Nearly every day I read something online, in a blog, in print, or in a book about the epidemic of busyness and exhaustion so many seem to be facing. News media often will include a segment on these issues as well. All of them offer good data and invariably there will be a lot of ways to combat the problem. Most of them offer very good solutions, but can easily feel like another “to do” list that can sometimes create stress. Some of them can create guilt because I am usually found to be guilty of creating the problem. Ugh!!!
The result for me is that often I don’t want to read another article on the subject, even if it is good. I can feel that way about any topic that seems to be the current hot topic. Maybe that’s just me, but perhaps some of you might feel that way as well if you have been reading and trying to do lists of good solutions offered on the topic.
Sometimes even if we find the solutions helpful, there is something missing either because the ultimate source of the problem has not been addressed or the answer is something hiding in plain sight.
A few nights ago my husband and I watched a movie we have loved, but not viewed in quite awhile. It along with some of these recent articles have stirred my thinking and resulted in some reflections I want to share with you over the next few posts.
What’s the movie? City Slickers. It was released in 1991 and includes a great cast headed up with Billy Crystal. Many of you may have seen it and if you haven’t, you might enjoy it.
To set the stage for the reflections I will be sharing, let me tell you a bit about the theme of City Slickers. Every year, three male friends take a vacation away from their wives for an adventure that gives them a fantasy experience that is supposed to rid them of the doldrums, frustration, exhaustion, and busyness of their lives. One of these, Ed, can be very creative. One of his ideas has them running with the bulls with Mitch (Billy Crystal) getting gored by one of the bulls in the process.
Billy Crystal’s character is now turning 39 and is experiencing all the stereotypical things that go with it. His wife sees him as depressed and feels frustrated about how to help him when nothing has worked to bring him back his smile. She registers concern for what is happening with him in his job, with their marriage, and most every aspect of his life. No solution has worked in recent years to relieve the hectic pace, the busyness, and the resulting depressive symptoms.
At his 39th birthday party, Crystal’s friend Ed brings another suggestion, convinced that it will work. He and his third friend, Phil, have planned a two week cattle drive trip out west where the city guys will be transformed into cowboys and drive cattle to Colorado. Crystal is not impressed with the idea and has a family vacation planned, but his wife insists and tells him to “Go. I want you to find your smile.”
The movie is full of funny scenes and lines as the “city slickers” learn to ride and rope and before long they head out on the great adventure with little confidence on Crystal’s part that this will be something they can do.
The trail boss is someone called Curly played by the leathery-faced Jack Palance. Palance may be old and a cowboy, but he recognizes more than any of these newbies might guess.
Crystal gets in trouble several times with Palance as they get started on the drive and at one point is forced to look for strays with Palance alone. Crystal shudders as he rides off behind Palance, but on the trek Palance holds up one of his index fingers when several situations come up. Crystal gets curious about what he means.
Palance tells him that the secret of life is one thing, just one thing you can stick to. Crystal asks what that is and Palance tells him, “You’ve got to figure out what that is.” That puzzles Crystal and it doesn’t bring back his smile.
Not long after that what was to be a fun adventure turns deadly serious when the “city slickers” end up being left with the responsibility to bring the herd in alone. They have no idea how to do this or exactly the route and face many challenges along the way. But in the process, each man faces his fears, gains courage in learning more about themselves and what is really important.
Crystal learns the “one thing” for him and returns home to his family complete with his smile.
The theme music is a song by James Ingram entitled “Where Did My Heart Go?”. The first lines of the song are “Where did my heart go, When did it lose the way….”
I think the story that unfolds in the movie and the words of the song reveal something the lists and ideas I’ve been reading have missed about the problem of busyness and exhaustion plaguing us.
Many of us have lost our hearts. That leads us to two things: 1) losing our hearts has propelled us into busyness, or 2) sometimes our busyness has caused our heart to be lost.
Please join me over the next few posts as we look at this with “a new lens” and see what we might discover about how our divided hearts reveal the problem we are often missing.