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. explorermamma October 13, 2014 at 3:18 am #

    Busy is eating my soul

  2. Katie Lynn October 13, 2014 at 3:23 am #

    Thank you!!!
    I’ve been trying to explain this for months and couldn’t figure out how to put it into words!!
    This is so well written.

  3. Victo Dolore October 13, 2014 at 3:34 am #


  4. amommasview October 13, 2014 at 3:40 am #

    Well said! And I think people are happily hiding behind “busy”…

  5. Justine Froelker October 13, 2014 at 3:42 am #

    This is a big part of the work we do in The Daring Way™ (based on the research of Brene Brown). 2 of her guide posts to wholehearted living are to let go of Exhaustion, Productivity=Self-Worth and Anxiety as a Lifestyle to cultivate Rest & Play and Calm & Stillness. I love this piece, thank you! Justine

  6. The Modern Day Fairy Godmother October 13, 2014 at 3:44 am #

    Reblogged this on The Modern Day Fairy Godmother and commented:
    Definitely me lately. Excellent post!

  7. Si Transken October 13, 2014 at 3:48 am #

    I love what you’ve said here. Maybe you are my twin? Are we twins separated at birth? This is also a haunting from the trauma of generations of working poor folks (Protestant work ethic, internalization of blame for our ‘failures’ in a capitalist patriarchal world). Thank you for writing what you have written here.

  8. nomadoc October 13, 2014 at 4:19 am #

    yes! it needed to be said!

  9. esse636 October 13, 2014 at 4:34 am #

    So so good. I can’t bear competition for busy-ness, it is everywhere! I enjoy slow, but full, so so much more.

  10. esse636 October 13, 2014 at 4:36 am #

    Reblogged this on stuffofmyattention and commented:
    This is great, have a read. A topic close to my heart…really not fond of competition for busy-ness- it is everywhere!

  11. smartypants196 October 13, 2014 at 5:13 am #

    Truth speak, another great post, i do the busy thing to run ahead of my chronic pain from MS, even with the pain pill which doesn’t take the pain away but it works on the part of the brain that helps me cope with the pain. I find busy as a great distract-er so i can forget the pain, so much like your pain you run ahead of.

    Life is like that for everyone, we never feel good enough or that we got enough done, i live by the four agreements, Be impeccable with your word, Don’t make assumptions, Don’t take it personal, and the best one, Do your best. That’s the one i like, that at the end of the day i tell myself over and over that i did my best today and i lay down and lift all the shit and crap that runs through my head, and i allow the angel of grace to come to me and allow her in so i can sleep, can re-coop my strength, like i have to pay forward by rest so i can wake up and face another day. Without that stage 4 sleep where it heals me and clears away the day and thoughts and i am just in that safe, dark place where nothing is what i need to reset my energy, without that restorative sleep i am no good, if i don’t sleep i end up having to stay in bed.

    Rats die without sleep after five days. If people can’t sleep meds help to bring you to that place. Coffee is a great destroyer, an angst that i have stopped drinking it, as it would keep me awake too long.
    Computer light interferes with sleep too, chocolate, and toxic emotions. Lay down sister and claim your right to sleep. Stay well exercised, but not before sleep, it makes such a difference. I also get regular massages that lift pain away for 48 hours, its well worth the money.
    Belle Jar you claim your sleep. Roll your eye upward and escape out that hatch door into dream state, love yourself, a stranger you never met does too. Tonight i will think about you as i fall asleep, maybe we can dream the same dream. You are perfect just the way you are, stay away from toxic people Love from Eugene Oregon

  12. Just a Thought October 13, 2014 at 5:25 am #

    Loved your blog – totally identify with an anxiety driven crazy busy life, but I am learning to stop up, calm down, and try doing nothing. It still feels wrong, but I will keep working on it!

  13. aiden91 October 13, 2014 at 6:15 am #

    This is awesome. Snappy and well written.

