Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
How To Quit The Cult of Busyness | 2.25.24

How To Quit The Cult of Busyness | 2.25.24

The Guilt Of Stillness - The Sunday Edition

No creatures that wander this glowing planet are harder on themselves than human beings. No creatures assign guilt the way we do, at least not in any quantifiable or studyable way, and few, if any, spread that guilt and anxiety across its species in a way that makes you feel it simply by observing the actions of others. We’re a bizarre brand of life that somehow convinces ourselves that stillness is the enemy, that busyness is the only path forward, and rest is for the weak.

A glance around the entire rest of the animal kingdom shows that nearly every other living thing prioritizes a healthy balance between action and inaction, between frenzied motion and a stillness that brings about recuperation. Without doubt there are times when all creatures must scramble, must organize their lives in a way that ensures their survival, but then they also must slow, they often hibernate or hide away in order to refill the coffers that they spent their months emptying. Not us bipeds, however, not us at all.

Share with someone that really needs to slow down and rest awhile.


There is a cult around accomplishment, a denomination of the faith behind busyness that doesn’t just border on manic, it completely engulfs it, hypes it, spreads it, and believes so fervently that all logic fades out and away. So lost in this illusion we’ve become, that we actually shame those that don’t fall into its trappings. Sometimes, we don’t even notice we’re doing so, don’t even consciously choose to pass the judgements on those we see spending their hours idly, those that prioritize stillness in a way we do not Not us, there’s too much to do, isn’t there?

I’ve seen the trickle down of this shame in our own household, if I am honest, and I always am honest. I trust my relationship with Lady G so deeply that I am comfortable sharing with all of you, that even in this home, there’s a strange guilt about even turning on the television before 8:00pm. Even when we’re sick, tired, burned out, or bummed, we find things to keep busy. I’m always writing, always working, and we almost never miss a workout day, even when we probably should. I don’t know why we do this, but it’s a thing we’re actively trying to be better about. We don’t always have to be busy, I tell her, we don’t always have to have some other item to check off on the massive to-do list that is being completely self-employed, that is trying all we know to try to make enough money to even pay the $850 a month to cover our health insurance, even though we still have an almost $20,000 deductible.

I tell you this not to guilt you into helping me make those ends meet, though the button to join our beautiful little paid community is right above this sentence, but to show you that everywhere you look, everyone is scrambling to try to stay busy enough to stay profitable enough to stay fed enough to stay alive, just enough. In this scrambling, we forget ourselves, we sacrifice our own well-being at the altar of accomplishment, and we never even notice as the bar gets higher and higher and the effort required to clear it begins to be so immense, we’ve not the time, or energy to do so. This is the dark magic of this cult, the Kool-aid it pours down your throat and convinces you is healthy. Go, it says, Do, it whispers, don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop.

And so we do, and so we wear ourselves down to the quick and nub, down to the sharp metal ring after the pencil eraser has gone, flaked off in pink across the blue lines of our pages.

It’s gotten worse, hasn’t it? Every hobby to become a side hustle, every action something to be monetized or actionized or weaponized, every minute of every day another opportunity for multi-tasking. We inject caffeine almost intravenously to keep up with the frenetic motion, we eat standing over sinks and garbage cans, we want our food fast and our sleep tracked to meet the minimum requirements. We exercise though broken down and burned to the bottom of our candles, both ends lit at the same time. We see those who take the time to decompress and think them lazy, though we might not say it aloud.

Why? Why are we this way, and how did it come to this?

Here, today, perhaps we promise another way, perhaps we take baby steps into a great big shift. We start with meditation, maybe, taking 10 minutes a day of absolute stillness, in body, in mind, and build from there. We feel no guilt for listening to our bodies, truly listening, and then actually heeding what its voice says. Maybe from meditation, we add a nap here and there, we add off-days, from work, from workouts, from social gatherings we’re just too over-stretched to attend. We learn the value of No, and teach our lips and tongue to form it, instead of the false smile stretching of our mouth when we say Yes, over and again, Yes.

I will not lie and say this will be easy, trust me I’m not the lying type and I have seen first hand how hard it is to break this cycle. Lady G is perpetually busy, always needing to be doing something, deeply afraid of just spending some hours doing nothing, watching a show on the television, sipping tea and not needing to be adding layers of productivity on top of it. I, too, suffer from this, always pouring myself into this Signal Fire and the creation of the ideas, the words, the videos, the comments, that keep it burning. I hold myself to standards with exercise that no one I know, save professional athletes that actually get paid to do so. I get no payment, I answer to no coach, and yet still I slave away day in and day out, for no other reason than I need it. Sometimes, the voice telling me to slow is loud enough I hear, mostly though, I stifle it.

Not anymore, and maybe I’m old enough now that this will stick. I’m going to rest more, maybe even (and Lady G WILL rejoice at this one, as she’s tried to get me to do this for years) try napping when I know my body is tired.

For now, it’s meditation, something I’ve done since I was 12 but got so damn busy I lost sight of, and it’s listening closer to the soft voice of my soul. More than that, it’s heeding what it says, what I hear it pleading for, in whatever form that takes. We’re stuck in this illusion, in this cult, and it’s time we poured the Kool-aid out, stained the carpet beneath the couch we’re gonna be napping on, or at the very least, sprawling out across to watch some random movie on some random afternoon, cup of tea in our hand, and not a single ounce of guilt.

Here’s to it. I’ll see you on the couch from time to time. Meet me there?

Stuck in illusion,

the cult of accomplishment,

the guilt of stillness.

Haiku on Life by Tyler Knott Gregson

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Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Tyler Knott Gregson and his weekly "Sunday Edition" of his Signal Fire newsletter. Diving into life, poetry, relationships, sex, human nature, the universe, and all things beautiful.