On Being Busy


I just listened to a chapter of We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider and I cannot wait to read the rest of the book on my honeymoon now.

The chapter was entitled “Lazy” and it spoke directly to me about exactly where I am today, and where I think we all are, to some degree.

More importantly though, it spoke to something I’ve been trying to articulate a real need for in my life for quite some time now. It’s what made the news of our delayed, cross-country, honeymoon adventure so (dramatically) hard to bear.

Tim Kreider is suggesting that we should all be a bit more lazy, actually. He believes that taking time out of life once in a while or even having some idle time every day, might actually lead to greater accomplishment and contribution.

That is music to my ears, friends, because I am 100% sick and tired of  being ‘busy’.

I need some time and space to collect my damn self. And I’m serious about that. I don’t care how ‘self-indulgent’ or ‘unrealistic’ or ‘must be nice’ it sounds.

I believe that being busy has been stunting my growth and potential (all of our potential) for a while now and I’m over it. Everybody I know is so freaking busy and important, especially in New York. But what are we so busy doing? Who are we actually important to?

We’re so busy being busy that we’ve grown uncomfortable with actual alone, unscheduled time, and with really relaxing. And the lack of relaxation, the lack of time to truly disconnect and give our brains time to reboot, is taking a toll. We’re more depressed and anxious and addicted and drugged up and neurotic than ever.

We drink or smoke, exercise or play games on our phones, listen to podcasts or take classes, go shopping or pack our schedules with shit we don’t really want to do, all to avoid being still and silent and alone and disconnected.

Silence and stillness leave us uncomfortable. We hate what bubbles up when we give it time to. We can’t even sit down for five minutes a day and do nothing.

I watch people around me with kids and it’s even worse. When I hear about how busy they are, it makes me not want to have them. Between soccer and tutors and school and chorus and band and dance classes and shit, the poor kids have no time play in the dirt. And I really think that that’s horrible, because playing in the dirt is important.

It’s made me wonder lately what all this busyness is really bringing to our lives. The short answer, in my most humble opinion, is that it’s bringing us anxiety.

I literally thought I was going to die of Ebola last fall. I’m not joking.

I had more than one or two anxiety attacks about it. I’m talking the shaking, heart racing, walls closing in, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness of limbs, cold sweats, blurred vision kind of anxiety attacks. For one entire evening I cried on the couch and shook while Joel watched rather helplessly (and possibly contemplated asking for this ring back).

My brother texted me to ask if I checked my shoes for Ebola. For the record, still not funny.

The chances of my death by  Ebola were quite small, I probably had a better chance of dying from the flu but, if you have anxiety, you know that statistics rarely help when facing the impending doom in your mind.

The funnier thing (curious funny, not like, funny ha-ha), is that although my brother found my anxiety a bit amusing, I know for a fact that I was not the only one.

I know for a fact that more than a handful of my friends had similiar upticks in their usual, day-to-day, generalized anxiety around this isolated, worldwide event. The key word here being “usual”.

I don’t think that is a symptom of having friends as batshit crazy as I am. I think it’s a symptom of a greater issue in all of our lives, and that issue, is being busy.

It would be one thing if we could admit that this busyness was self-imposed. If we could admit that we’re actually not all that busy and that we just like to do shit so we can say we are because not being busy must mean you’re not actually all that important, right? You don’t have much going on.

But most of the stuff we are busy with doesn’t actually add that much value to our lives, or the lives of other citizens of humanity, right?

Most of us are not trying to cure cancer, or erradicate Malaria or broker world peace. Most of us are not rehabiliting veterans or fixing logistics issues that leave so many hungry in a country where 40% of our food supply goes uneaten.

Most of us are not social workers slaving tirelessly to help other people out of real-life, real-time, horrible situations. Most of us are not heart surgeons being paged in an emergency.

Most of us are selling ad space, or selling something for that matter, or we’re building software or social media networks, or consulting, or investing, or designing, or manufacturing something, or we’re working in offices where the bottom line is really just about making rich people richer or worse, writing blog posts while you’re supposed to be busy helping rich people get richer. Like this gal over here.

I’m not saying that these things aren’t important. I’m not saying we should all quit our jobs or shun society as a whole. The things we all do are important. We all need to support ourselves. We all need a way to make sure we have money every day and some of us might even like the work we do a whole lot, but do we really need to be so damn busy doing it?

The bottom line is that we’re not that freaking busy and our work is not that freaking important and we’re really just making ourselves sick over it.

Most of us are just busy being busy because we choose to be, and what I’m saying is that we can actually choose not to be if we wanted to. What would that be like? I’m not sure we even realize the inspiration, genius and stamina we might find in ourselves if we decided to make that choice more often.



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