  14. MarinaSofia October 13, 2014 at 6:43 am #

    This is exactly the impulse which made me start my blog and start writing again nearly three years ago. I kept telling myself I was too busy to write, too busy to blog. But then I discovered busy is just a state of mind, and, as you say, it can overcome us even in moments of leisure (am I doing enough to have fun? am I making the most of my visit to Paris, to the spa, to the beach?). So…
    ‘Some people have decided to banish the word ‘busy’ from their vocabulary. They have decided to replace it with something else, something more nurturing, more nourishing, more inspiring.
    I have decided to become one of those people.’
    Does it always work? Hell, no! But it’s work in progress and so much better than before, when I worshipped at the altar of busyness.

  15. cartoline October 13, 2014 at 7:12 am #

    🙂 great thoughts! I sometimes catch myself thinking (very often actually) what is my next step, what will I do in an hour, tomorrow… instead of enjoying the present moment. Then,
    I just give myself an imaginary slap on the face and return to the present instantly 😉

  16. treatwilliams October 13, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    I like ‘Don’t just do something, sit there’. Though personally I need more to be getting on with than I have at the minute.

  17. Leah October 13, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    These are all really good points! But I actually took the original comment in a totally different way – i.e. “don’t tell me you’re too busy to do xyz like that’s a great excuse; we’re all doing important things and you’re no busier than anyone else…” Which you could probably write another whole blog-post about. 🙂

  18. kataqia October 13, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Here’s a relevant post on Harvard Business Review: http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/please-stop-complaining-about/

  19. Susan P October 13, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Let us know when you find out how to do that. 😀

  20. Louise October 13, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    Agreed. Well said.

    I’m the “busy” one in my relationship. My husband has relaxing down to an art I can’t quite match but aspire to.

    I will aim for that without adding it to any sort of “to do” list!

  21. Taylor Jackson October 13, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you for posting this. Could not agree more

  22. Ainsobriety October 13, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    It might be better to just have the tear filled meltdown in the middle of the day.
    To let the emotions take over, instead of suppressing them under the guise of being busy getting shit done.

    Because those emotions stay there. And look for other outlets.

    My own drove me to drink more wine than was good for me. To silence the critical voice of NOT ENOUGH. NEVER ENOUGH.

    Eventually that one stopped working too.

    I’ve been sober for almost 11 months. I use yoga to help me find the stillness and peace I craved. I have kindness and compassion for myself. I’ve stopped comparing my accomplishments to others. I am satisfied. If you think I’m not doing enough, I neither know nor care.

    It’s truly liberating to stop looking for external validation.

    Brene Brown’s the gifts of imperfection is my personal “roadmap”.

  23. oldmine October 13, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    It is more important than you think to get the compulsive “busy” thing under control. Your condition built slowly with the evolution on your life, and you will have to get out of it slowly, too. You will not succeed if you try to do it ‘cold turkey’. But give yourself permission to goof off when you feel you should. Don’t push through the desire to stop. Just go with the feeling and stop. It’s worth doing, believe me.

  24. broadsideblog October 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    Sorry for the old cliche, but we are human BEings, not human DOings. Somehow, people are worshipping at the shrine of busy when we just need to sit still or go for a long walk or hug the dog or something that the industrial prodcution-line mindset derides as “a waste of time.” Busy is a waste of time.

  25. vbillings October 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Actually had nightmares last night about being overwhelmed at work, after months of being understaffed and underpaid and overworked. And then I get online to see this beautiful story. Thanks for the push to make a change.

  26. Katherine Kowalski October 13, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    “I just want to close my eyes at the end of the day and sleep without having to Pinterest myself into an exhausted stupor” A million times yes to this!! Why do you think I’m sitting here typing this when I should be zzzzing off into the land of nod contendedly? 😉

  27. Miffytastic October 13, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    Yes! have you read any of Brene Brown’s books? I love her ‘calm map’ idea. Exercise really does help I have to say (and remind myself, given that I’ve not done any this week….)

  28. Chenoa October 13, 2014 at 9:13 pm #

    Check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, specifically her section on the Italian concept of “the beauty of doing nothing” (il bel far niente, 61) and how Americans glorify busy. 🙂 I agree, fuck busy.

  29. AModernUkrainian October 13, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    Reblogged this on A Modern Ukrainian and commented:
    Oh this is going to be my elevator quote this week. Fantastic post!

