It is easy to get busy and stay busy. We have work demands, we have home chores, we have kids, we have sports, events, friends, etc… We have hundreds of ways to stay busy and occupied. All of them sound reasonable and they indeed are, until we explore the underlying motivation behind it.
If that motivation is about escaping a feeling of loneliness, about escaping unpleasant emotions that are lurking beneath us, or is a way to avoid moving forward on a meaningful project that is rotted with fear; then we are likely just finding a way to hide from life and from living. To be fair, living to our fullest is the business of grown-ups. This is not intended to be demeaning, frankly, there are many times where it would be easy to just be carefree. The intended meaning is that truly living, it is a serious task, sometimes painful, and definitely, a constant stretch to grow. A constant state of emotional labor.
So when those feelings arise and populate our minds, we want to avoid them, to minimize them, and ultimately to remove them. Our busyness helps us. It numbs us much like drinking or other substances aim to do. It helps us escape the moment or sometimes it becomes the ways to escape every moment. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make the underlying reason go away. It merely helps us hide for a while.
Someone dear to me constantly reminds me to live with intention, to live with purpose, to do everything as a means to move towards a future you want. Every day, every moment. It doesn’t mean that we have to wrestle with that constant emotional labor; that would be exhausting. I think it means, in the words of Pema Chodron, that we avoid the most fundamental aggression to ourselves, “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently”
Instead of running away by creating busyness in our lives, we are called to stay in the discomfort just long enough to make peace with it and to then be intentional on the next action to bring us closer to our future and honesty toward ourselves.
In some ways, this is both a prayer and a means to live fearlessly. May I have the courage to sit in the empty space and feel my feelings, examine my life, and be willing to stare directly at the fear.