Yesterday I was introduced to this interesting article about busyness, within which the following is quoted:
This hit me right in the gut.
I’m not super obsessed with being busy, but I do try to keep productive whenever I can. Whenever I’m idle it feel as if I’m wasting this one life I’ve got, so I keep to a tight schedule and try to maximize the learning opportunities. Indeed I’m that asshole who can’t understand people’s infatuation with watching television; those mindless hours are better spent on more creative endeavors, or self improvement. On such occasions I grab a book instead, or edit photographs.
But it’s easy to get trapped into a productivity hamster wheel, where I’m singularly focused on finishing a task as quickly as possible, and moving on to the next. I don’t get satisfaction for the day until the list is finished, which on reflection is not the healthiest thing to do, because I’m completely negating the joy that comes from the process. If life becomes just a series of checkmarks, then you’re forever looking towards the next item to mark off. I keep busy because I’m afraid the music will stop.
Because when the music stops, I die.
My busyness is absolutely a sort of existential reassurance, not as a hedge against emptiness, but rather a hedge against my fear of mortality. Since my youth I’ve had difficulty accepting that all of this is finite, and someday I won’t be walking on this earth. Worse still is the feeling that I won’t know what happens afterwards, an eternal sleep from which there’s no awakening. That final threshold of human life have always had a scary hold onto my psyche, even to this day as a full-fledged adult. The continued practice of stoicism and the acceptance of death sometimes isn’t enough to hold back the demons.
Being busy, does; so I keep at it, but reading that passage above completely pierced through the facade. I’m afraid of death, yet I’m mindlessly barreling through it without stopping to feel alive in the present. That’s not okay. Instead of using busyness as a blanket to hide away the darkness, I need to steer into the slide and confront the pangs of fear whenever it materializes.
Not to say I shall become be slothful and lazy (my default mode, actually), but rather to slow down and really focus on what’s at hand, rather than what’s coming up next. Also, it’s perfectly okay to take a break, and have frivolous moments - especially if it’s spent with family or friends.