How Busy is Too Busy?

My grandmother was a busy woman.

She awoke, often before dawn, to feed the chickens, milk the cows, tend the garden, clean, cook and do whatever else needing doing (this included such tasks as canning that produce from her garden, making her own butter, and watering, by hand, every inch of grass and flower beds in her front and back yard - and let’s not forget the huge garden in the back pasture).

She was busy. All the time. 

Sitting, sleeping, reading, resting, talking, and god forbid watching television were all considered lazy - unless you could multitask while doing them. For instance, it was acceptable to carry on a conversation while cooking, or milking, but not while sitting idly on the sofa. Till her dying day, my grandmother complained about how lazy my grandfather was because after a long day of construction work, tending to the cows, chopping wood, mending fences, etc. he sat down in his favorite chair to read. My grandmother didn’t have time for such things and she didn’t see how he could just sit in his recliner and “do nothing!” Surely there was something more productive he could be doing.

I am proud of my grandmother. Proud of who she was. Proud of how she was able to do so much with so little. 

My grandmother had two daughters. They were also busy.

As her granddaughter, I too struggle with busyness. The idea that resting is laziness. That only movement is productive. 

I once watched my grandmother fall asleep while sitting straight up on the sofa quilting. She jolted awake, needle still in hand and proclaimed, “I’ve got to get up! I can’t be sitting here, I’m falling asleep!” I asked her if maybe her body was trying to tell her something? She scoffed and said she didn’t have time for a nap, she was fine as long as she kept moving. 

I don’t have daughters, only sons, and I think to a certain extent it’s women who are taught to be busy. Always busy. Take care of everything. Never stop moving. 

I see this changing in the larger landscape, but I still see its prevalence in individuals around me. I still see it in myself.

Take today for example. I am tired. This is a bit TMI, but when my cycle starts my head explodes, my whole body aches, and everything in me just wants to stay in bed. But do I? I tell myself that I don’t have a choice. I have clients to see, classes to teach, appointments to make. So, I push through popping Aleve and hoping for the best. 

But what if I decided to forgo my to do list and listen to my body?

The grandmother inside me rails against this choice. She warns me not to be “lazy”, that my whole life will fall apart if I don’t get my work done, she reminds me of my schedule and pushes me to get up and be busy!

If I don’t get the filming done then everyone will leave me. They will forget about me and move on. If I cancel on my clients my business will fail. It will utterly and instantly fall apart. 

If you’re thinking this sounds dramatic, I have to agree with you, but the actual voice in my head is much more severe. However, I’m not prepared to admit to being lazy and crazy in the same blog post! 

Over the years, I’ve watched my mother’s busyness. I’ve seen the angst and I don’t want to repeat it. I want to break the cycle. But it’s hard. There is so much guilt and shame surrounding rest.

Is it possible to construct a productive life that includes rest - both scheduled and impromptu? 

I believe it is and I’m challenging myself to find it. To figure it out. To honor the deepest needs within myself. 

I want to challenge you to do the same. 

Maybe for you it’s a different struggle. Maybe you are one of those people who gets off on having every moment scheduled and full. I know people like this. They are genuinely happy and seem to be energized by juggling a zillion activities at once. If this is you, then honor that. But if this is not you, then stop trying to be that person! 

Those of us who can’t live life well without lots of white space and down time need to stop trying to imitate the life of those individuals who can. The truth is, even the energizer bunnies among us need rest, they just need it in different doses and different patterns. 

So no matter who you are, no matter what your current circumstances dictate (I understand about juggling work and kids and everything else) this is my challenge to you:

Can you sit with the life you’ve created and honestly evaluate if it’s working or not?

And if it’s not, can you bravely take a stand and recreate something that does? 

What does that life look like? I'm serious. What does it look like for you? How would you describe a life that actually met your needs. All of them. What would your calendar look like? What would your days feel like? 

If you're curious how this evolves for me I'll be happy to share my progress. I would LOVE to hear what you think and to hear if you plan to give this some serious thought and some actual action.

Try this practice to find some inner and outer peace and quiet. Then use that mental spaciousness to evaluate, to re-evaluate, and to create something new.

 

             *** This blog post comes on the heels of sharing my “word” for 2018. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that life is prompting me to figure out how to include more rest. For me, this fits perfectly into the idea of making my life “simple and easy.” But the how will be interesting. How can I restructure my working life to include more simplicity? More ease? What would it look like if it were easy to set up a life that included more permission to rest?
                    ***** If you didn’t read the post mentioned above and would like to better understand what in the hell I’m talking about - simple and easy??? - you can click here and read the whole thing.