Saturday, February 9, 2008

Doing nothing: the antidote for doing too much

I have an internal alarm clock. No matter what time I go to sleep, it wakes me up between 5:30 and 6 am every weekday morning. On weekends, it lets me sleep in until 7.

Sometimes, I love my alarm clock. Cold, crisp winter mornings like this, I wish it would take a break and let me stay in bed, snuggled under the covers longer.

Alas, it ain't that obligin'!

Sort of like the weather. I want it to be warm like it was last week. It has other ideas.

So this morning, I awoke as always, snuggled with C.C. for a few moments and then arose. I get restless, antsy if I stay in bed too long, not to mention Ellie becomes rather annoying in her insistence that it's breakfast time, time for me to get into action and quiet the rumblings in her tummy.

I love mornings. The quietness of the house. Making coffee, gazing out the kitchen window at dawn's awakening. I love baking muffins as I did today, and the walk to the paper box with Ellie.

And I love the feeling that for today, I have no priorities, no must do's, no gotta get to's. I don't have to be anywhere by any specific time. I don't have to see anyone at any specific time. Today is unscheduled. A day of opportunity without demands.

Sure, there are some things that need to be done -- there are still a plethora of boxes around the house that need attention. But if they don't get unpacked today, the world won't end, the giant Hand of Responsibility will not descend upon me and whack me through the Gate of Inaction into rabid activity.

Yesterday, I met with the organizers of an annual Christmas event for clients at the shelter where I work. We chatted about what went well, what went not so well, and what we can do better next year. At one point, one of the men commented that he was so exhausted by the time Christmas came that he took ten days off and did absolutely nothing.

"I feel kind of guilty," he said. "I sat at home, read books, played with my kids, watched movies and did nothing else."

"That's not nothing," I replied with a double negative turning it into the positive. "That's something. Spending time with you and your family. Stoking your heart, re-booting your energies. That's important. And really needed in today's hectic world."

We chatted a bit about our concept of 'doing nothing'. Why so many of us feel we need to make excuses for time spent reading a book or sitting watching clouds float by, or simply listening to the sound of the wind in the trees. Why do we feel we must apologize for not being 'busy, busy'?

Actress Ava Gardner said, “I don't understand people who like to work and talk about it like it was some sort of goddamn duty. Doing nothing feels like floating on warm water to me. Delightful, perfect.”

When I first became a mother one of my greatest pleasures was to lie on the bed with my infant daughter on my chest. The warmth of her tiny body. The rise and fall of my chest as she rose and fell with my breathing. The delicate sounds she made as breathed. Her gentle stirring of her body nestled against me. The soft downy feel of her hair beneath my hand as I stroked her head.

I could lie like that for hours. And often I did.

I wasn't doing nothing. I was surrendering to the moment and falling in love.

The question is: Where does your need to get to it keep you from being at one with the moment you're in? Where does your list of must do's over-power your enjoyment of doing nothing but experiencing the wonder and joy of being alive in this moment, right now?

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