Are You Addicted To Busyness?

How many times have you heard variations on this conversation?

Person A: How’s it going?
Person B: I’m insanely busy. You know, the usual.
Person A: Yeah, me too. I’m scheduling into 2015 already.
Person B: I get it. Haven’t taken a real vacation in over a year.
Person A: Well, gotta count our blessings for being busy, right?
Person B: Amen.

It seems to me that we wear busyness like a badge of honor. I’m busy, therefore I’m important and valuable, therefore I’m worthy. And if I’m not busy, forget it. I don’t matter.

Recently, I hired Anne Davin to help me run my business, and because she’s much kinder to my schedule than I am, I find myself with a lot more free time than I’ve had in decades. Anne reins me in so I don’t bulldoze full steam ahead into exciting new projects that, while thrilling and fulfilling, will invariably wind up over committing and depleting me and overworking and depleting my staff. So lately, I have a lot of days on my calendar labeled “Succulent Space Day,” which basically means I’m free to do…whatever.

Because it looks to the outside world like I achieve a lot, people assume I’m insanely busy. But the reality is that, because I have such a great support team, both in my professional life and my personal life, I have a lot of down time, and this down time leaves me admittedly uncomfortable. In September, my whole month was blocked for a PBS station tour that got postponed until December (check listings for my public television special here). So when that tour got postponed, I had loads of free time on my calendar. So what did I do? I filled up the time by writing a 124,000 word book that I started and finished in seven weeks.

I guess you could say I’m more than a little uncomfortable with down time.

The Addiction of Busyness

In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown writes about numbing behaviors that we use as armor against vulnerability. And lest you think numbing doesn’t apply to you because you’re not hooked on cocaine or alcohol, she clarifies by saying, “One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy. I often say that when they start having twelve-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums. 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.”

Oy. Busted.

While we shame people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, somehow, as a culture, we’ve normalized- even praised- busyness addiction. But are we really doing ourselves any favors by staying so busy?

Because I suddenly have more down time than I’ve ever had in my adult life, I find myself faced with the time to reflect upon my life. And facing my life isn’t always so pretty.

Facing The Truth

When I get off the hamster wheel of busyness and achievement, I’m forced to notice what comes up for me when I’m not busy. After I work through the realization that I could be working on my next book or I could be writing the sales page for the program I’ll be launching with Rachel Naomi Remen in January or I could be doing [fill the “there’s always more” blank,] I realize that none of those things must get done today. What is left in the silence are the things I don’t necessarily want to look at.

Like my flailing marriage.

Or the fact that I feel shame around how I’m missing out on some of Siena’s sweetest childhood moments because my job requires travel.

Or how uncomfortable I am with feelings of boredom.

Or how afraid I am of being ordinary.

Or how I tend to feel unworthy and unlovable unless I’m overachieving.

Or the fact that my mother isn’t getting any younger and I don’t get to see her very often, and I wonder if I’m unconsciously pulling away from her because I’m terrified of losing her one day and am practicing what Brené would call “dress-rehearsing disaster.”

Or how uncomfortable I am with realizing that, although a lot of people online care what I have to say, I’m not very good at cultivating and sustaining lasting relationships with real people who really know me and love me.

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