I’ve been reading this new book – Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte – for a book review. In it, the Washington Post reporter studies our impressive (or depressing) ability to overwork ourselves into a state of exhaustion for no identifiable reason.
It’s an entertaining book, the statistics expertly interwoven with personal anecdotes, and it’s making me feel kind of lazy. That’s silly, because I assume her ultimate point is we shouldn’t feel eternally rushed and stressed and unfinished. But even with that fact solid in my mind, I can’t help feeling like a less productive and useful member of society because I can easily bookmark 30 hours of leisure time in my week (something a sociologist known as Father Time says everyone is able to do, even if they don’t know it).
To be fair, I did just come out of an intense, eight-month post-graduate program and currently work as an intern for a magazine where “chill” is built right into their title. I guess I probably earned a regular 9 to 5-style gig, at least for awhile. Furthermore, Schulte seems to be focusing on corporate mothers and I’m about as far from being one of those as I am from being a gorilla. Nevertheless, busyness is something generally so smiled upon in our modern culture that those of us “lucky” enough to have time for back-to-back episodes of Revenge end up feeling guilty about the time we aren’t spent tearing out our hair and doing seven things at once.
It’s sad, isn’t it? Nothing against people who live insanely hectic lives (an accurate adjective, since that’s pretty much what busyness leads to), but shouldn’t those of us who legitimately have time for ourselves be proud of that fact? Instead of spending group lunches outdoing each other with our crazy schedules (something Oliver Burkeman calls busy-bragging), shouldn’t we be patting ourselves on our collective head for leaving work at the office, or excelling at recognizing what is dire and what can wait?
Everyone says they wish they had more free time, but as Schulte points out, often we don’t even know what to do with those minutes when they present themselves – often because they are precisely that: mere minutes.
I know I’m not currently the poster child for it, but burnout is a very real thing. Arianne Huffington (yes, that Huffington) wrote a book about it. And it pretty much always starts with an inability to stop. An inability to breathe in fresh air, to watch a squirrel on a tree branch or an episode of Real Housewives. To do whatever makes us calm down, and re-centre, and feel well (that’s emotionally well) enough to get up tomorrow and run our butts off again.
So hey – take time.