. The Art of Doing Nothing.

Photo credit: Judith Lockett

Doing nothing. Sounds great, no? Or does it give you a nervous eye twitch? Here is something I tried: for one day out of each week (usually Saturday or Sunday), I do absolutely nothing. This doesn’t mean I don’t go anywhere, or just sit on my couch and stare at the wall. It simply means that I clear my calendar and make space for what could happen. I remove any social obligations, let projects sit idle, turn off notifications, and take this day to just be.

Since I am back at work full-time, studying, researching, writing part-time, and being a single mom it is salient to do nothing from time to time. With all this going on in my life, I notice that I am more content when I spend one day doing nothing if I can help it. Just without having a million places to be. No agenda, no rushing around, no one else to please. Just me. Doing whatever I feel like doing, or getting into whatever adventure may come my way. Whatever my priorities are. And, if I want to see where someone’s priorities really lie, I have to look at two things: their calendar and their bank statement.

When I am really stressed, I look at my calendar and take an inventory on how much time I spend doing things. How much of it is work-related? How much is spend on/in social engagements? With family? Writing? Friends? Hobbies? Self-improvement?

Everybody is stressed out at some point. I think we have become a culture that is severely uncomfortable with “free-time” and doing nothing. Many don’t like being left alone with themselves, and that is because it is not “fun”. Some are terrified of silence, of nothing on the agenda, of not being important because who are we without these things to hold us? To give us significance? Others pack their schedules full, hoping that will keep them from stopping long enough to notice their inner lives are in great need of attention. The essence of simplifying life is recognizing the intrinsic value we have by simply being.

A while ago, I realized I have to face my true feelings, my negative emotions, my relational drama, and figure out what to do with it all. It is of course much simpler to turn the TV on, constantly check the phone, and continue numbing.

You know why I write about all this? Because I matter, my life matters, and I have worth. Period. I matter without the stuff, without the outside approval and conferred significance, without the career, the projects, the friends, without anything. So do you! Just. You.

I believe that it takes the absence of an agenda to really get to know yourself. Or Covid-19. It takes quiet. It takes room. It takes time. But keep in mind that everything in the world is going to fight you for it.

“Do-nothing” day:

  • I don’t stress about it. I wake up, and simply resist the urge to immediately DO. It took me some time to break this habit, but as soon as I removed all of my go-to distractions, I instantly noticed how often I rely on them.
  • I pay more attention. Depriving myself of my normal comforts for even a short amount of time can go a long way in teaching me what I really need. I am able to notice when I have an urge to check my phone or make a call and get a better feel for my own patterns of behavior and the motivation behind it.
  • I listen to my heart. Is Party X something I would typically just say yes to because I feel obligated? Or is this something that would really breathe life into me? If the answer is no, I won’t go. Easy.
  • I spend time in silence. You know why? My brain is constantly bombarded with information, images, and noise but the mind is not a fortress where stimulation can constantly bounce off.

It’s easy to get over-stimulated in daily life by all of the noise. I absolutely need my quiet time after my son goes to bed. The silence and to do nothing is absolutely essential for me to regain momentum for the next day.

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