I’ve been reflecting today on my addiction to busyness, which I’ve come to think of as ‘the doing disease’. I like to think I’m in remission, but at my worst, I rarely sat still.
Before all of this, everyone I knew was constantly busy. Busyness was worn like a badge of honour. We humble-bragged about our 60-hour workweeks and chronic lack of sleep, rolled our eyes stoically and bravely soldiered on. The thing is, everyone was stressed and wished that they had more time.
Why we fell for it
There’s a kind of warped logic to the myth of busyness. It suggests that your time is in demand, that you’re (economically) valuable and therefore important and successful.
The thing is, when you really think about it, busyness is neither attractive or particularly productive. When I picture it, I see harried-looking people, only half listening to you, always charging through life as if their pants were on fire. In the workplace, I don’t see sharp, intelligent individuals making well-rounded, considered decisions, I see agitated multi-taskers constantly apologising for running late and using their busyness as a mask for good old-fashioned rudeness.
The truth is, we’ve never really admired busyness in others. Nobody ever says, ‘I want a spouse/boss/friend/client/doctor/therapist/teacher who’s so busy they barely have time for me.’ It’s nuts, and yet we accepted it as normal.
Now we have time
Speaking as someone who, in the past, has been known to organise the airing cupboard for something to ‘do’, I know a little bit about the doing disease. It was my drug of choice for most of my life because it meant I didn’t have to face up to the painful things that I really needed to deal with.
As the wonderful Brené Brown says in her book, Daring Greatly, “We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”
Well, I think this crisis has delivered the truth of our lives right to our front door. Our plea for more time has been granted – and for many of us, it’s proving to be uncomfortable.
Our challenge now I think is to learn to sit still with ourselves long enough to look our truth in the eye. Then we’ll each have to decide what sort of life we want once the music starts up again – I already know what I’ll be choosing.
It’s not about doing or having…it’s all about being.