“What are we going to do today?”
There is an expectation. An expectation on both our parts, my son’s and mine. An expectation of fun, of adventure, of newness, of doing…something.
I have created this need for more, more, MORE. This pressure.
I read or hear about the things others do and wonder, “should we be doing that too?”
I watch as friends bustle about, trying to fill their kids’ days with fun and excitement and every activity they can possibly cram in to entertain, expand, enliven their lives.
I take it upon myself, all of it, the pressure, the expectation, the feeling that I am somehow less, less of a mother maybe? Or enjoying life less than I could be? And so I try to incorporate into my days the interesting, inspiring things that others are doing.
This on its own I don’t think is a problem.
Life is, after all, meant to be lived, hopefully to the fullest. It’s short, you know, life. And why not get out there and embrace it and try all the things that you want to do, that make your heart beat faster in thrill and glee, that make your smile crazy and bright and big? And if you can bring your child along in this dance with adrenaline, excitement, so much the better.
Unless of course it becomes a kind of manic necessity. An addiction to do more, faster, better.
Unless it puts pressure on you to the point that you can no longer feel worthy, no longer feel you measure up against those others who seem to be doing so much more, no matter how much more you do yourself.
But the thing is, they are many and you are one. How can one person expect to live the lives, the experiences, of all those around them? You can’t. You will drive yourself nuts, you will exhaust yourself if you try. And you will be so busy doing, that life will fly past. Too quickly.
You will also bring your kids down this manic path with you. Creating in them the constant need for thrills. Expectation. An inability to make their own fun. They will become blind to the simple things in life that should also bring joy.
Like addicion, the manic activity becomes the norm, and then you have to up the ante to the next level, and then the next, to feel alive, to feel you are truly doing something, rather than not living, being lazy, watching life pass you by.
There is value in boredom. And boredom, real boredom, not just the absence of manic activity, is so rarely felt these days, so rarely reveled in. Boredom breeds creativity.
Like kicking a habit, I have been trying to seek boredom, for the whole family.
I still instinctively think, “ok, the weekend’s coming up, what are we going to do?”
But I am trying, just a bit, to follow that with a ciritical eye. Do we need to do anything?
Do I need to invite people in at the drop of a hat because someone else I know does that?
No. Our situations are different.
Do I need to hike the hills nearby, because someone I know does that every Thanksgiving weekend?
No. We are doing something else this weekend.
Many friends have boats and cottages and I watch as week after week they share pictures on Facebook of themselves, their kids, their friends enjoying drinks and the water and each other. I feel a pang of longing, of regret.
Wait. What do I have to long for and regret? I have my own life, my own wonderful, happy, lucky things. We’ve been to Maine and Boston, and will be going to Tuscany and South Africa for goodness sake. What business do I have longing for anything more?
Social networking clearly feeds the addiction. Thankfully, for me at least, social networking is not an additional addiction. But its happy, glossy pictures and status updates certainly feed the adrenaline/excitement addiction.
Advertising, too. Advertising cleverly trades on these feelings of inadequacy, of needing to be doing what everyone else is doing. Advertising is there to tell you to get out and live more, do more, come to their zip line course, fly in their hot air balloon, ski their slopes, buy their boat – don’t just sit there!
Of course, there is nothing wrong with doing any of those activities, and there are definite benefits to doing them rather than “just sitting there,” a bump on a log, or couch.
But it is important to consider these ads just as critically, in just as detached a way, as I try to consider Facebook updates. Both are fine, they may give you some ideas, but you can’t do it all, and you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to try.
If you do, you are missing out on living a healthy and balanced life. And you are teaching your children to do the same.
Now, I just need to pause long enough to listen to my own advice.
Written in response to today’s daily prompt: Have you ever been addicted to anything, or worried that you were? Have you ever spent too much time and effort on something that was a distraction from your real goals? Tell us about it.
- How Facebook Makes Us Unhappy (newyorker.com)
Others’ thoughts on addiction: