The art of doing nothing

I kept my word.

I slept 12 hours last night, then woke up and watched five hours of Grey’s Anatomy while embroidering a snowman on Doug’s stocking.  I usually don’t let myself have days like this – they panic me, make me feel like I’m wasting time, wasting my life doing nothing.

But today I just kept telling myself it was okay.  It’s okay to rest, to heal, to catch up on some things I’ve been missing.  Adopting Doug’s usually annoying tactic for dealing with stress, I ignored the messy apartment and the mental to-do list, throwing myself into my day of hibernation with hard-fought resolve and renewed gusto every time my mind started to wander toward what I “should be doing instead.”

And I realized that every time I did think about doing something else – like when I walked past the book I bought the other night and it crossed my mind that my time might be better spent reading rather than watching TV – the thought made me uncomfortable.  When I was pouring myself some cereal (at around 3 p.m.) and noticed the kitchen counters needed wiping, I felt a knot forming in my stomach.  For once, it wasn’t the idea of doing nothing that was making me anxious, it was the idea of doing something.

I had vowed to monopolize this day taking care of myself, and somehow the resolution stuck.  Now, with about two hours left before bedtime, I’m not experiencing the usual restlessness and cabin fever I get from holing up in my house for too long.  Because this time, that holing up – letting my thoughts become consumed by television drama instead of my real-life stress, letting my body rest and heal – was what I really wanted and needed.  I did only what felt good for me in the moment, safe in the knowledge that everything else – work and bills and errands and longer blog entries – will still be there for me tomorrow.

I can’t believe how rarely in my life I’ve given myself this gift.

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2 Responses to The art of doing nothing

  1. Dani says:

    I just found these quotes from a magazine tear out entitled “The Big Chill” while going through moving boxes….

    “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone…The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials” -Lin Yutang, Chinese writer and educator.

    “Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important” -Natalie Goldberg, author

    “We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking. We move along the surface of things…but there are times when we stop. We sit still. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper” -James Carroll, novelist

    “When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere” La Rochefoucauld, French writer

    “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself” -Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist

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