In the lead up to Christmas, you may once again be asking yourself ‘How does one human get so freakin busy?”. We run around at this time of year like those proverbial chooks with their heads cut off and seem to get nothing done. We struggle to tie up the loose ends in our businesses and workplaces, we don’t get around to seeing many of the important friends whose company means so much to us, and gazillions of us are caught out with the customary gift-buying shenanigans, finding ourselves wandering the fluorescent-lit halls of crappy shopping centres whose names end with ‘Land’ the night before Christmas. (If you ask me, the best solution to this is to kick gift-giving into the bin, but that’s another post.)
How did we get so busy?
In our digital age, there is no shortage of things to click on to occupy our minds. As technology has sped up, so too has the ‘expected’ pace of our lives. Productivity in workplaces has soared over the past few decades, and while this has had a direct part to play in our ‘busy’ trajectory, so too has the attitude that the sky is the limit.
Employers expect us to be busy. Teachers expect us to be busy. If we have a free night, we think we are a social failure – just look at the fun everybody else is having on a Wednesday night playing out on Insta! Social media really compounds those nagging feelings of FOMO, and it can be hard to surrender to the fact that what you really need is a night off to lie in the bath with a block of chocolate and go to bed at 7:30 (or is this just me?!?).
We glorify ‘busy’ as if it’s a wonderful state of affairs. In fact, it makes millions of us sick every year. More Australians are suffering from stress and burnout than ever before. The expectations we place upon ourselves are staggering. Mothers, especially, have a challenge with the conditioning we’re faced with around career/motherhood balance – ‘You can have it ALL!’ proclaim the stories of our culture. Well, you know what, we fricken can’t, and some of us get quite broken trying.
Another sneaky reason we glorify busy-ness is because it helps us avoid our pain. Read that again. In the same way that we use cigarettes, alcohol, smartphone addiction, junk food and drugs to numb our minds and bodies to the emotions that feel too hard to feel, we likewise use ‘busy-ness’ to distract ourselves from our pain. If you think that’s not you, think again. If you are brave enough to take yourself away to a silent meditation retreat, for example, for even a few days, you will find that you are just like everyone else – without the distractions of social chat, your phone, TV, work and running around doing errands, your monkey mind will throw up all the sh*t you fear and avoid.
What’s the alternative?
What if we were to decide to take life at a slower pace, making time for just ‘being’? Surely giving ourselves some breathing space offer opportunity for us to reflect on our lives in a deeper and more meaningful way? Develop a more loving relationship with ourselves, that our self-worth may grow? Perhaps we would feel more keenly into what is needed in challenging situations? Learn more quickly from our past mistakes? Wouldn’t it be a dream to have the space to fall in love with everything in your life – the smell of jasmine, birdsong, or the teeny interactions we have with strangers when we’re not rushed?
Could we be courageous enough to simply say NO to as many social and professional engagements as we need to in order to feel grounded and balanced and fully presentin our own lives? Learning to make and uphold firm boundaries around the use of our time is a real art, and one that’s much-needed.
And can you imagine what would happen if we could make more time? Well, it’s kinda possible, and I’m going to tell you how!
This wonderful idea for making more timecomes from Gay Hendricks’s book ‘The Big Leap’ (if you haven’t read it, put it on your list). Hendricks argues that most of us spend our days – at least to some degree – riddled with anxiety about what might happen in the future.
The example used in the book is along the lines of this scenario: You have a teenage child who calls you in the morning and says ‘Dad, I have something to tell you, I’m coming to visit you at 3pm’. So for the entire day, you worry. You stress, you wonder, you make up all kinds of scenarios in your head and you drive yourself nuts. What’s more, you get nothing done. You may as well have had no time available at all on that day.
Once your child arrives and gives you the news (which isn’t anything terrible and they were just being dramatic, as teenagers sometimes do), your mind becomes clear again and you are able to focus on your projects and other aspects of your life.
Hendricks argues that in order to stretch time, and have the feeling of having more of it, you need do only one thing. You must recognise what it is that you are avoiding or putting off doing in your life, and do that thing.
It makes sense. None of us is immune to the ceaseless ruminations of the mind that knows it’s putting something off. No matter how far we push ‘the thing’ toward the back of our brain, it’s still there, and we feel the anxiety this knowing in our emotional state, our breath, our muscle tone. When these stress feelings are present, we aren’t able to be present in this moment. We are secretly (or subconsciously) busy in another moment – the moment in the future when we are facing the terror of doing ‘the thing’. Our survival response needs to keep its attention on that moment – at least to some degree – to keep us safe in this moment.
In order to free ourselves of our anxieties about the future, we can simply choose to face ‘the thing’ as soon as possible when it arises. This may mean getting on top of our not-done-taxes, writing a letter to the parent we had a fight with at Christmas, getting a referral for the psychologist, asking that babe on a date. When we face the things we are most afraid of, we free our energy up to focus on this present moment, where all the wonder and beauty exists.
Freeing ourselves of worry opens up a whole bunch of space for meaningful connection with ourselves, each other and the world around us. Aren’t these the very things that we are longing for when we say ‘I need more time’? So, in effect….. MORE TIME! Ta-daaaaaaaaa!