The Art of Doing Nothing

Nope.  Not gonna do it.

Nope. Not gonna do it.

Just as our bodies need downtime in the form of sleep, our bodies need downtime during our waking hours.

I’ve had a drought of downtime both asleep and awake.

Today, when the alarm went off, I silenced it, rolled over and went back to sleep. I clocked something like 10 hours. It wasn’t enough to eradicate my sleep deficit, but it was enough to provoke a feeling of well-being.

Yesterday, I did just enough housecleaning that I didn’t curl into fetal position when I went downstairs this morning. [It’s still a mystery to me how the house can become a Super Fund site when I’m never here.]

I plopped my ass on the sofa. After a few minutes, I arranged myself in a supine position. A few minutes later, I pulled the blanket over me. The dogs and I reacquainted ourselves there on the sofa.

I announced, firmly, “I have things to do.”

I got up, poured another cup of coffee, and stared out the window at the kitchen garden – looking at the mess I never had time to get to.

I forced myself to take clothes out the dryer, put the clothes in the washer into the dryer, and put the last load of laundry into the washer.  Drudgery, pure drudgery.  The inner adult had wrestled the inner child into submission, but neither were happy.

I poured another cup of coffee and stared out the window some more.

I announced, firmly, “I have got to motivate.”

Deciding that perhaps some sunlight on my pineal gland would help, I toddled out to the garden and plopped my ass in a lawn chair. From that seated position, I willed the calla lilies to bloom. I noticed that the morning glory had wrapped itself around the gate making ingress and egress impossible.

I contemplated getting up and whipping the morning glory into submission.

Stating clearly and audibly, I said, “Fuck It.”

Without getting too technical, the FuckIts are that state wherein no matter how hard your inner grownup spanks the inner child, nothing on the to-do list is going to get done without a change of strategy.


Facing this knowledge, the person with the FuckIts will develop a great sense of peace and sometimes giddiness. I am not going to do a damn thing and you can’t make me. It’s not rebellion, obstinacy, defeat or disobedience.

It’s very nice. It’s a lot like when you have a killer headache and you notice, suddenly and with pleasure, it’s gone.  The to-do list evaporates.

In my Geek Girl persona, I equate it with rebooting the computer. When you’re holding too many tasks in memory, sometimes you just have to reboot. (You Mac people can just shut up now.)

I trundled back into the house and heated up leftover tuna casserole. I settled in with a book – a bite of casserole, turn the page. Bite, turn.

Self permission to do nothing is energizing.

mmmmmm book and a nap

mmmmmm book and a nap

I’ve wandered about the house with the book. With no hurry, no agenda, no sense of looming responsibilities fixin’ to fall on my head and destroy me, I’ve managed to do even more cleaning between chapters. Paid some bills. Found and removed the source of the gnat problem in the kitchen. Readied my clothes for the following week. Put the jewelry back into some order. Cleaned off the desk.

I’ve actually done more than was on the to-do list to begin with.

People who are into meditation talk about this phenomena all the time. Quieting the chatter of your mind, either through counting breaths, repeating a mantra, or giving yourself permission to do nothing allows you to accomplish so much more. The essence is simply doing, or not doing, without thought of the past or the future. Without haste.

I had a fledgling meditation/yoga practice going that I abandoned when the to-do list got daunting. Big mistake. I haven’t been on the exercise bike (white noise and muscle toning all at the same time) in weeks. Another big mistake. I haven’t been reading well-crafted novels or listening to the music that makes my heart soar.

No wonder I’m a cranky bitch.

Doing nothing is both a luxury and a necessity.

I’m going back to my book now. I’m kinda thinking that napping in the guest bed in the afternoon sunlight after reading some of the book would be nice. If I do that, I’ll probably put clean sheets on the bed and vacuum – after watching the dust dance in the air for awhile.

3 thoughts on “The Art of Doing Nothing

  1. Doing nothing is an art. I took my 14 yr old(then) to the outback of Canada a few years ago and taught her to do it as I taught my older children before her.
    It is good to sit for hours at a time staring out into it.

    I just read a study that said people who take more than 8 hrs of sleep in a typical 24 hr period are more likely to loose their minds in old age. . . bummer.

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