The month of August was busy for us. I mean BUSY. I was pretty sure, at some point, my calendar was going to say, “no I’m sorry, there is not enough room for any more events in August… come again later.”
In fact, the only thing busier than our month of August is… uh…
Our month of September.
Right now, if I sit and look at my iCal for long enough, I can feel myself start to hyperventilate. I see weekends where we’re working or traveling, all the way through the weekend, and I can already feel in my bones how exhausted I’m going to be. The whole thing makes me want to let out a tiny whimper.
But it also has me thinking about why I do this to myself.
Why are we so freaking BUSY all. the. time?
The reason we most often cite for our chronic busyness (myself included) is we don’t want to let people down. It’s our people-pleasing problem that’s really getting in our way, we say. And in a roundabout way, I guess we’re right. But I think there’s a much deeper reason we pack our schedules so full we want to cry.
That is this: busyness makes us feel less inadequate.
We’re mind-numbingly busy because we choose to be. Busyness is our crutch. (Tweet That)
I read all these things on the Internet (and everywhere) about people waking up at 5am to crush their productivity and if I’m being totally honest, the whole thing makes me feel a little sick. It’s not because I think there is anything wrong with waking up at 5am or being insanely productive.
Like everyone, I’m always trying to maximize the amount of work I get done with a given amount of energy. And I have gone through long seasons of my life waking up at 5am.
Book-writing seasons. Great seasons. Happy seasons. Productive seasons.
But the reason the whole thing makes me feel sick to my stomach is because, at the end of the day, no matter how much we accomplish or produce or “crush”, no matter how early we wake up, it will never make us feel like we’re enough.
That feeling has to come from somewhere else.
If I’m being honest, I like staying busy. It’s comfortable to me. I’m happiest when I have my nice little to-do lists organized neatly on post-it notes, with tiny little tasks I can efficiently check off. By the end of the day, I feel so happy and in control, like life is CRAZY, but I have totally CONQUERED it.
You know, being so amazing and all.
Busyness helps me cope with my feelings of worthlessness.
If I can do more, be more, go harder, make more money, fit more in, please more people, get more attention and accolades for my accomplishments, maybe one of these days, one of those accomplishments will make me feel like I’m not such a waste of space.
Maybe one day, if I’m busy enough, I’ll finally start to feel like I matter for something. The problem is it never happens like that.
Feeling worthy is something that happens from the inside, out. (Tweet That)
A little over a year ago I spent a week at a place called Onsite.
It’s basically like summer camp for adults, with some counseling woven in. They make you turn in your cell phone and you’re not allowed to talk about what you do for a living. Then you spend a week with the same small group of people doing pretty much… well… nothing.
In fact, I remember being struck by how easy it was to sit for an hour—or more—after dinner, just talking about… hmm… who even knows what? I don’t really remember what any of our conversations were about. I just remember feeling deeply connected and endeared to these people who, for all intents and purposes, I had just met.
Now, to be fair, it didn’t start off like this.
The first few hours at Onsite—without my phone or my friends or my busy schedule to move me from one thing to the next—felt horribly awkward and painful. I wondered what on earth I had done. It took everything in me not to get in my car and drive home.
But, by the end of the week, despite the fact that I was totally disconnected from the world around me, completely disengaged from my career goals, didn’t send or receive a single email or a single text message…
This was probably the most “productive” week of my life.
Worthiness comes from the INSIDE, out.
Then productivity follows. Clarity of thought and of vision. Decisiveness. Permission to let people down.
I’m not sure how this sits with you.
Maybe I’m the only one who super-charges my schedule so I don’t have to sit still with myself. Maybe I’m the only one who numbs myself out at the end of the day watching Netflix until I’m so tired I can’t keep my eyes open, so I don’t have to get comfortable with the silence.
Maybe I’m the only one who, on a day when I have nothing to do, finds things to do just so I can keep feeling “productive”.
But I kind of don’t think I am.
So if you’re even slightly tracking with me, here is something I am working on.
I say “no,” then I pay attention.
I say no to doing the dishes while our dinner guests are still there, opting to put it off for the morning so we can continue in conversation—and then I pay attention to how it makes me feel. Anxious. Stressed. Like I’m not doing enough.
I say no to a project that is a great opportunity. A huge leg up for me. A “can’t miss” kind of thing. Then I pay attention to how it makes me feel. Like I’ll never make it—never make a good living doing what I do, never achieve the success I want.
I say no to a volunteer event—the one that would benefit so many people and make me look so great and loving and kind. Then I pay attention to how it makes me feel.
Like I’m not nice enough, not kind enough, like I don’t do enough.
And in those places where I am so broken and fragile, I love myself.
Which mostly looks like laughing at myself, because, well, I am ridiculous. And also amazing. I remind myself that no amount of success or money or fame or even attention for doing “good” will ever make me feel good. No amount of domestic prowess will ever make me feel like I am enough.
Not for very long anyway.
I already am enough. Deep down inside I know it.
And I can find it down there, like buried treasure, if I am patient and persistent and quiet enough.
And if I can just find some space in my calendar…