Tag Archives: Busyness

Embracing Simplicity

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Albert Einstein

Over the past couple of years I have often felt like my life has been aggressively and almost completely stripped back. The core of my life is still much the same as it has always been. Yet I often feel like a tree that has been radically pruned. With so many of the branches of my identity and the things that I used to do being brutally chopped off and left to die. Leaving something quite exposed and bare, with many stubs where branches used to be.

When you spend most of your day lying down, and the time you can be upright is exceedingly limited by various intense and horrible neurological symptoms, you find that your life becomes extremely restricted. Everything becomes immensely simplified in many ways (even though there are also many complexities to contend with too). Life mainly consists of things you can do lying flat, or the few limited things you can do whilst upright – although still feeling very ill.

It’s been a very challenging journey to embrace a more simplistic life. 

It doesn’t help that we live in a society that often glorifies busyness!

Our Western society is full of people who often seem to wear badges of importance – based, in part, on how busy their life is. Most people are forever expressing how immensely busy they are. This makes it extra hard for those of us who are ill long term, because we have to instead embrace a new identity that can no longer be defined by our busyness. Suddenly we can feel somewhat detached from normal society – a bit of a ‘nobody’.

Everyone around us seems to be carrying on with their ‘normal lives’ whilst we feel like ours is stuck. 

We live in a never ending state of limbo, not knowing if or when it will change.


In my 2015 post Is Busyness a Choice? I spoke about an article by Scott Dannemiller called ‘Busy is a Sickness’. In it he wrote:

“… we are defined by what we do. Our careers. What we produce. It’s the first question asked (of us)  The implication is that if I am not busy doing something, I am somehow less than. Not worthy. Or at least worth less than those who are producing something.”

I really do believe that this is a massive problem for those of us who face long term debilitation. 

We not only have to take a very humbling journey of coming to terms with it ourselves; we will also often have to face others’ questions, attitudes, and sometimes prejudice – as well as naivety and ignorance – towards our disability and inability to do what we once could do.

We find that we begin to lose much of our identity, because it feels like we are not doing much anymore. Rather than being an active member of society – we feel pushed to the side lines, often misunderstood and sometimes even forgotten about.

We are suddenly not so sure who we really are any more and our condition begins to knock our confidence – until we perhaps no longer feel like we ‘fit in’ with normal society like we used to.

Over time, we realise that we have to go through a deep and painful process of grieving and letting go of who we once were. And much of what defined us. 

So that instead we can truly embrace who we are now – in this season. We actually have very little choice in the matter – if we cannot change our current circumstances ourselves then we have no option but to accept it and find a way to live the best life we can amidst all the restrictions.

I learnt over time that I had to stop torturing myself with what I could be doing IF I was well. I had to give up imagining how different life could be if I was healthy. I had to refuse to compare myself to what ‘normal’ people were doing and instead embrace the quieter and more simple life, of mainly being at home, often lying down. I had to see the opportunities that could be found here instead.

We must learn to establish a daily discipline of choosing to see the beauty and wonder in simplicity. To somehow embrace a simpler life. The more I go on that journey – the more I see that there are still so many things to be thankful for and enjoy here.

Despite the restriction, debilitation and pain. 

Really it is all a matter of perspective. As many things in life are. 

Attitude is everything! 

Since I have battled this chronic illness I have realised more than ever that we are often fed a lie by society and the media that our life should always be lovely, fun, immensely satisfying and great. Everything should be as perfect as it can be – and it will be – IF you have enough money, health, great jobs, nice homes, loving families, expensive holidays and up to date gadgets etc. Then we will all be perpetually happy.

BUT it’s just not true!

Hence why there are so many miserable, struggling people who actually have all those things in abundance. Sometimes it’s the people I know who have the most of all those things who are the least happy. Mainly because that mindset draws you into a never ending cycle of desiring more and more – which only leaves you increasingly discontented in the end. Because there is always someone around who seems to have a better lot in life and appears to be happier than you.


I have learnt so much through my two-year journey about trying to be more grateful for the small, everyday things, whilst learning to let go of ‘the dream’ of ‘normal living.’ In doing that (which is a very raw and painful grieving process) I learnt I could find so much joy and wonder here too. And if I can find it here, then I will be so much happier – as well as more content and thankful – when I do hopefully get well. If I can learn contentment without having all the things the media tells me I need – then I will be happier for a life time regardless of whether I stay sick or get well.

It’s a lesson I have also had to embrace with regards how I parent my children. It truly is heartbreaking when sickness robs you of being the parent you always desired and planned to be. It’s a very difficult thing to face and unfortunately you can find yourself envying other healthy normal parents, which doesn’t help.

When I experienced a complete physical and mental breakdown at the end of 2015, it was the grief of letting go of being the Mum I was and wanted to be that caused some of the deepest inner pain. I am so very thankful that my girls are now that bit older and slightly more independent, which makes things so much easier for us as a family. And yet currently I can’t go out with them or do most of the fun or even necessary things we used to do.

