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.

Pan Seared Tuna with Mango Radish Coulis – NOT

Fresh ground pepper and an elegant presentation always helps.

Fresh ground pepper and an elegant presentation always helps.

I do enjoy foods that those with sophisticated palates (or a lot of money) eat regularly. Just ask Chef Boy ‘R Mine. I’m his guinea pig. [And it’s about time he comes home and cooks for me again.]

I also like a lot of junk food, pseudo food, comfort food and stuff that is plain fare. I even like stuff, some of it, that involves a can of Cream-of-Something soup.

So sue me.

In the junk food category, I get weak-kneed over Cheez-Its. Ruffles (have ridges) potato chips and Slim Jims are perennial favorites. As for pseudo food, I like Twinkies (though I prefer SnoBalls), but will not abide Cool Whip.

Comfort food and plain fare remind me of my childhood, which was good, and serve, well, to comfort me. Plain fare I regard as further up the haute cuisine ladder than comfort food. Comfort foods are those things that you’re a little embarrassed about liking. Spam is one. Morton beef pot pies are another.

When I was about 10, maybe 11, I read a Beverly Cleary book about a high school girl and her first date. I was beginning to find boys a little interesting, but overall was pretty clueless. For those of you not initiated, Cleary wrote children’s books – Ramona, Beezus, Henry Huggins – which were funny and poignant. While they sometimes had a moral, the heavy-handedness of it was blunted by the comedy. Beverly Cleary could channel all those feelings and ideas and actions of a kid somewhere between 5 and 10 years old. She wrote a few books about teenagers. They weren’t as compelling.

In this book that I’ve forgotten the name of, the protagonist is a bundle of nerves before her first date. She worries about everything including whether or not her mother is going to make Smells to Heaven Tuna Casserole. Cleary, knowing her audience, explained the onion breath problem. Most ten year olds, at least in my day, didn’t worry too much about bad breath.

It’s either a testament to Cleary’s writing or my love of tuna casserole or, perhaps, both that forty years later I remember that detail.

I like tuna casserole. I don’t remember not ever liking it.

My mom made it with Cream of Mushroom Soup, noodles, onions, sometimes celery and tuna. After putting it in a baking dish, she crushed potato chips and spread them on top of the casserole about a 1/2 inch thick.

Now I did and do abhor canned mushrooms. They’re not even as good as pencil erasers (something I chewed on quite a bit as a kid). I hate them, and when we had tuna casserole, I ate around them. They’re chopped up fine and those tiny little suckers could really slow down the eating process.

When I started making my own tuna casserole, I discovered Cream of Celery soup.

Well, well.

I love celery. I toss it in anything I can get away with. Cream of Celery soup and chopped celery became necessities in the production of perfect tuna casserole.

I use the extra-wide noodles. I don’t want any wimpy noodles likely to get limp and pasty. I want them bold and al dente. This is a must.

I’m not sure when or why, but sometime early in my tuna casserole production years, I began substituting French’s French Fried Onions for the potato chips. It’s now a necessity. I could no more enjoy tuna casserole without French fried onions than I could enjoy it without onions or celery or tuna or noodles.

It’s a perfect gestalt of sodium, preservatives, msg, calories and the meager Omega 3s that that the tuna provides.

And I’m having it for dinner tonight.

I haven’t cooked for myself in months. And I haven’t cooked for one person  in months. I was surprised I had to think about how to go about making the casserole. This is not a recipe that’s ever been written down.

I managed to do it, but I could easily feed 12 people. I’m going to be eating tuna casserole all week. I suspect that I will, but it remains to be seen, if I will still like my Smells To Heaven Tuna Casserole next week.

I needed a pep talk.

I am not a teacher. I work at an emergency shelter for teenagers. I spend up to 8 hours a day with up to 15 teenagers who would like to be anywhere but in the same room with me.

I’ve been losing my religion.

I’ve been worrying about that.

It may, indeed, turn out to be true that I can’t do this much longer, but it’s work worth doing.

We so need miracle workers.

Taylor Mali, the gentleman in the video, is a powerful voice. His words provoke laughter and responsibility – a combination I aspire to.

For at least another day, I can bring myself to tackle teenagers with love and laughter and exhortations to take responsibility for those things they can control.