by Michelle Kennell
Lately I've been overwhelmed by the things I have going on at work and in my personal life. Almost every morning last week, I woke up with either a tension headache or a sinus headache. It got bad enough that I couldn't sleep soundly at night and had to take melatonin to retain my sanity (did I ever have it?).
But I'm not going to complain. Because, hey, I know mothers who survive on no sleep whatsoever and always look a little frazzled. And I know people who take blood pressure medicine just for stress.
So no, I won't complain. If I have to take a little dose of melatonin every now and then, I'm okay with that.
But all of this led me to wonder: why are we so busy?
What I mean is: what drives us to keep adding things to our schedules until we're about to drop?
I pondered this question this past weekend and then had some great conversations about it with friends. I'm not sure that I have all the answers, but I do think I've discovered a few things.
I think we like to be busy.
Busyness gives us something to talk about, a feeling of importance as we bustle to and from church activities, work events, socials, shopping, and whatever else we pile on ourselves.
Being busy makes us think that we're winning this absurd "busy" competition. I'm sure you've seen these competitions. They usually take place whenever someone asks for a volunteer. "I just can't," one lady will say, sadly shaking her head. "This week I have..." and then she will count all the activities she has to think of, using all of her fingers to keep track. Another lady will pretend to be commiserating, but as soon as the first lady takes a breath, she will jump in with her agenda, using her fingers and maybe even some of her toes.
Busyness makes others admire our ambition. "Wow! How do you do it all?" they ask. And it feels good to be admired, as though the more we can accomplish, the more worthy we are of respect.
And probably the biggest perk of all: it gives us something to complain about. I'm being completely transparent here. We (I) do a lot of complaining about problems we brought upon ourselves. It's amazing we get any sympathy at all.
Have you ever noticed that whenever someone complains about being busy they're generally okay with the busy part, as long as everything goes smoothly. In other words, as long as there are no hiccups in the works, busyness is not a problem.
I'm going to be bold and tell you that busyness is a problem.
Any logical businessman can tell you that a company has to have a little financial wiggle room.
Any cook can tell you that it's good to have a little extra food.
Any carpenter knows that you need a few more materials than strictly necessary.
And yet we've convinced ourselves that we can shave off corners of time, fill them up, and use them until they (and we) are wasted.
Humans are addicted to busyness.
I don't pull out the word "addicted" very much because I don't like to use it lightly. Addiction is a very serious thing, but I believe that a busyness addiction is serious.
In fact, our busy lives keep us from much more important things -- things like our faith walk, our families, our friends, solitary time.
I wonder how much healthier our society would be if we spent our time more wisely, cautiously weighing what we do and why. How many activities are too many? What activities are best for us? What activities can we cut?
Here's what I did last year, and I found it very helpful in seeing what my priorities were and what should be adjusted.
I wrote down on an index card everything I was currently doing or working on. Everything. My list included things like "Work, Youth secretary, choir member, Sunday School teacher, etc."
After I had written everything down I took an honest look at the list and asked myself a few questions about each item.
Why am I doing this?
Is this a ministry that I am passionate about?
What would happen if I stopped doing this?
Obviously, there are some things you can't quit, like work. But there may be some things you can give up.
And when you give those things up, when you weed out the extra things that make you busy, your heart finally has the room it needs to relax and grow.
Jesus' gospel is not that we would run around doing good things at a break neck pace. His gospel is that we spend our time wisely, seeking His kingdom above the idol of busyness.
Michelle lives in central Illinois among the vast corn fields. She enjoys long walks, hot drinks, old literature, and working with old people at "her" nursing home. She blogs at rhapsodyind.wordpress.com.