Are you crazy busy or just lonely?

This is Ryan O’Connell on the pervasiveness of loneliness and alienation, which sometimes is connected to being overly busy:

It’s taboo to be lonely. It’s taboo to find yourself all alone in a generation that prides itself on being busy all the time. But guess what? It’s happening. You’re lonely, you’re alone, and it feels like it always does. All the Netflix queues and tweets can’t save you from this familiar feeling of alienation.

It’s comforting in a way, it’s comforting to know that no matter how much things change, you can always go back to this place of feeling restless and disconnected. You’re working 60 hours a week, you’re getting drinks with the people you adore, and you’re still finding yourself isolated between the hours of 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, you’re certainly happier now than you were last summer, but occasionally you find yourself exactly where you started: Looking for human connection and coming up short…

Sometimes being busy only magnifies the loneliness. Sometimes you’re better off just being honest with yourself and lying in bed. Be bored. Enjoy the boredom. It’s so rare these days. Stop trying to fill every second of everyday.

The NY Times published a thoughtful Op-Ed, The Busy Trap, that made some good points about how Americans, in particular, pride ourselves on being busy.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

Personally, I feel most alive when I’m working hard, and when I’m so exhausted I don’t have time to think about whether I’m lonely or not. By devoting myself to writing and growing as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that I literally cannot work all the time. When I’m not busy, I am sometimes quite lonely.

But sometimes the company of others is more lonely. The same is true of boredom. I learn a great deal about my habits and patterns when I’m bored.

The most valuable lesson of my loneliness and boredom has been learning to cultivate genuine connection with my friends, relatives. This is why I disagree with generalizations that claim that the Internet or too much TV alienates us. I’m more interested in how to make friends with my loneliness, since it’s a natural emotion, just like love.

10 thoughts on “Are you crazy busy or just lonely?

  1. I agree with the sentiment that you should just be honest with yourself, be bored, and stay in bed sometimes. This time of “boredom” doesn’t necessarily have to mean you’re in bed. Maybe you’re just having a pajama party for one. Every now and then (when I least expect it), I feel the need to stop everything. I don’t leave the house, avoid the phone, and freely move about the house in my favorite pajamas doing whatever occurs to me or nothing at all. Good times.

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  3. Funny – I just wrote a long note to my best friend questioning if my insanely packed schedule wasn’t just an effort to suppress the loneliness I know will surface if I let myself sit still for a moment. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and find a great deal of irony in the fact that I’m involved in a million different activities – something everyone touts as a marvelous people-meeting method – but ultimately I am too busy to date. Haha.

    • I think it’s a good idea to periodically check in with ourselves about this, for sure. At the momment, I’m trying to figure out whether or not being too busy to date — which is also true for me and a lot of my friends — is a similar defense mechanism. Jury’s still out. I believe when you meet someone you have a connection with you can and maybe should try to honor that but maybe that looks different than our modern concepts of dating & courtship. It’s a lot of work doing things creatively!

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  5. You sound exactly as i do only im 42 yrs old now and having major aniety about being alone. Iwas married for 13 yrs and have 3 great young men for sons. They r obviously old enough to start the decision making process and the youngest (16) still spends time with me but the others… not near as much.
    Lonleyness and crazy busy deff go hand in hand..i am a const bus owner and when i feel the serious lonely tude comin on i get into my work and sink 12 hrs plus into it….

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