Ed. Note: My great, great friend D. A. Wolf creator of the Daily Plate of Crazy is back today with yet another poignant observation about us. As always, she offers pertinent information distilled with her signature style and panache.
I hereby admit that I’m dreadful at the following.
- I struggle with single-threading (doing one activity at a time).
- I struggle with sitting still (I have the proverbial spilkes).
- I forget to eat, I steal from my sleep, and I rarely stop to take a deep breath and relax.
It isn’t that I don’t understand the value of slowing and savoring.
But my habit of running ruthlessly is well-ingrained. It was extreme in my married years – juggling job, kids, and the hubby when he was home; it’s been a whirlwind (and dare I say a necessity) since raising my boys on my own and keeping our household going.
I thank my lucky stars (and knock on wood) when it comes to familial energy. Apparently, even on my worst days, I possess it in abundance. But my schedule – and habits – of taking on too much and requiring myself to perform at uber-utmost levels are, I know, unreasonable.
The Busy Trap and Consequences Generally it takes some incident – shattering a glass (and finding myself surrounded by shards), running into a wall (literally!) – in order to bring myself back to my senses. Then I realize it’s time to stand still – that is, if I want to find myself still standing tomorrow!
As to that frenetic pace, I read a wonderful article on the New York Times recently, “The Busy Trap,” that deals with the issue of being busy – overly busy, “crazy” busy – which seems to characterize a particularly American affinity for activity taken to levels of excess.
The fact is – we’re stressed to the max. But we don’t have to take on everything we deem “necessary” (because it’s not), and a bit of (so-called) boredom can assist in allowing the mindto rest much as we rest the body.
If the mind unwinds, we sleep better. And sleep, as medical news continues to inform us, is critical to physical health, to memory, to learning, to mood, to weight control… and the list goes on.
When we sleep, we restore ourselves and prepare for diving into the next experience – or task – with renewed energy and focus. And let’s face it, we look a good deal better when we’re rested, too!
If you have any doubts, this brief article from the Harvard Women’s Health Watch sums it up nicely: sleep is an absolute must.
Patterns of Behavior
We all have good habits and bad habits. We may think it’s terribly difficult to shed the bad and acquirethe good, but the fact is – it takes less time than we think to dump those nasty routines and replace them with saner (healthier) ones.
Our good habits?
Oh, there are many, and the women I know don’t give themselves enough credit for them.They may include regimens of self-care, patience with children or aging parents – often the result of practice – and discipline in all sorts of endeavors.
We may have relationship patterns – good or bad – that we’re trying to improve or to build on.
They may be as simple as biting our nails or slouching, annoyances we can train ourselves to eliminate in fairly short order (if we pay attention). They may be more problematic – something like interrupting (which can cost us friendships), not listening (which can cost us relationships, or worse), or habits to do directly with health such as one too many glasses of wine after work, chain smoking, or emotional eating. And yes, there’s a fine line between bad habits and excesses that land us squarely in the heartbreak of addiction.
Is Busy “Bad” Behavior?
But what about the state of being busy? Or rather, the constant flux and shuffle of multiple activities, dashing madly from place to place or task to task, not to mention, incessantly checking our communication devices?
Do we use our “busyness” to obscure issues we don’t want to deal with – lack of purpose, loneliness, other emotions that hurt?
I am not a psychologist, but like many of us, I’m a woman who has dealt with life events that set us adrift – the sort of losses we might expect as we grow older, and those we never anticipate at any age. I understand that activity – working, writing, exercising, cleaning – can be therapeutic for awhile. But never standing still, when it’s taken to excess, may leave us burnt out or worse.
We may not face our underlying problems (and thus, have a shot at resolving them). We may damage our health, when STOP could turn things around.
Taking a Break
I am about to make two gross generalizations, in full recognition that I’m doing so.
First, French culture is more amenable to reasonable apportioning of time – at least, more reasonable than America. One needn’t feel guilty when taking a weekend with family (and not working); one needn’t justify a vacation.
My second generalization?
In my lifetime, I’ve seen men know when to say “enough” in the work arena, in the domestic arena, and in the relationship arena. They take their breaks. They refuel. They step aside long enough to regroup, reassess, and refocus. Without guilt.
And the women?
- We don’t say “enough.”
- We don’t slow down in the work arena, the domestic arena, or the relationship arena.
- Our expectations of ourselves are sky high, and I’ve seen only small improvements as we grow older.
We tend to take breaks when others insist we do so, or we take breaks when we actually begin to break – ourselves.
I’d like to believe that if we are thoughtful, if we join together with our women friends and gently remind ourselves to pay closer attention, we could lighten up on the sense of self-esteem we derive from our attempts to “do it all” – and do it all perfectly.
Instead, we’ll know that common sense – and health – require us to stand still, even briefly, if we hope to find ourselves still standing over the long haul.