Idle fingers, idle mind, idle anything. I’m not very good at idleness.
We know that children get into plenty of mischief when left to their own devices. Of course, they also explore and discover, the imagination blossoms, and unplanned hours allow a child to “be” as well as to do – in whatever way he or she pleases.
But what about adults? Is intentional idleness – or more specifically, a break in the schedule – more precarious for us than for our children?
Why are we so uncomfortable when we leave our lists to languish, or we actually complete them? Why can’t we stop and smell the roses, even for a minute or two?
The Cost of “Free” Time
For myself, I confess that I’m accustomed to a frantic pace. So accustomed in fact, that when it lets up even a little, I find it harder to manage the tasks that remain. It’s not that I’m listless, but easing off for a few hours or a day causes another sort of stress.
A nagging sense that I ought to be “productive.”
I’ve spent the past few weeks forcing my way through 14- and 16-hour days on some very specific tasks, most with self-set deadlines and one with a due date established by someone else. The activities were writing-oriented, exercise-oriented, and to do with sticking to my domestic budget and dealing with paperwork. As for my (endless?) whole house cleaning-organizing project, that remains ongoing.
My approach, as usual?
Work Ethic on Steroids
Clearly the poster child for workaholic tendencies, I typically stay on task until I’m done, regardless of “what it takes.” When the brain wearies, I put the body to work (organizing, for example). When the body wearies, I switch back to the brain.
Meanwhile, I’m dealing with a 25-letter alphabet, the zzzz’s having exited Stage Left. And that’s despite eating well and exercising, and cutting back on caffeine.
The fact is – I truly do find that the more I do, the more I can do. Until I can’t. Until I really can’t – as in hitting the wall of fatigue when everything crashes, the brain screams no, the limbs falter, and regardless of who is depending on me I’m reduced to staring out the window at a hummingbird, or painting my toenails Raven Red and then staring out the window at the birds.
Even now, I type surrounded by papers and lists and books – having been up since before five, and “productive” for going on eight hours. Most of the day stretches ahead of me. Yet if I stop – not just today but any day – will I tread rather than forge ahead? And if I tread, won’t I quickly fall behind?
The Less You Do, the Less You CAN Do?
Marriage and children, with or without a work-for-pay job, reshapes many of us into masters at over-scheduling and overachieving, or living with the illusion of overachieving. (We know that over-scheduling is real, don’t we?) When life seems even slightly less crazed, I find myself worrying that I’ll lose my momentum if I slow down for any reason.
And perhaps that is the fear – the loss of momentum (or fear of inertia) – and the presumed difficulty in starting up again. Not only could I say that the more I do, the more I can do, but the inverse holds true: The less I do, the less I can do.
Yet occasionally, I’m successful at precisely that – winding down, taking a breath, doing nothing. I even manage to savor it. But more often than not, not. And I worry about that because I understand that the body has limits. I realize that the brain needs rest. I see and feel the physical and emotional impacts of perpetual stress.
Perpetual Pressure Has Its Price
I am fully aware that much as “the more you do, the more you can do” is true, it also follows that when we worship at its altar, we ignore quality, we ignore the ensuring blur, and we ignore the fact that we will indeed hit that wall.
- Do you find that the more you do, the more you crave doing?
- Has your hit-the-wall point shifted over the years?
- Do you allow yourself a little therapeutic boredom?
- Are women and mothers more likely to suffer this dilemma?
- Any fabulous remedies for sleepless nights – other than counting shoes instead of sheep?
You May Also Enjoy