The Paradox of Busyness and Relaxation

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Call it multi-tasking, being irreplaceable, overworked, overstimulated, or whatever other label you like. The simple fact is that many of us have fallen into the trap of using external stimuli to supply our desire to feel needed. Those of us in the 40-something generation like to point fingers at teens and their constant electronic companions, claiming that they have become addicted to instant gratification — but we are just as bad as they.

I came to this realization over the last few days, as I am officially on my winter break for the next few weeks. I managed to spend a grand total of 3 days — 3! — without opening my laptop to do one of the other projects I scheduled during this break time. I accepted the projects because the money is quite good and a welcome addition to the household budget, but realized that I must have checked my phone at least 10 times per hour on one pretext or another, although I did not Touch my laptop. Today, with the snow finally arriving for good, I spent much of the day working on these projects, watching movies, and checking that damned phone.

I am as addicted to the electronics as they are.

I’ve heard all the fads, especially the one about the adult coloring books, that promise an antidote for our busyness. I think that buying into the pop psychology of adding coloring books isn’t the antidote, but just another way to escape the very thing that frightens us the most: Our fear that if we are constantly busy, then we are somehow worth less.

Who determines this worth? I think the answer is in the mirror.

The paradox of this whole need to remain busy is that if we relax, then we have more of ourselves to offer the world. In contrast, by remaining continually busy, we lose touch with our creativity and that spark that makes us unique. I’m not saying that we should abrogate our commitments or eschew our material needs, but that we need to understand that being effective means balancing busyness with stillness, crowdedness with solitude, and connectedness with peace. We need time to breathe so that we can find the rest our entire beings need.

What does this mean for me? Will I stop working on my projects and relax into my break? I cannot and will not ignore my professional commitments, but I will make sure to get outside and enjoy the snow. Or stay inside and play a game with my family. Or just simply read a book without checking my phone.

I will find the space to become more of myself. Somehow.

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