Just say no: You don't have to fall sick just to have a break
In a society where being busy nonstop is the new status symbol, maybe it's time to make laziness a virtue
Did you know that one of the top fantasies that American mothers have doesn’t involve bondage or threesomes, but being admitted to hospital for a few days with exhaustion?
I get this, really I do.
The other day, while trying to clean up after my daughter and simultaneously conduct on speakerphone a “briefing” call about a meeting I’m sure I didn’t need to have, I started to reminisce about the time my husband drove me to hospital because my temperature was off the charts, and I had started to hallucinate that there were hundreds of frogs in our bed. It was cold sweats, vomiting, the whole shebang – and it was bliss.
I got four whole days under a duvet, with nobody bothering me except to check that I was still breathing.
If you discounted the bucket full of vomit and the imaginary frogs, it was a wonderful experience, a legitimate reason to stop the world and get off for a few days.
I dream of getting such an illness again – just bad enough to mean you have to shut down for a bit, but not so bad that you have to shut down for good.
The question often asked of women is this: can we have it all? As I look out at my life, remarkably blessed, if a little busy, I sometimes wonder if the real question shouldn’t be: do we actually want it all?
Last week, British TV presenter Holly Willoughby surprised people when she backed out of a lifestyle brand she had signed up to promote, just weeks before its launch. “To launch a brand needs total dedication and, at the moment, with so many other commitments, this is not something I feel I can do without it starting to affect my family time at home,” she wrote, in an Instagram post.
This was a woman admitting, in public, that she couldn’t do it all, and nor does she really want to.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the myth of having it all, and how the endless rush to grab life by the horns has left us feeling tired and miserable.
As children, we are all taught that laziness is the most defective of character traits, worse even than pride or dishonesty, and so begins the low-level, lifelong anxiety that we are never quite doing enough, even if we are rising at 5am to fit in a workout before the kids wake up.
“The culture of yes” is hardwired into us, through motivational speakers and leaders who claim to be able to survive on four hours’ sleep. We must say yes to every opportunity, even if we don’t have the time, because what if it never comes around again?
In recent years, I have come to see this desire to live life to the full for what it really is: a sort of false positivity predicated entirely on fear. Is it really better to be busy than bored?
In a world where sitting still and doing nothing has had to be rebranded and sold to us as meditation, should we not actually be trying to see the beauty in boredom?
I am sick of having to make split-second decisions because every question has to be answered right this very moment. What’s wrong with having time to think about something? Why can’t I go away and mull it over and let you know in the morning? Why do we admire people who pack their diaries, leaving no time for themselves, rather than worry about them burning out?
Increasingly, the best way to flaunt your status is not with a flash car or a Rolex, but with the ability to turn down invitations on account of being too busy. This says you are in demand, that everybody should be grateful when you deign to give them five minutes of your time.
“How was your weekend?” you ask a colleague, politely, only for them to respond with a groan about endless social engagements and never having a moment to themselves. But the people I am impressed with are the ones who tell me, with a relieved smile, that they did nothing, that they pootled around the house and mooched around the park and cancelled going out for dinner because they couldn't be bothered. They are my heroes.
The problem with living life to the full is that you’re not actually living life at all – you’re just careering from one thing to another, in the hope of finding meaning in it. Often, all you discover is that, actually, being lazy isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Indeed, sometimes, it’s a very good thing – your body’s way of telling you to sit down, chill out, and busy yourself with the powerful, restorative act of doing absolutely nothing.
– © The Daily Telegraph