Fuck Busy

13 Oct

Late last night I was cruising around on Pinterest because hey I’m a boring 30-something mom and that’s what I do when I can’t sleep. Which, by the way, is every night, meaning that I’ve developed a bit of a Pinterest habit, among other things (my  insomnia-beating arsenal includes such soothing activities as: watching documentaries about the Chernobyl “liquidators,” hate-reading the blogs of conservative white dudes, and sending slightly incoherent late-night messages to my friends and acquaintances). Anyway, I was happily scrolling through pictures of pretty landscapes tragically marred by trite sayings (example: a gorgeous mountain at sunset with DON’T GIVE UP, THE BEST IS YET TO COME scrawled across it in white letters) when I came across this:


I had one of those moments where I was like, “oh.” And then I was like, “yes.” And then I had this huge mishmash of complicated feelings that I’ve been trying to untangle ever since.

Busy is how I keep myself from having enough time to think the thoughts that might completely derail my day.

Busy is how I distract my mind from the refrain of you’re not good enough, you’re not trying hard enough, nobody likes you

Busy is word that I hold over my head like some goddamn Sword of Damocles, as in: you’re not busy enough, you should be doing more, you don’t deserve a break, just keep going.

Busy is the first thing I think of when I wake up – will I be busy enough today? Will I get enough done? Or will I be a failure?

Busy is the last thing I think about before I finally drift off into a sleeping-pill-induced sleep – have I been busy enough? Am I satisfied with my day? Or have I been a disappointment, both to myself and to the people around me?

Busy is my anxiety-charged brain, either leapfrogging from one thought to the next, stringing together conclusions so quickly that I can hardly breathe, or else fixating on one idea and spinning it over and over, like a sore tooth that you can’t stop running your tongue over even though you wince every time.

The glorification of busy is the reason that I struggle so hard to relax – because I’ve never really, truly been busy enough during the day to deserve a rest. I sometimes ask myself what “busy enough” would look like, and I can never seem to come up with a solid answer. I tell myself that “busy enough” or “accomplished enough” is just something that I would intuitively feel once I’ve reached that goal post. But I never feel it, so I always have to assume that it’s just another day of not being good enough.

The glorification of busy is why my go-to solution for anxiety and depression is to try to out-run them, as if they’re that big stupid rock in the Temple of Doom and I’m Indiana Jones, always able to stay one jump ahead of being crushed.

The glorification of busy is why I’m sitting here in my mother’s living room on a long weekend writing a goddamn blog post because I feel like I just haven’t satisfied my daily requirement of “getting shit done.” Never mind that I’m supposed to be lying in a pool of post-Thanksgiving turkey-coma drool. I tried that. It didn’t feel good; instead, it felt like I was wasting precious time during which I could have been doing something important, like maybe memorizing the periodic table.

We live in a culture that praises “busy” as the best thing a person can be – both in terms of employment and personal life. We’re encouraged to cram as many experiences and events and accomplishments into a 24 hour period as possible – and then we’re encouraged to share our interpretation of those experiences, via tweets and pictures and pithy Facebook updates, in as close to real-time as possible. Even when you’re relaxing or having fun, you’re still often tapping into that busy mindset. “Am I sufficiently relaxed? Should I be having more fun? What can I do to optimize this experience? If I’m not feeling good, is that because I’m just not trying hard enough?”

And while I would on the one hand argue that staying busy is sometimes what stops me from having a full on tear-drenched meltdown in the middle of the day, I would also say that living in a culture that promotes “busy” as the ideal has for sure shaped my ideas of how to handle the sick panic of repetitive thoughts or sharp flashes of fear that set fire to my nerves. If I didn’t live in a society that glorifies busy, would my response to anxiety be to immediately throw myself into some type or work or another? If I didn’t think that busy was the be-all-and-end-all would I maybe take a few deep breaths and try to slow my thoughts instead of crushing them with other, different, faster thoughts?

Fuck busy.

