Drug of Choice: Being Busy?

Okay,yes, we are all busy.  We all have full lives and endless to-do lists and a distinct lack of white space on the calendar.  When did it get to be so crazy?  And why do some of us wear our busyness as badges of honor?  For those of us who define themselves as perfectionists, being busy seems to be an attempt to avoid the tough things.  We don’t want to think about the hard stuff like how that bill is going to get paid, what to do about a sick parent and our own feelings of not feeling like we are enough.  We want to be liked and accepted for the long list of things we do, but we have forgotten who we are.  Not to get all deep.  I mean, damn it’s only the first paragraph!

Overheard in Suburbia:

I can’t go, I am crazy busy this week!

I just want to slow down.  I need a vacation!

Today is insane for me.  Can we do it another time?

How are you?  You know, busy as ever!

Years ago, I read “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff With Your Family,”  and I still look at it from time to time.  Apparently the author Richard Carlson died some years back, but this guy was right on.  He has a little chapter called, “When Someone Asks You How you Are, Don’t Answer with How Busy You Are.”  Last week, while sitting with a couple friends, one asked me how I was.  Well, I went into a litany of complaints about being too busy and recounting my schedule for last week.  Really, who the hell cares what I was doing last week?  As my friend, she was just asking how I was.

Brene Brown, in her amazing book “The Gifts of Imperfection,”  tells us that of course people numb with the traditional things like alcohol, drugs, gambling and food.  But we also numb ourselves with food, sex, work, chaos, perfectionism, the Internet and spending.  Yikes.  In our suburban culture, we are used to getting the things we want when we want them.   We can find coffee, restaurants, a gym or a convenience/department store within a 20 minute drive.  The answer to nearly every question is at our fingertips on our phones or our computers.  If we want to contact a spouse or a friend, a text is pretty much instantaneous.  But you can’t ask the phone how you are feeling.  All it does is distract you.  Which is great at the dentist’s office or while waiting in your (parked!) car at your kid’s school.  Filling your calendar also will not get the job done when you are, for example, contemplating a big change in your life.  Like leaving your job.  Telling that guy in the office you dig him.  Or understanding why you go batshit when someone leaves their coat on the floor.

Alright, no one is telling you that you have to make time to meditate or chant or anything like that.  But go for it, if that is your thing.  Some of us get fidgety at the mere idea of stillness.  Brene Brown suggests experimenting with different forms of stillness such as taking a long walk.  Or limiting how long your to-do list becomes.  Or, how about this suburbo-types?  Saying “No.”  For me, I am trying to cultivate the belief that I don’t have to fulfill some mental checklist of what needs to be done on a daily basis and then beat myself up when I don’t accomplish all the things I had wanted to do.  Putting off your peace of mind until you can take a vacation is adding fuel to the fire.  Using words like “crazy” or “insane” to describe your schedule only makes it so.  So, next time you ask me how I am,  hopefully I will say one of the following:

Practically perfect in every way.  (okay I got that from Mary Poppins.  Love her.)

Getting it done the best I can.

Honestly, I could use a friend.  Can we talk?

All is well.


All immediately followed by “Thanks for asking, how are you?”


2 comments on “Drug of Choice: Being Busy?

  1. dearsuburbia says:

    So happy to find your blog. I find I stay much more sane if I can slow down and have stillness for at least 10 minutes a day. When I can get 30 minutes a day…wow…I really begin to feel human again. Thanks for the call to let go of at least some of the busyness.

  2. Barbara Paulsen says:

    “Using words like “crazy” or “insane” to describe your schedule only makes it so.” This really resonated with me, Jeanne. I know I say this, especially with a traveling spouse, because sometimes I really feel crazy trying to juggle when and where everyone in the family is suppose to be somewhere (usually all at the same time). I’ve been known to say: I need a wife or I need two of me. Good food for thought!

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