Busyness is a good hiding place

October 22, 2017
iceland glacier

Travel, and travel with others give you different perspectives and ways to view things in life. Looking over my journal, I learned a lot on this year’s six month sabbatical – what I value, my strengths, who I am outside of my career, areas to work on and how I want my every day life to be. The first lesson is, busyness is a good hiding place. Let me explain…

A while back

While completing my Masters degree in library and information science, not only did I study while working full-time, I was involved in conference organising committees, blogging, reading blogs and participating on Twitter, and organising local events for other new information professionals. I fully immersed myself into my new career, learning all I could, and from whoever would share. At the end of 2013 when I had finally finished my Masters degree, I was burned out.

I recognised then, the need to slow down a bit. A career isn’t built in a day. I had learned more about my limits and what I could take on. But when I started to feel a bit better, I put commitments back on my plate. Or rather, commitments found me, like sorting out my Mum’s estate after she passed in November 2014.

I filled the space. I kept busy. I kept busy because I knew tasks had to be done.

The first step is noticing

Within the first two months on sabbatical, I noticed a few things.

  1. I talked about work far more than others in my tour group.
  2. When conversation turned to normal things like hobbies and sport or books, I didn’t have a good sense of myself in relation to any of those things.
  3. I didn’t really know who I was anymore, only what I did for a living and that I’d worked my toosh off to be successful.

These are captured in the following snippet from my journal…

12.04.2017 – “My mind reels with self doubt, fear and almost a longing for home. The sound of the waves provide some comfort. The beach looks and feels like home, but the smell is different. The salt air is welcoming. I was feeling down yesterday – little confidence and a fear of being unlikeable to our tour group. What comes as no surprise is that I think and talk about work related topics for too much, much more than perhaps all the others in our group. I’m yet to let go, be fearless and be the me I had once been. I worry too much. I worry about every damn thing and I can’t seem to break out.

The ‘holy crap’ moment

We were staying with friends in Brasil when I was reading ‘Present over Perfect’ by Shauna Niequist. I highlighted these passages in my Kindle.

“…my ability to get-it-done is what kept me around. I wasn’t beautiful. I didn’t have a special or delicate skill. But I could get stuff done, and it seemed to that ability was my entrance into the room into which I wanted to be invited.” (p. 41)

“The chaos is all me, as much as I don’t want to admit it. I create it, am drawn to it, kick it up when things get too quiet, because when I’m quiet I have to own up to the fact that quiet terrifies me, that all my life I’ve been wrapping myself in noise and chaos the way Pigpen is all wrapped up in dust and dirt. And that noise protects me from feeling all the things I don’t want to feel.” (p. 142)

Sound familiar? These passages did to me. I recognised a pattern I had been in for years. Probably since I was a teenager when my life then, crashed around me.

What about this…

“What powers our work when it’s no longer about addiction to achievement?” (p. 216)

Yep, holy sh*t, alright.

Enough was enough. Changes need to be made.

The real issue with busyness

The real issue with my busyness and inability to have some space in my life was that I was afraid I wasn’t enough.

I was afraid of…

…not doing enough….

….not giving enough…..

….not achieving enough.

And so because of this fear, I was also afraid to just be, experience and face my thoughts and feelings.

Being busyness was a good hiding place to skip over what was really going on and keep producing.

My husband knew me before I built my career in library and information science. I wanted that girl back. I had to re-learn who I was so I can have more meaningful connections with others, experiences in life.

What I learned on sabbatical was that I AM ENOUGH. And I am more than what I do for a living.

Take away my career, and I’m still a person who is still worth hanging out with, still deserves to be loved.

Not working for six months was the scariest and best thing I’ve ever done.

Be comfortable with discomfort

Now, I’m learning to be comfortable with discomfort. I’m trying to have real weekends and leaving room for spontaneity, actually switch off and be more available to those close to me. I’ve started back at barre classes and look forward to being more involved in that community.

When life isn’t so full and so full of busyness, there is space. Mental, physical and emotional space to just be. Learn, be in tune with feelings, thoughts. Sit with them and feel exposed and vulnerable. Because that’s where life is meant to be truly experienced.

Being busy isn’t life. Constant achieving and productivity isn’t life.

Experiencing the space in between is living.

Over to you…

Do you think busyness might be taking over your life? Is your self-worth tied to what you do for a living, rather than who you are?

To explore this a bit more, here are a few journaling prompts to get started….

  • If you didn’t work for say, a month, or work was somehow taken away from you, how would you spend your time?
  • If you took a professional commitment off your plate, how would you feel?
  • Choose a time in the week when you’d normally work on something related to your job or career. Don’t do that thing. Document your experience.

P.S. This post’s feature image was taken at Skaftafell National Park, Iceland. September 2017.

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