Fuck the fact that I crave busy as a way to block out all the other shit that’s going on in my head.

Fuck the impact that busy has had on my ability to zone out, to shift gears, to slow down.

Fuck tweeting about how much fun I’m having when all I can think about is what I’m doing next, and then next, and then next.

Fuck the sense of dread that I have when faced with a day full of empty, unplanned hours.

Fuck the feeling of inadequacy that the glorification of busy has left me with.

I just want to learn how to shut off the busy voice in my head for five minutes. I just want to know what quiet is like. I just want to close my eyes at the end of the day and sleep without having to Pinterest myself into an exhausted stupor.

Fuck busy.

59 Responses to “Fuck Busy”

  1. TIND October 29, 2014 at 11:50 pm #

    Totally, totally get it. My friends and I spend a lot of time complaining about this (because, I guess we’re not that busy). Meanwhile, my sister is one of those people who packs every spare minute of her weekend with nourishing tasks and social activities and feels abhorrently lazy and overwhelmed with guilt if she spends Sunday morning watching TV. It’s weird. I don’t get it.

    This is scenario is basically the rationale for TIND, actually! Things I’ll Never Do is my way of coming to terms with the fact that instead of grabbing life with both hands I’m really more the sort to pat in gently on the head and back away slowly.

    This post explains it, sort of. Kinda.


  2. Liz Barrett November 28, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    I completely agree with this article 100%.
    As someone who grew up in the work-to-live environment of Spain, as opposed to the live-to-work mentality here, I was shocked at how stressful and packed people’s days were when I moved to the US. I feel like people here have forgotten life isn’t about being on a constant race to get things done, life is short enough as it is. I have several friends who’ve filled their days with underpaid work, volunteering, and numerous activities, all while taking college courses- which has had hugely detrimental effects on their health, both physical and emotional. We are human beings, not machines, we were given one life, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to take the time to stop and stare and the sky while sipping on tea for a whole day if I damn well feel like it.

  3. wing2048 December 3, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    Oh my god I love it

  4. Amy December 28, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

    This. Is. Wonderful.

  5. sweetvanessaleigh January 5, 2015 at 6:08 am #

    This is so interesting! I had the same reaction, however my aversion to the word comes from feeling condescended when people ask what I am upto and they devalue what it is I am doing, by saying “so you’re keeping busy” as if what I’m doing is killing time.

    I’ve never used the term busy to describe my actions. I guess I have never until recently assigned any value to the word busy. Until that is, I noticed people using the term to devalue me, or how I spend my time. I think either way it is spun, keeping “busy” is nothing to glorify.

  6. lenasclove February 7, 2015 at 8:45 pm #

    Yes!! I wrote a related blog post a little while back: http://lenasclove.com/2014/12/15/complicating-free-time-acknowledging-the-disease-of-being-busy/

  7. aqilaqamar June 14, 2015 at 1:57 am #

    Reblogged this on Iconography ♠ Incomplete and commented:
    Sometimes I do think on this. Are you less relevant, smart, significant, important, good or better because you are NOT busy?

    Sometimes, procrastination or even some time off is what people need. They may not have been workaholics true but neither have they degenerated to dope pushing or weird looking sloths/slouches/busybodies(pun-intended)/criminals. How can you construct a “busy” when you don’t have a “leisure” or even a gradient of “things to do”. In my blog before I did talk abut boredom and me not being integral. This has a lot of things to do with “busy” culture and also how many developing countries don’t have the concept of “leisure time spent” either.

    I may write a bit more in-depth on this but I am happy that this article does make sense.

  8. taylorwritesthings January 8, 2016 at 9:00 am #



  1. This Week I’m Thankful for Shabbbat | I'm Probably Overthinking This - September 26, 2015

    […] breathing and thinking) I contrasted this poem with a post I recently shared with my friend from The Belle Jar called “Fuck Busy”. When I shared this insightful, spot on post with her I wrote, […]

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