My husband and I are both “A-” personalities. I know a few true type-A’s, and while I might admire their daily sanitized and shining kitchen floors, that’s not happening in my house! Therefore, I’m an A- to a B+ on most days. I share this with you to illustrate the truth that I am not the sort to “rest” during the day or “do nothing”.
So, you can imagine how I was reeling last year reading Martha Beck’s book, The Joy Diet. (This is mentioned in my June 2013 post, My Mid 40’s Identity Crisis.) The book describes 10 activities (“menu items”) that if practiced daily, will lead to joy and help you discover your true purpose or career. Out of 10 daily practices, her #1 instruction to the reader is to “do nothing” at least 15 minutes a day. Usually when someone wants to embark on a new career or unearth their true purpose, they are expecting to take action, not “do nothing”!
Before I read any words that followed menu item #1, I judged the “do nothing” recommendation as absurd. However, the further I read, the wiser her advice seemed. Even though it sounded great, I didn’t practice it for long.
That was, until January 1st, 2014. Something changed in my New Year’s routine. I didn’t plan it, nor did I feel entirely guilt-free as I practiced it. I didn’t expect it to continue, but it did – all month long. What is the “it”? Doing nothing. Often. In fact, sometimes more than twice a day. I thought it might be due to the two preceding months of holiday entertaining. But, after a couple of weeks of resting several times each day, I was plenty refreshed from the long Christmas season of serving. I was almost relieved two weeks ago when I came down with a cold, giving me an excuse to “do nothing” in between my hours of “doing something”!
This January, I found myself on three mornings waving goodbye to the kids at 7:20am, and (gulp) I crawled back into bed. I couldn’t fall asleep, but…I rested. On several days, after chores, grading papers, checking emails, and the like, I sat on the couch. I didn’t turn on the television and I turned off my cell phone. I wasn’t tired. I just…did nothing. Can I tell you that typing this truth feels like I’m sharing something scandalous?!
One day I watched snow blow outside my window at 25 miles an hour for 15 minutes. Another day I sat in a chair staring at the family room curtains. I pondered how long it had been since I’d washed and rehung them. No, I didn’t take them down and toss them in the washer. On my daughter’s piano lesson day, when I usually blitz through the grocery store, I waited for her in the car and closed my eyes. I actually laughed out loud one afternoon, stunned by my own indulgence.
Normally, the only time in January I stop moving is to drop exhausted into bed. It’s a busy month in our house. My top 4 “usual” January activities look something like this:
- Make all returns at stores for my kids and all grandparents by January 3rd. This year? One lingering return bag for American Eagle is still sitting on my dining room floor.
- Throw my twins a family birthday party, followed by separate friend parties by the second week of January. Have I been that crazy for 17 years? This year? My daughter just had hers on Friday night and my son is still waiting….!
- Tear down all Christmas decorations, pack up over a 100 tree ornaments, re-organize the boxes in the basement, search out and vacuum every pine needle by January 5th. This year? Various ornaments lingered around until mid-January and after cursing my “do nothing” habit every time I hopped around with a needle stuck in my foot, I finally got into the nooks and crannies, vacuuming them all!
- Organize closets in all bedrooms. This year? I walked into each closet, and then walked out. I sat down on the closest bed and did nothing but stare into the closet for 15 minutes! Then, I got up and left. I suppose that will be my February project (when I limit my “do nothing” habit to the allotted 15 minutes a day).
The fascinating outcome is that for all of my “do nothing” time, I actually started an exercise routine. I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year, but I’ve kept up with the dreaded sweat-fest 4x a week. I’ve read a book. This is a big accomplishment for busy Moms. Being me, I also almost feel a little mischievous, like I’m … gulp again … enjoying myself. If you’ve read anything I’ve posted, you already know I’m a bit of a deep-thinker, humor-challenged, and this “do nothing” experiment became “fun”, the further into January I traveled.
So, in conclusion, my do-nothing adventure was quite unintentional. I hadn’t thought about Beck’s book until I was well into the do-nothing habit. I’m not sure how long I’ll continue, but what I’ve observed is that the house didn’t come tumbling down, everyone still had clothes, food and water, and Mom just happens to be a little more relaxed this New Year!