Busyness Withdrawal

Some of our favorite youtube videos in our house are the ones from Improv Everywhere. In their own words, “Improv Everywhere is a New York City-based prank collective that causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places.” For their latest prank, 135 people performed a light show at NYC’s Grand Central Station.  

Now this video isn’t one of their funniest ones. But what struck me as I watched is was that they had the ability to cause people to slow down for a few minutes in the middle of a busy train station in the middle of a busy city. People who had places to go, trains to catch — but they decided to stop, even for a moment.

The scourge of busyness has been written about again and again and again. Every few months a new article about it appears and we all nod our heads and lament about how we don’t want to be busy anymore. We won’t be busy anymore!

Until we are.

I pride myself on being an efficient person. I like to get a lot done, preferably in a short amount of time. Productivity is all part and parcel with Protestant work ethic, right? I get stuff done, I feel good about my day.

I had all these great ideas about multi-tasking in mothering. I researched baby carriers that would allow me to nurse “hands-free.” I daydreamed of all the books I would read or all the crafts I would do while baby was napping.

Then I had a baby.

A baby who really likes nursing. A lot. She is almost 4 months old and rarely goes more than 2 hours between feedings. For the first 6-8 weeks, every time she would nurse, it would take about a hour. An hour. Nursing hands-free? Forget it! This little one needs my full attention. Sometimes I can watch a TV show while nursing and that feels like a real accomplishment. One week I went to a lot of effort to read a book while nursing, but, well, it was a lot of effort. So she nurses. And I sit. And look at her. Or daydream. Or doze off. But I don’t do much else.

My whole life I’ve focused on getting things done and now it felt like I wasn’t getting anything done. I mean, I was keeping a child alive, so I knew rationally that counted for something. Being busy had been exhausting, but at the same time, it was rewarding. It made me feel important. It doesn’t feel very important to spend your day nursing, even though I think should. I was in busyness-withdrawal. I was also in efficiency-withdrawal. I could no longer manage more than one “outing” or “thing” per day.

You don’t need to have a baby to learn to slow down and smell the roses. There are whole cultures who have mastered this. When I studied abroad in Rome, I loved how Italian shops would close for hours in the middle of the day or even for a few weeks if they went on vacation. (I loved it but also hated it when I wanted to buy something in the middle of the day but the shop was closed). My sister who runs an awesome food truck in New Orleans (The Fat Falafel) found when she was doing some market research before opening that people were willing to wait 10 minutes for their food from a food truck. 10 minutes! My old self would have scoffed at waiting 10 minutes for some food on the side of the road. But now I think I would like those 10 minutes to relax, take a breath, maybe strike up a conversation with another stranger who is waiting 10 minutes for their food.

How do you slow down and fight the pressure to be busy?


3 thoughts on “Busyness Withdrawal

  1. Similar to you, Katie, I’ve got a babe who will only nap in my arms. Although it’s not really an option to have him sleep elsewhere (he just won’t!), I’ve realized this time can be a gift of pause, connection to my child, and the opportunity to read. (I can’t complain about having a baby who will only sleep in my arms and simultaneously complain about wanting to read more…makes no sense!)

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