Busy was my badge, a secret sign of my struggle. It was something to shout that proved I dutifully devoured obligation.
As a worker bee driven to succeed and achieve, I always went the extra mile. With a plethora of friends, socializing several nights a week seemed like the best way to unwind. There was always someone to see and something to do. I was never bored. To keep up with it all, a steady sugar splurge supplied short-lived bursts of energy. When illusive downtime was available, I hypnotized myself for hours by the blue light of an electronic indulgence and congratulated myself for “resting.”
Showing up or shutting out, it was all a blizzard of busy.
What was the reward? There was a whisper, but I couldn’t hear it because I was too busy drowning in the discontent bubbling beneath the surface.
I wanted to tune in, but I didn’t know how. One day it hit me: busyness was a form of procrastination. A put-off that pulled my physical and mental focus toward mindless activity. A distorted distraction, busyness was a binge that was burning me out.
Why was it so hard to stop doing and just be? I didn’t enjoy being so tired and exhausted all the time, but why couldn’t I bring myself to stop? What was I avoiding? Asking myself those questions helped me see procrastination as fear, a force so powerful it was perverting my focus and preventing my potential.
Why was I so afraid? I had it all, supposedly.
It took some fumbling around, but I was finally able to get clear on the payoff behind busy. I was scared to slow down because without the buzz of busy, I would be forced to face the truth. Deep down, I knew that the life I had worked so hard to build for myself was no longer serving me. I could no longer make the same choices, but I was scared because I didn’t know what to do instead.
Being boxed in by busy was better than the uncertainty. It was safe and easy to be busy.
When I felt busy beg, I asked myself if the activity was a momentary and pleasurable escape or a monumental postponement of productivity. To ease the shift, I allowed busyness to serve as a much needed break from the strain of searching for certainty.
This careful compromise did not help me find relief from the burden of busy, for even a little bit of busy allowed mindlessness to multiply. Barely surviving in a suspended state of strung out and stressed out, my bargain with busy was breaking me. It was then I realized that busy is a b*tch who fights to win. To protect and preserve her status, busy messed with my mind. A talented temptress with slippery seductions, she tried to shame me with shoulds and steal my soul.
In order to break free, I decided once and for all to really slow down. Shed what wasn’t essential. Cast off and be curious. Stay alert. Watch. Observe. Wake up. Be open.
Determined to succumb to the sublime state of extraordinary calm, consciousness and clarity that busy cannot deliver, I told myself I didn’t have to do it all. I felt the fear instead of feeding it with busyness. Without all the noise, I was able to finally hear the serene undertones of my inner voice. With the sweet softness of a dear friend, it provided me the perspective I needed to see the possibilities beyond busy.
All I had to do was be still and listen.
Author: Alice Curran
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Damian Zaleski/Unsplash