May You Get Un-Busy
By Peggie Arvidson
May You Get Un-Busy
I’ve spent my life around busy people. In my 20s I thought that meant that to be worthy and successful, I too, should be busy. I took this constant busy-ness to mean that I was doing important things. My to-do list never ended. I joked – heck – I bragged that crossing the last thing off my to-do list would mean that I was ready to die and that at the rate I was going I would live forever.
In a state of constant motion, you can buy into the illusion that you’re in control, right? Going from work to the gym to pick up the kids to making dinner to following up on emails and calls and getting the kids ready for bed before crawling into bed with your partner to watch the Late Show gives you a sense that you’re doing something. That what you’re doing is important and worthwhile and that if you didn’t do it things would fall out of control.
Eventually there’s a breaking point.
For me the breaking point started as a nearly imperceptible fissure that grew over the years to a full-blown disease. By the time I was hospitalized I was mostly in a state of berating myself for not being able to get things done because my body was cursing me and not participating in my 24/7 march for control.
The good news is that I had already started studying and learning about the mind-body connection. It was, of course, just another way of DOING SOMETHING but I convinced myself that it was for a higher cause and therefore it was somehow more worthy than my old way of constantly doing active stuff.
I convinced myself that by studying the mind-body-spirit connection I was shaking off the veil of numbness and distraction that came from all my consumerism and mindless tending of to-do lists. I apologize profusely for all of you who came into my orbit during that time, sanctimony really doesn’t look good on me.
Hospitalized the second time in 3 months and I finally gave up. I wrote in my journal that I was done fighting and trying to fix myself and my illness. I was tired of trying to figure out what to eat, what to change in my mindset and how to move through the world so I didn’t have to suffer painful and often embarrassing symptoms anymore.
That’s when I got the clear message that I was to stop doing all the things and start listening.
During that hospital stay I didn’t bring 20 books and a laptop. I was fed up with research and conflicting findings and trying one eating plan after another only to end up back in the hospital bed receiving another 5 pints of blood.
My body was showing me that I had no choice but to be still.
This wasn’t about being still – on a yoga mat – in a particular meditation – or with any specific intention. This was all about being empty so that I could be present in the moment.
After I was done with my inner tantrum, I realized that this was the true meaning of BEING. Being empty doesn’t mean that I’m void of meaning, rather it means that I’m open to all meaning. What happens in that stillness is that all the things I thought I could outrun by doing come rushing in. (What? You thought I was going to tell you that being still and empty ascended me to perfect enlightenment? Oh Girl, No.) Everything that I was trying to outrun – my fears of not being enough for anyone to love deeply, my deep-seated sadness about being abandoned, the crappy things I’d done and said to other people throughout my life – came crashing over me. As I stood there feeling those waves come in, I learned that they wash out nearly as quickly as they come in. At first, I was very uncomfortable, like my first foray into the ocean, but then, as time passed in stillness, I recognized the rhythm of the waves and the repetition moved into a steady lullaby and I started to heal.
I was released from the hospital and made a commitment to myself to pay attention to what was happening in the “background.” Before getting sick, the emotional waves of my life had been pushed to the background, running non-stop, while I did my best to ignore it all by doing, doing, doing.
I spend my life surrounded by busy people. Often, I feel lazy in comparison. I get caught up in the busy sometimes. Before long I hear that small voice inside that reminds me to be still. Now I know that being still is not something to run from and bury under tasks, instead it is the thing that lets the lies I’ve told myself about myself come to light. In the light they have the power to help me heal myself.