Thursday, October 16, 2014
The thrill of doing absolutely, positively nothing
After work last night, I zoomed home, grabbed Max and took him to a local soccer clinic for kids with special needs. High-school volunteers were there to help and Max walked right into the din, said hello to his volunteer and gave a ball a strong kick. It was rather awesome. He'd even taken off his Fire Chief hat, which was a feat, but only because it was raining outside and he didn't want it to get wet. After I tucked him into bed and organized the Girl Scout vests and pins into bags for each kid in my troop, I sat down at the kitchen table. And all I could do was stare into space.
"WE ARE DONE!" said my brain and body, and for once, I listened to them. Nighttime is usually when I do approximately eleventy billion things—put away laundry, de-clutter the house, fill out forms for the kids, email teachers and therapists, check the kids' school websites, change the burned-out bulb wherever, clean up obvious dirt, sort through mail and figure out how to deal with the fact that Cigna sends me claim denials that request information that is right on the bill while I ponder why they hire staffers who cannot read. I view every free moment as an opportunity to do something.
Sometimes I veg in front of the TV but I'm always simultaneously doing something else, like writing or answering emails. I am an accomplished multitasker who takes pride in being productive, to the point where I forget that I am actually human. Because I never, ever stop and do nothing at all. I mean while I'm conscious, because I haven't yet figured out a way to multitask in my sleep.
So I sat at the kitchen table, no laptop or pile o' paperwork in front of me. I stared into space. Briefly, I considered various upcoming kid activities and to-dos. This parenting thing is exhausting, I thought. A couple minutes later, naturally, I felt compelled to go on Facebook and see how many parents zoned out at their kitchen tables and pondered the same. And wouldn't you know it, yes! An impressive 223 other parents did—some, even every night. I figured my other 6637 Facebook friends were too busy multitasking to answer.
I returned to staring into space. It occurred to me that I couldn't remember ever sitting at the kitchen table or basically anywhere in the house and not doing anything. I lack what yogis and meditative types call a "quiet mind." It's more like a mind that looks like one of those whirling blenders in infomercials that chops everything, including possibly wood for your fireplace.
I can't recall most of what I thought about as I sat there and visited with my brain but after a while I felt a little peaceful. There was a passing moment when I considered getting a snack, except lassitude kept me pinned to the table. There was also a horrific moment when I realized that earlier in the day I had put my mother on hold then never called her back, but I figured she would still love me and that it was important to focus on doing nothing while I was in the zone.
I put up my feet on one of the kitchen table chairs. I did some more nothing. Then some more. I savored the fuzzy feeling in my brain. My body considered sending out a thank-you note to myself for letting it do nothing. Dave was away on a business trip and so there was nobody to interrupt me doing nothing with those endearing words, "Honey, did you pick up the dry cleaning?"
When I finally pulled myself away from the table, maybe 20 minutes had passed but it felt like longer. I celebrated my feat of doing nothing by going to sleep.
I don't plan on scheduling "nothing" into my calendar, but I'd definitely like to do more nothing in the future. Turns out I'm pretty good at it.
Posted by Ellen Seidman at 6:38 AM