My muscles tighten as I read the word “busyness”, despite it having been my comfortable state of being for as long as I can remember.
“How are you?”, they’d ask.
“Busy, but good!”, I’d say.
This was my compulsive (yet, honest) response for decades, coupled with having bought the lie that my level of worth depended upon how full my schedule was. People needed me. I had meetings to attend, tasks to check off, emails to return, goals to achieve, and others to serve. I could avoid rejection by always staying busy and being needed. Hustling through undergrad (a 1-1.5 hour drive away) while working full-time at a coffee shop plus serving on three research projects… all before tackling a dual MSW/PhD program while working as a graduate assistant, getting engaged, married, and having our daughter… before starting a 5.5 year tenure-track journey, having our son, achieving 2.5x more than what was expected of me, and stepping into an administrative position… these humbling opportunities threaded throughout offered me an onramp to a level of busy that no one could reject.
Of course, this came to a crashing halt in 2017 when I pridefully volunteered to help our church’s 12-step program and realized that I actually needed the steps. Standing before these honest and healing humans, I admitted my accelerator was broken. I had no idea how to exist without being overwhelmed or overstressed, running from one meeting, email, call, or project to another, and always saying yes to every opportunity. I could barely be still with others, let alone myself, and my family worried about my health.
It wasn’t until those 12-step meetings that I realized: my busyness was a way for me to numb a lot of my pain. Busyness also kept me numb from my other numbing tactics. Food. Sugar. Alcohol. Coffee. Email. Four social media platforms. Work. Saying yes. Perfectionism. To do lists. Shopping. Even pridefully helping others when it’s not mine to do. Layer upon layer, these numbing tactics hid beneath my perpetual state of busy…