  30. court October 13, 2014 at 11:18 pm #

    My counselor and I were just talking about “mindfulness” the other week. Which is what this read reminded me of. Good timing for me!!

  31. Katydid October 13, 2014 at 11:52 pm #

    Busy-ness is also a weapon in the Mommy Wars, with prizes going to the woman who’s the most overwhelmed with crazy doing stuff.

  32. Rachel October 14, 2014 at 4:20 am #

    I so needed to read this, especially this week. Busy is trying to eat me alive. Great post!

  33. mrsmulford October 14, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    Reblogged this on chemineblog and commented:
    I have never “reblogged” anyone’s post before, but TODAY is that day! I read this post this morning and thought to myself, “Gee, I should write about this topic!” Then I thought, “But this post is PERFECT and straight out of my own brain… I cannot improve on this even one tiny bit!!” If you would like to see more from this blogger, check it out at https://bellejar.ca/

  34. rebeccaashley89 October 14, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    Reblogged this on a contrary spirit and commented:
    This is a great post on how we spend way too much time filling our time without thought. Full speed ahead leaves no room for reflection and this often gets us into trouble as individuals, as communities, as businesses and as a society. All very well said and worth stepping out of a busy day to read and reflect on.

  35. stephanief October 14, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    Yes! This!

  36. emckiewoodson October 14, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    “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?”

    Yes, yes, a million times yes. Everything about this post. Busy is trying to balance school, friends, health, and passions without collapsing into a pool of tears on a Thursday afternoon. I really needed to hear this, and I hope you’ll be able to slow down too.

  37. vaughna3 October 15, 2014 at 4:51 am #

    Yes, yes, yes. I never thought of it this way. I do always feel like I need to be busy or I’m wasting my time.

  38. Sarah Rhodes October 15, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    You sound just like me!

  39. musicislife9393 October 16, 2014 at 12:10 am #

    Reblogged this on nerdinessandpolitics and commented:
    This is beautiful.

  40. mcations October 17, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    Gah this is perfect!! You described me so exactly that I wondered if I wrote this some time when I was deliriously tired but trying to keep myself BUSY!! My partner tells me that I don’t know how to relax and she’s right… Time to unlearn the importance of busy. Thanks for writing this xxx

  41. weebluebirdie October 17, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    You’ve eased my guilt about not being busy! I’m on holiday for a week, staying in a beautiful place and the weather has been perfect. Should have been out on long walks. Didn’t. Mostly I’ve been luxuriating in a big comfy bed all to myself. And when I get up I walk round the house looking out every window at a different view of the trees. I’ll put down the stick I was beating myself up with!

  42. likestowrite October 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    Great post!

    Well written, and as you can see from comments from other people already, many of us are ‘with you’ on this subject.

    I have two thoughts about ‘busy’…first, well it’s a four-letter word isn’t it, so I think it should be immediately re-classified as an offensive word, not to be used except for in exceptional circumstances!

    And secondly, when you think about it (or at least when Ithink about it) busy is a nonesensical state, and mostly it involves people who are busy being busy. If you get me?!!

    So, as you said….fuck busy!!

  43. TheAWOLTypist October 18, 2014 at 3:03 am #

    I was going to say I love this. Because I do. Then, in the spirit of your post, I wanted to say “fuck it” because I found your blog because I’m spending all this time looking for new blogs to follow and read so I too will feel like I have gotten enough shit done.

  44. Maria Matthews October 18, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    Sounds like me but my busy stems from fear. Fear of dying , of being labelled stupid, of standing still long enough to become another bully’s target and most importantly of all fear of having spare time to think. A great post well written.

  45. julesdownunder October 20, 2014 at 3:16 am #

    I just posted on this same topic and then found your posting. Different hemispheres, same deal.

  46. Limi October 23, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    Best article ever full stop. Fuck busy. Great title.

  47. Our Lady Queen of Peace , Shebet Of God October 24, 2014 at 2:15 am #

    yes, I felt bad that busy did not think I were him at all, rejection!

  48. ProblematicPop October 27, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    I relate to this post so much, especially the part where “busy” keeps me from thinking thoughts that would derail my day.


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