How good are you at doing nothing? When was the last time you happily relaxed, doing absolutely nothing? My bet would be, the last time you got sick. And that’s no fun. Most of us have turned into guilt-ridden worker bees, always buzzing around, busy doing something. And then we wonder why we feel stressed and uptight and twitchy.
The other day, I found myself, during my leisure time, knitting, listening to a book, and watching snooker. All at the same time. And STILL feeling guilty about the time I was wasting, just sitting there, only doing three things. Are you like that? Do you find it impossible to do just one thing at once, let alone do nothing at all? I need my hands to be busy at one thing, and my mind to be busy on at least one other, if not more. Which makes it very hard to read a book, because really, you need to give that all your attention. I get fidgety and my mind wanders when I read, nowadays. I feel guilty for just sitting there, absorbed in a book.
I think this is partly due to our nature – women are born multi-taskers, otherwise they wouldn’t be very good mothers! And it’s partly due to our culture – everything is so pressured and frenetic that we feel compelled to cram as much into our days as humanly possible. And there’s so many distractions, so much going on.
But it’s not good. We are not designed to push and push and push, day after day, week after week. We’re designed to work and then rest. When do you get your rest? At night, in bed? Not enough. For one thing, when you are all wired and tense all day, you don’t get the kind of restful sleep your body & mind need. On the weekend? If you’re in the habit of cramming and rushing all week, you’re likely to do the same on the weekend – or to feel horrendously guilty if you don’t. Have you ever found yourself grateful for a head cold or a mild tummy ache, thinking, well at least I’ve got an excuse to lay on the sofa and do nothing……?
No, we need to get back into the habit of idling, of doing nothing, or doing very very little. Of trying to schedule our lives so that we can do one thing at a time, as much as is reasonable. To be able to hold a phone conversation without also browsing the internet. To be able to watch a movie with doing the ironing. To be able to sit in the garden and watch the birds, to lay on your back and gaze at the clouds, to stare into a log fire, to listen to music with your eyes shut and your hands still.
I like the words of Jerome K Jerome – the writer of Idle Thoughts From An Idle Fellow:
“It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do. Wasting time is merely an occupation then, and a most exhausting one. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen.”