I really am currently stuck at home, mainly lying flat, nearly 24/7. 

However, I have also learnt that sometimes my kids can learn better life lessons from us facing this as a family than they could if life was just ‘normal’ and great. I realised that if I can’t find a way to truly live here, in the midst of the disappointments, then how can I help them to know how to face their own challenges and disappointments in life? They will certainly come at some point. If as a parent I can’t come through the crisis, then what does that teach them? But if my children can learn how to endure life trials – from me and my husband – then they will hopefully be much more stable and wholehearted adults.

Adults who can weather the storms of life and stick out long term relationships much better. Meaning they may well be happier and more fulfilled adults because of this. It will also hopefully help them to grow in compassion for others, so that they learn not to ignore or avoid another’s pain, but instead look at how they can share it and help support another in and through it.

Compassion is a stunningly beautiful quality to have. 

As my body is so restricted on the outside, I actually often feel the energy of what’s within intensify. It’s like there is this ball inside me with a mixture of so many different emotions. I know I have to redirect the ones that want to pull me into a dark place and allow the positive ones to become increasingly dominant. So I am trying to focus my own pain on connecting and helping others in theirs.

I have decided that I must find a way to live like this – so that I can help another walk through their own deep darkness of facing this condition or similar debilitation.

It’s allowing the love, grace and compassion that is within me to break out to help someone else. It’s channelling my hurt into feeling another’s pain with them so that I can then say, “How can I help you today? What advice can I give you from the lessons I have – sometimes painfully – learnt over the years.” 

These are some of the simple things in life that I can still embrace and still do. And it’s when I am focused on things such as these that I am drawn less into only seeing the negatives of my current predicament. It is then that I often find the beauty that is found in simplicity. And it reminds me that even if my body remains debilitated, on the inside I can still feel fully alive.

So let me embrace the wonders hidden in the simplicity of my current circumstances. Because if I can do that – in this place – I will hopefully discover a deeper contentment and satisfaction that may well last a lifetime as well. So that IF one day I can leave this whole immensely difficult season behind for good, I will at least have learnt more lessons and disciplines through it that will become the firm foundations of my life tomorrow.

So that although I have had to experience a major pruning and cutting back that has left me looking exposed and bare today, perhaps in the end it will simply leave room for growth that will allow new shoots to form tomorrow. Producing a stronger tree in the future that is happier, healthier and bears good fruit in the right season.

None of us know what tomorrow will bring. 

But if we can all learn and grow enough today, so that we can somehow find the inner strength to face whatever might be thrown at us tomorrow, we will be able to take our stand in the crisis and allow this cry to rise up from within us to say:

 “However bad this gets and however long it goes on for… I am determined to find the best life that can be lived here – in all its gloriously redefined simplicity.”


To read more about my story of living with a chronic spinal CSF Leak click here.

Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.

For more information about spinal CSF leaks please see the UK charity website at www.csfleak.info or the US charity website at www.spinalcsfleak.org.

Advertisements

Is Busyness A Choice?

Just stop and ponder this question for a moment.

Is busyness a choice?

What if we make it personal:

Is how busy I AM a choice?
Or is it an unchangeable fact of my life?

I have been thinking about writing about busyness for a while. At first I thought about adding it to my ‘Breaking Free!’ series and yet the more I thought about it, the more I kept coming back to these questions:

Is busyness actually choice?
How much control do we have over it?
Can I really ‘break free’ from it?
Do I want or need to ‘break free’ from it?

These are the type of questions I have been pondering and have asked myself on numerous occasions, especially since having kids.

Will this overwhelming, exhausting busyness ever stop?
The relentless do, do, do, go, go, go of life.

For years I have both thrived and have been exhausted by busyness.

My husband Matt and I are very driven and passionate about life. We live life with purpose, get involved with a lot of things, connect meaningfully with a lot of people and do not shy away from responsibility.

It’s in our nature to have a full life.
We love living life to the full!

But in at the start of 2015 things changed. I fell off a ladder and sustained a minor brain injury. And busyness began to happen around me rather than to me.

And
I struggled.

Enforced rest is hard. And it wasn’t fun rest either:
I couldn’t watch that movie.
I couldn’t read my favourite book.
I couldn’t listen to my favourite album.
I couldn’t go out for a meal with friends & family.

For about 3 months.
I mainly just had to lie there in a dark and quiet room feeling unwell.

Comparatively (to normality) I couldn’t DO anything.

Now if you know me personally, you will know I am a DOER. It’s in my nature to DO a lot of different things at the same time.

But suddenly I couldn’t

DO

And it was hard.
Really hard!

And at these moments the question flies around your head:

Who am I when I can’t really DO anything?

An interesting question in itself and something I will come back to later.

Even now, 5 months on from the accident, I am so much better and improving each week, but I still cannot rush about as I did before without feeling the impact. My head begins to get cloudy and dizzy and everything takes much more energy.

I cannot DO busyness, like I used to and it’s a challenge to me.

