Help! I’m overscheduled! (Sound familiar?)
I’m losing my grip! I’m crazed! (Do we need a 12-step program?)
We know the fine line we walk when we overschedule our children. But what about the impacts on parents? What about those who aren’t parents or those at empty nest who are still scheduled to the max and stuck in overwhelm?
It’s hard to know which phrase had me going first. Perhaps it’s the title as it appears on the front of the section: “You’re either crazy busy or crazy sad.” I read that and thought – What if we’re both?
Daily Life: No Thinking, Just Doing
Perhaps it was the title of the essay itself, positioned as news analysis: “No Time to Think.” That’s sounds like a typical day for many of us, doesn’t it? And yes, it saddens me.
Perhaps it was “frenzy of activity” that swells up from the page like a fresh scar, except there’s nothing new in feeling crazed, now is there? Aren’t millions of us so busy we don’t know if we’re coming or going? Our bosses change, our jobs change, our clients change, our love interests change; the stack of bills isn’t changing except it’s growing taller. Our kids are draining away what little emotional space is left. And then there are our spouses, our exes, our latest (if we have the time) heart throbs.
Sure, we love them (okay, not the exes), but can we admit the expectations we set may be impossibly high – or just impossible?
We’re crazy busy, crazy tired, and half the time, feeling and acting a little crazy. It’s hardly surprising; even our recreation, our exercise, our lovemaking, our vacations (if we’re lucky enough to take them through the craze-haze) – all are scheduled, or rather, overscheduled. And let’s not dare squander a moment of our precious (free?) time when there’s so much to take care of!
Hey, that’s why we have smartphones, right?
Crazy Busy? Me, Too. Is That a Problem?
In “No Time to Think,” Kate Murphy hits the nail on the head when she writes:
… while waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting in traffic – out comes the mobile device…
We seem to be losing our capacity for comfort with idle time, and isn’t idle time fertile territory for dreams, creativity, deeper understanding, and collecting our thoughts?
Ms. Murphy continues:
… In 11 experiments involving more than 700 people, the majority of participants reported that they found it unpleasant to be alone in a room with their thoughts for just 6 to 15 minutes… they just didn’t like being in their own heads.
Personally, I enjoy being in my own head. But I also like socializing, if I’m in the mood. The dilemma (for some of us) – feeling as if socializing (of a non social media sort?) will detract from everything else we have to do. And what model is that behavior setting for our overscheduled children? Is social media the reason for still feeling crazed even when we’re past the point of active parenting?
Dreaming the Day Away. Nice Concept.
This morning I was dreaming I had missed a doctor’s appointment by 30 minutes because I overslept – sleeping is always a happy accomplishment for me – but the doctor was pissed, his next patient sneered at me from a chair in an examining room, and next on the subconscious hit parade was my kid needing me to get him to the doctor to cut his cast off. Meanwhile, a client was standing behind me tapping his foot furiously as I tapped more furiously on my keyboard, working on a document.
I had topic sentences and research resources playing handball in my brain as I simultaneously explained to the man in my life that I had to work nights and Sundays, but couldn’t he be happy that I now take Saturdays off?
I woke in a puddle of partial paragraphs (already writing themselves), and the coming week’s agenda (three doctors appointments, not mine, the cable-Internet guy (again), two deliverables). Also spinning in my brain: checklists, priorities, more checklists. And would I have time to shower today?
Slowing Down is Healthy; Over-Busy, Not So Much
It turns out – and some of us know this though we don’t heed its wisdom – by not slowing down we’re doing ourselves harm. Obvious, right? And not only physical harm (stress-related illnesses, for example), but we’re kicking cognition down a notch, as well as our emotional health.
… You can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to think about them…. Studies further suggest that not giving yourself time to reflect impairs your ability to empathize with others.
I am. Are you? And are we all, at least some of the time, using our frantic pace and endless lists to prevent thinking about what’s bothering us? If we keep going – fast – we won’t dwell on more meaningful things we once thought we’d be doing with our lives. We won’t fully process the fear, the worry, the doubt.
I thought my “crazy” would evaporate after empty nest. Can you spell delusional? I’ve simply traded one set of frantic factors for another – with overlap. Stop the train! It’s been more than 20 years on this high-speed track! I want to get off! Or at the very least – rest for a spell.
Crazy Busy: The New Normal
I expected the juggle to have eased by now. Perhaps that’s what Kate Murphy is getting at in an excellent column – the pervasive nature of running, doing rather than thinking, and our acceptance that this level of “frenzied activity” is usual, ours to manage, the new normal.
Now that’s crazy.
And yes, the economy has much to do with it as does job insecurity and resulting malaise. But we’re caught between a prevailing pop culture focus on mindfulness and presence – band-aid, anyone? – while bowing down to the gods of Stay Busy At All Cost. If we’re not “engaged” all the time, including on social media, we think there’s something wrong with us. And if we are busy all the time, surely there will be!
Have we forgotten what it feels like to allow ourselves to let a day unfold as it will – even occasionally?
I have. Too often. It’s hard to untangle financial necessity and parental responsibility from definitions of self-worth and identity.
‘Crazed’ doesn’t encourage our better angels, our more tender emotions, our powers of observation, our meticulous work product, our most efficient processes, our appreciation for our passionate pursuits – much less passion. Crazed is nuts. Crazed isn’t pretty. Crazed, as a lifestyle, doesn’t yield much except a diminished life, and little style.
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