We live in a society that glorifies productivity, busyness and wealth. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how this capitalist value system doesn’t work for people with disabilities including chronic mental illness. I’ve also been thinking about how glorifying busyness means devaluing human connection, caring and many tasks that are associated with women’s unpaid labour (housework, childcare, health care); as well as, devaluing self care (especially for women).
Those are a lot of big words. As I’m adjusting to reduced energy levels and increased amount of symptoms related to my physical and mental health issues, I’ve been recognizing the need to slow down. I’ve been more aware of my disability than usual. I’ve been very keenly aware of how many people around me are addicted to, or glorify, being busy to the point of workaholism. I’m aware of how many people around me are literally too busy to make a human connection. I’m aware of how many people are putting careers first, trying to get ahead, trying to get rich…and putting off connection “for later” or for “when I’m successful enough.” It’s incredible how many people are too busy to spend time with friends. Too busy to go on a date. Too busy to have a telephone call other than in the car in between “essential” tasks.
I’ve been reflecting on what is actually important to me and why I often feel like I just don’t fit in anywhere.
Quite honestly I have no interest in being so busy that I am too exhausted to enjoy my life. I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want to have a bigger house or a fancier job. I don’t want to be the boss. I don’t want to have fame.
I just want human connection, peace and happiness and I don’t think money can buy those things. Neither can workaholism achieve them. I want to have time to enjoy my kids while they are young. I want to spend the day cuddled in bed with a partner. I want to have someone to cook for. I want long talks over coffee. I want to have someone to talk about my day with. I want to be comforted when I’m afraid. I want to create memories. I want to feel like I have space to breathe! And I want someone else who feels the same way.
It’s occurred to me that there is a much larger social problem going on around me when people I talk to don’t have time to meet for a coffee. Not just one or two people, but the majority of people I know are so busy they have almost every minute of their lives scheduled. I’ve been thinking a lot about how our society glorifies being busy. Society equates being busy with being valuable. Being productive with having inherent worth.
But where does that leave people who choose to stay home to take care of their children? Where does it leave those who are living with either permanent disability or temporary illness? When we don’t value unpaid caring labour we are not valuing some of the most important work in our society. When we equate productivity and earning power with self worth we perpetuate abelism and the view point that disabled people are somehow less than whole, less than valuable or even expendable.
Equating productivity with self worth means that I’ve been conditioned to believe that resting, self caring, and hobbies have no inherent value. This is not true.
Equating earning power with value, means that when I entered the workforce my years of full time parenting were not viewed as relevant experience, even though I was applying for jobs in the helping profession.
Capitalism creates a world where burn out is expected. It is almost worn as a badge of honour by some people, how many hours they work and how much money they earn.
Lately as I’ve been forced to slow down and accept my own limitations, I wonder if some workaholics will have regrets. I wonder when people are old and rich, but alone if they will feel sad. I wonder if people feel satisfied with the lives they have, or if like me, they are yearning for more. I wonder how many people in our society are deeply yearning for connection. Connection to one another, connection to community, connection to nature and connection to something bigger than themselves.
It could be a radical act to accept our self worth is not connected to our net worth.
It could be a radical act to deeply value self care and caring for others.
It could be a radical act to care for our communities and help those around us who are less able, while still viewing them as complete and valuable human beings.
It could be a radical act to value connection.
(please note this blog entry is NOT meant to devalue the struggles of those who don’t have enough money for the basics of life, or who need to work long hours to provide the basics for themselves. Captialism is responsible for this as well, because a more communal philosophy would place stronger social safety nets in place, including a living wage!)