One of the realities of pandemic living is that we get to spend more time with ourselves. We are mandated to seclude. For some, it’s a blessing. For others, a threat. Within the boundaries of our smaller world, we have a choice. We can get to know ourselves on the inside. Or we can find new diversions. Or we can repeat old patterns of filling in time and space.
A workaholic will fill the void with longer hours. A workaholic takes on more work, more projects, more deadlines. A workaholic finds solace in being productive and accountable to the boss, the organization, the stranger. At some point in the evolution of their relationships and energy, there has been an unhealthy shift in priorities and values.
An addiction, whether it’s to work, slot machines, shopping, running, or pain killers, overpowers decision making and insists on being the priority. It takes hold of relationships and insists on being the most important. It takes hold of our freedom and says “I’m in charge.” It is stealth in its selfish reasoning. And relentless in its pursuit of our time and energy.
Sometimes addictive behaviour dresses up in such attractive outfits that we wear it as a badge of honour and recognition. I was a victim of the busyaholic/perfectionist regime for many years. It became so unconsciously intolerable that I layered other addictions on top of it to provide numbing relief. I was a disciple of the religion of perfectionism. There was no standing still, no self-compassion, or room for emotional connections. Only layers of busyness, lists of chores and errands, and pursuits of new, different, better. Only to find myself never there, never done.
Each win leads to the next effort.
Many years ago, in addition to starting a new business, managing two households, three children, a marriage, and two elderly parents, I decided to prepare for a marathon. The six-month training schedule was taped to the side of our refrigerator, amongst the post-it reminders for dental appointments, gymnastic lessons, dinner parties, and my father’s cancer treatments. To make the progression from a five-km runner to 42–km marathoner was a daily commitment. It was one more project to keep me busy and round out my Superwoman repertoire. I noticed a small tear in my cape when my thoughtful and intuitive friend, listening to my weekly update, asked me what I was running from.
I now know that I was running from myself. That’s what obsessions are about. That’s the gift of the “holic” and “isms.” They relieve you from the fear of spending time on the inside. They enable you to fill your mind and channel your energy away from yourself. They rob you of attention and emotional engagement with others. Their expectations are unreasonable, yet you abide.
The courage and work to stop these obsessive patterns of being and doing, should you decide to, will take the rest of your life. It will require support beyond your own willpower. It will require an inconceivable level of honesty and humility from within. It will open up wounds and possibilities. Sometimes all at once. The moments of grace and peaceful acceptance will make it all worthwhile.
At least, that has been my experience.