The Dangerous Dance of Busy-Ness

IMG_5535In the film Hoosiers, principal Cletus is meditating as the new basketball coach Norman Dale walks into his office. He explains embarrassingly that he’s suffered a heart attack, and his doctor has told him he has to meditate. I got the impression from that scene that his lifestyle has had to change or he was risking his life or Norman Dale would have never caught him meditating. The first time I saw the movie I had never meditated intentionally. Meditation was something for yogis and new agers that was a bit on the fringe. I was a type A, work hard, play hard sort of gal.

Today, my friend Bonnie posted a saying on Facebook that said, “Stop the glorification of busy.” In our culture, it is a compliment to be busy. I’ve been crazy busy. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to breathe. If someone is feeling sad or depressed, the answer is to go help someone else….. or get busy …. or find something to do. I’m going to guess that in many cases, the reason they are sad or depressed is because they have been distracting themselves from their own needs in the first place. In most cases, anxiety is the birthplace of depression. The body gets all ramped up and excretes adrenalin and hormones designed to get the body on alert for dangers that may or may not be real. Then, the body gets depleted, and depression sets in. Or feeling sad can also be caused by the crash of sugar and caffeine that keeps people ramped up to stay busy. In the long run, all of this busy-ness destroys health just as it did with Cletus. Almost all disease is stress-related. Some stress can’t be avoided, but a lot of it can.

I bought into the belief that I needed to be busy to be important for many years. I was Type A anyway, and I could juggle lots of things at once. I got off on doing it. Yes, I work long hours AND I am a perfect wife and homemaker AND I do the outside work as well AND I have time to take care of everybody else’s needs around me. I only changed when I couldn’t do it anymore. The aftermath of my first divorce hit me so hard that I finally said to myself, “There are times in life when I can let myself be helped.” And I did. I never picked it back up as much because I realized finally that I couldn’t have it all or handle it all. I let go of sewing my own clothes. I let go of being the one that remembered everybody’s birthday and anniversary. I let go of having a perfect house. I just let go.

It would be a long time before I let go of my biggest issue with busy-ness which was my people-pleasing. If I thought I should do it, I still did it, and it kept me busy. When I really learned that I could choose my friends and let go of the ones that were causing me stress, I did it. I had so many people in my life with so many needs that I couldn’t sleep at night for worrying about them. Or, I couldn’t sleep for trying to figure out what to say to them to get them to pick up the slack in their own life. I finally realized that A) it was none of my business and B) it was draining me. I began focusing more on me and less on the outside stuff around me. One of the ways I did that was to start doing yoga and practicing meditation.

Yoga and meditation taught me how to keep my mind on my own little space – my mat. It taught me to quit comparing myself to others which was a big source of my busy-ness. It taught me what my body feels like when it’s relaxed and at peace. I learned what my breath sounds like, and I learned to let thoughts pass through my mind without engaging with them. I never thought I could meditate. My mind was all over the place. Finally, a good teacher compared learning to meditate with training a puppy. It’s going to run off and get distracted. But, you don’t yell at it or get mad at it. You just bring it back to what you want it to do … over …. and … over … and …. over again. It’s a gentle process. And, once the brain gets trained to stop, it starts craving that silence. It is its natural state. Watch a baby gaze on a mobile for hours on end. They don’t feel like they need to do something else. They are present.

The problem that drove me to busy-ness was that I didn’t want to feel. I didn’t want to know what was going on in my brain. I didn’t want to feel guilt, sorrow, anger or loneliness. I had a discussion with my friend Nancy today about how terribly lonely I can get. Guess what!! She does, too. And we talked about it. As she says, we picked the scab off that wound for a bit. I felt a lot less lonely afterwards. We all can get terribly lonely. But, if we stay busy, we don’t have to feel it. When that little twinge of loneliness starts biting, it’s so alluring to distract myself. But, you know when it comes back? It comes back when my brain tries to stop to sleep. When the brain slows down, and it finds an opening, all of the stuff that I’ve been trying to avoid creeps back in. It causes insomnia. That’s the problem with not processing emotions or letting your mind rest. They sit in your gut, and you have to feed them …. food … alcohol … adrenalin …. until they destroy your peace and serenity. A week or so ago, I woke up in the middle of the night TERRIFIED. A situation at work had been causing me anxiety, and I’d been distracting myself from my worries about it. But, in the middle of the night, my anxiety surfaced. It finally found a space to dance.

Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting if that doesn’t appeal to you. For me, cooking is a meditation. I love the chopping of vegetables, and the smells and sights of sauteeing on the stove. It silences my mind, and I’m grounded in the present. I’ve recently found writing to be of value in rooting me in the present. I don’t know if I’d consider it meditation, but it does focus me and get rid of all kind of intellectual and emotional toxins. Walking in nature, running in a scenic spot, practicing yoga and taking a hot bath are all forms of meditation for me. Reading a good book can quiet my mind although it’s not a meditation. Anything that takes me on an inside journey roots me in the present. There is so much stuff in this world that is a distraction. And, thankfully, there are so many different ways of letting it go.

I was in a bit of a panic this morning because I didn’t want to waste my precious days off by doing nothing. I felt like I should go on an adventure, but I didn’t feel like it. I kept trying to make myself get out and do something. I had scheduled a massage this morning, and I went to the gym, but that was all I could muster. When I saw my friend’s post, I sighed. I’m not wasting my day by taking a nap and reading. I’m giving myself a much needed gift. I ended up doing just that, and I got up and chatted with friends all over this country and a couple in other countries on Facebook. My friend Jascia shared a book with me on Kindle, and we laughed a little over text. After I finish writing this, I plan to crawl up under the covers and read the book Jascia sent me. Tomorrow, I may feel like being busy, but, then again, I may not. I don’t have to be busy to be important. Apparently, I am loved just as I am.

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