb all those unpleasant feelings. The anger. The sadness. The loneliness. The frustration. The grief.
- Want to know what you get to feel instead of icky shadow emotions? I hate to break it to you, baby, but it’s not happy or joyful or peaceful. What you get to feel: tired and irritable.
- Ok, well, sometimes you have kind of happy feelings. On occasion, you have a sense of euphoria that you Get More Done than others. This may bring you a sense of Worthier-than-Thou smugness when you spare a few moments to chat with those not worshiping the god of Busy. This tiny moment of “worthy” doesn’t last if you stand still too long, though. You need more of the drug to get that same high.
- And when you are busy – oh so busy – you don’t have to mess with the messy parts of relationships. You’re just too busy to deal with the not-so-easy parts of relationships. Unhappy marriage? Lackluster dating life? Kids a challenge? Go ahead and cram-pack the schedules of everyone in the family. Aren’t there always places to go, classes to attend, and extra-curricular activities to appear at?
- When you join the cult of busy, you don’t sleep as much. You lie and say that you just don’t need as much sleep as other people. Coffee and energy bars become the way you make up for all those nights of little sleep.
- Oh! And that’s another thing that busy brings you: you get super good at telling lies – and you kind of believe them.
- And decisions? They are easy-peasy when you’re SO busy. You do whatever seems easiest and faster. You choose take-out food over cooking and drive-through over sit down restaurants. You have one more glass of wine – just to relax. Busy can be a gateway drugs to other ways to numb. 😉
- You can avoid entire areas of your life. Because, again, BUSY trumps anything you just don’t want to deal with.
- And did I share how stellar your sex life will be when you are on your knees worshiping busy? Sex becomes something just to add to the list. Sure, you have it sometimes…a quickie when you can squeeze it in. Because who has time for foreplay and multiple orgasms? Don’t you have an early morning breakfast networking meeting to attend?
I promised to be honest, now, didn’t I? I know these benefits of Busy intimately because I did it for years.
I hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but you know what happens next, don’t you?
One day, you’ll hit a roadblock.
When Busy is your lifestyle, you’ll eventually face one of three situations after years of worship: either you burn out or have a major meltdown (mental, health or familial breakdown).
Or, horrors of all horrors, you take a little break and what happens? You come face-to-face with the dreaded Time On Your Hands with Not Enough to Do.
After a decade of touting Busy as my Mantra, I accidentally started rehab for my addiction.
Back in the summer of 2010, I was helping JB move into this house. I had planned to stay for the long weekend. Instead, I stayed two weeks to manage all the details of moving into a house: cable, deliveries, etc.
Back then, I was still living in Texas. I had flown into Ohio and hadn’t seen a need to rent a car. All I had with me here in Ohio were my golf clubs, my clothes, and my computer. When he went to work, it was just ME alone in the house for nine-plus hours a day.
And you know what was on my list for those nine hours? Coach clients, write, cook, meditate, and get some exercise.
There were no flights to catch or meetings to attend. There was no shopping to distract me. If I wanted to leave the house, I had to do it on foot or wait for him to come home.
This was the first time I began to understand that Busy is an addiction. Because I look back at that time period and clearly see that I was going through the detox symptoms of being off my Drug of Choice.
No matter how long Busy has been your lifestyle, when it stops, you’ll feel as if the world has slipped off its axis. Your heart will pound from the fear of Not Enough To Do. Your very existence will feel askew.
Then things shift from little fears to outright scary. All those FEELINGS you’ve been numbing will come rushing back.
My mother had died a few months earlier, and you want to know what I did three days after her funeral? Got on another plane for yet another business trip. During all the months of her illness and right after her death, my mantra was Stay Busy, Keep in Motion, Don’t Stop.
So, of course, what happened? I didn’t allow myself any time to grieve.
Well, honey, that grief along with all kinds of sadness came rushing back.
Then, I experienced these really weird feelings. I felt kind of relaxed. I got big doses of joy over little things like a morning walk and coffee on the porch. I felt loved. I felt grateful.
After the first week or so of your rehab, other things shift.
- You don’t have quickie sex, you make love.
- You don’t look for the fastest way to get food in everyone’s mouth, you create a beautiful meal.
- You don’t spend time between meetings shopping; you read something that feeds your spirit.
- You begin feeling a broader spectrum of living. You experience HIGHS and lows, like we humans are meant to experience.
All that feeling and nourishment brings up the demons you’ve avoided for so long. You are going to have to make decisions about Things like Life and Work and Love. Decisions that aren’t necessarily easy to make, yet your heart knows they are right.
You can enter rehab after a meltdown, by going on vacation or attending a retreat. The problem is, no matter how long you stay in “rehab”, eventually you have to enter the real world.
This is the moment you have a choice. Are you going to stay sober and not get lost in the world of busy again? Or are you going to go back to allowing Busy to be your Identity?
After half a decade in “recovery”, I’m going to tell you that it’s completely worth giving up Busy. But it isn’t easy in today’s society. Going from Always Busy as my mantra to Create a Life You Love has been an ongoing process. But if I could do it, so you can you.
I can promise you that if you make the choice this season to not let busy be your identity, a fresh new year is indeed yours.
Next week, I’ll share some ways to Ditch Busy as a Lifestyle Choice.