A couple of months ago, I read an article called ‘Busy Is a Sickness’ by a guy called Scott Dannemiller. It said a lot of what I had been thinking about for a while.

In it Scott discusses two types of busyness.

1. Busyness we can’t control: Which he writes primarily affects the poor because their economic reality simply does not allow for downtime. They have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet.

2. Busyness we can control: Self-created stress. He writes, “Most of the time, I manufacture urgency in the hope that it will create urgency in others. Instead, it only creates anxiety, resentment and spite. Which is absolutely counter-productive. And even in the cases where the urgency is real, it’s often due to a packed schedule I created.”

Why do so many of us get caught up in a cycle of busyness that we can control and yet can often feel out of control?

Scott Dannemiller writes:

“… we are defined by what we do. Our careers. What we produce. It’s the first question asked (of us)…. The implication is that if I am not busy doing something, I am somehow less than. Not worthy. Or at least worth less than those who are producing something.”

He goes on to make the case that many of us can use busyness because ‘we are afraid of ourselves’. True quiet time can be a challenge and also very revealing – as we come face to face with ourselves and our own thoughts.

So busyness is very linked to our identity.
1. It helps us to feel like, and let others know, we are DOING something useful or important.
2. It can keep us distracted from facing ourselves and our thoughts.

Perhaps Busyness is a sickness of epidemic proportions!


“We are defined by what we do.” – Scott Dannemiller


So many of us often feel crazy busy. The irony is, we complain about it and yet we can simultaneously wear it as a badge of honour. We mention it to empathise with others, but it can then quickly become something we compete over.

It can be a reality.
But also an excuse.

Busy, busy, busy…. Rush, Rush, Rush!!

No wonder people want to:
Escape it.
Get away.
Drink it away.
Eat it away.
Medicate it away.
Self medicate it away.
Run away.

The pressure of life.
The realisation that life and responsibility is not easy.
That it involves a lot of hard work.
That it never seems to end.

The stress.
The worry.
The exhaustion.

Of all I need to DO!

The modern world we live in demands more and more of our time and attention as technology invades every part of our lives. Until our lives can feel out of our control.

It can feel overwhelming!

Yet do we have more control over it than we might think?

This is something I have increasingly thought about and my answer is, of course: Yes & No!

After 10 years of having children I know full well that having kids makes life hectic. You have these little people dependent on you 24/7 however tired, exhausted & in need of a break you are. When you have kids busyness is often an inevitability. Even holidays can be exhausting.

But there is still a lot of choices I make each day in how I use and view my time. Often:
I chose it,
I agreed to it.
I took on that job.
Said yes to that appointment.
Agreed to that meet up.
Answered my phone.
Took on that new responsibility.

So I must either accept the consequences of my choices, do it with a humble heart and increase my capacity – which is a good thing to do and something some of us need to learn to do more.

Or I have to decide to somehow change it, whilst maintaining my integrity and honouring my commitments wherever possible.

There is no point in complaining or getting bitter about the choices I have made.

If my busyness is out of control maybe I need to think carefully about my life and make different choices. Change may not be possible over night but there are always ways forward.


What about the times when busyness is not a choice?

Life will always bring seasons that feel uncontrollable. Things happen that we did not expect in our personal lives and jobs and the balance in our life quickly shifts to ‘unbearable’. Sometimes we just have to manage and find a way through a particularly exhausting season.

Matt and I faced this, at the start of the year. We had to quickly make a lot of changes when I was ill. Matt couldn’t DO it all on his own as I wrote about here.

It showed us that we could scale back when we needed to. We can say no and reevaluate what needs to change. Lessons I hope we will apply more in the future.


I have realised that I need to ‘break free’ from a busy mindset and its hold on my identity and discover a rhythm of life that works for me and my family.


Much of our busyness is a choice. We can get frustrated by it and yet we often choose it. Sometimes we can end up blaming others and get angry about it. And yet we have agreed to it or allowed the people around us, or our own mindsets, to influence it.

I know Matt and I will always live a ‘full life’ even amidst challenging seasons. But I have realised that I need to ‘break free’ from a busy mindset and its hold on my identity and discover a rhythm of life that works for me and my family.

A life rhythm that continues to thrive on a ‘full and purposeful life’ which will inevitably include a lot of hard work, generosity of time, sacrifice, commitment and responsibility. But one that does not pull us into a place that is consistently overwhelming and potentially damaging to our health, faith, marriage and family.

Busyness will take everything if we let it!

To end I wanted to again use Scott Dannemiller’s words because he says it so well.

“So my prayer today is this. That I stop defining myself by my doing, and start defining myself by my being. That I stop measuring time by the clock on the wall, and start measuring it by the experiences I share with those around me. And that I stop seeing my life as “busy,” and instead, see it for what it truly is.
Full.”


Do you think busyness is a choice or do you think of it as an inevitability?
How could you bring a better rhythm to your life and see busyness a different way?

I invite you to discuss or comment below, or on my social media links, I would love to hear what you think.