There has been plenty written lately about our culture of busyness. A quick Google search on that phrase will bring up several articles about the busy trend, its effects on our health and mental well-being and how to combat the busy trap. Now that I'm no longer answering to anyone but myself (and two little munchkins who apparently get hungry sometimes or can't find their shoes), I am beginning to see how that culture had truly permeated my life.
First, I noticed the quiet. It was eery, almost. Unsettling. Like the first time you eat a meal in a restaurant by yourself. Smartphones and pervasive internet access have created a world where workers are on-call 24 hours a day. Although I only worked part time, I was available full time. I checked email when I wasn't in the office or working on projects, answered requests, tracked down information, returned calls and monitored social interactions during weekend events. It made me feel productive. Important, even. Needed.
Recently, I've felt less so. Before, while I was working, I'd squeeze in a load of laundry without a second thought. I had a few minutes to sort and load the washer, so it got done. Now, whether the laundry is done promptly feels like a direct commentary on my very productivity. If I don't do it right then or side step those towels that needs a run through, I feel guilty, lazy, selfish. That's a lot of power for towels.
A recent text conversation with the hubby opened my eyes. I had told him I'd be working on a blog post that day. Later, I texted him:
Me: I have done nothing all morning.
Hubby: Post not going well?
Me: Well. Okay. I finished that.
Hubby: I'd call that something.
Me: But the dishes still aren't done and the laundry is still all over the room.
The fact that I equated my self-worth with chores was disturbing and eye opening. I've done this before. I'm sure, as women who are struggling with doing it all (i.e., all women -- longer exposition for another day), we all have. But it has been gnawing at me since then. Why didn't I include writing a post as an accomplishment for the day? Why didn't I include the fact that I made a delicious and healthful meal for the family that they gobbled up? Why not include the silly giggling over three rounds of Pengaloo with B or the fact that I taught T a new way to approach a difficult math problem? Why not pat myself on the back for redesigning my blog? Why do I look for validation from accomplishments that fit the culture of busy definition and not my own?
The slower pace of this new at-home life doesn't mean I'm not producing. It doesn't mean I'm not accomplishing. It may mean I'm producing and accomplishing differently than you or somebody else. But I'm learning to stop and enjoy the little accomplishments. By learning to appreciate my day and duties in a new way, I'm able to regroup and reevaluate what I want that next step to be. It's allowing me to prepare for the larger accomplishments that are down the road.
Instead of press clips, new Facebook fans, emails answered and deadlines met, I'm going to measure my days in hugs and laughter. I'm going to look at the quality of words written, not the number of them or time spent doing it. I'm going to take out my phone on the playground to capture moments, not distract myself from them. I am going to feel presence in where I am so that I can figure out where I want to be going.
By eliminating the noise and the hum of busyness, I have a lot of room to fill with new experiences. Experiences that will make me feel productive. Important. Needed. And, I hope, like my best self.
My best self that may or may not have emptied the dishwasher. And that's okay.
It's only a dishwasher.