In Pursuit Of…
Thoughts from a doing person
If I’m being honest, I seriously struggle to do nothing. It’s a very real problem. I’m not talking about wasting hours of your life scrolling through endless social media timelines. I’m talking about sitting, staring into the distance, listening to the birds outside, being exceptionally un-busy. I can’t! Doing nothing is a skill I may have lost.
What is it about modern life that sees us absolutely addicted to busy-ness? Is it a self-avoidant strategy? I think so. I think the biggest problem is that the noise in my head becomes deafening and impossible to ignore. Personally, I will actually fall into a funk, and feel immense sadness, if a day goes by during which I didn’t achieve things, tick boxes. My list is endless. There are always boxes to tick. If I spend a day at home doing nothing at all (a rarity that I avoid at all costs), it results in a massive internal schooling about the “wasted day” and the “lost time” and the “uselessness of me”. But more than any one single thought, it’s just a general all-pervasive sadness that invades the evening that follows such a “wasted day”.
So how does one win? All evidence points to the necessity of spending time doing nothing at all, as it seems to improve general well-being. And yet, doing nothing for me personally results in sadness and frustration.
Downtime is where we become ourselves, looking into the middle distance, kicking at the curb, lying on the grass or sitting on the stoop and staring at the tedious blue of the summer sky.
Anna Quindlen in her Newsweek article titled “Doing Nothing is Something“
I can’t seem to find it on home soil, but I do find a taste of it when I’m busy travelling. Go figure. During those special moments when you can’t help but stop and stare at an incredible sunset. Or when all the daylight has disappeared, and you’re sitting around a campfire, and you suddenly hear a fiery-necked nightjar gurgling somewhere nearby. Or (possibly my favourite), when near water, and the sound of a river flowing or the white noise of waves breaking become a sheltered space of quiet and calm within.
Why does this matter to you? Maybe it doesn’t. Still, if you find yourself fretting when forced to sit down, with empty hands, unable to think of something to do or not being able to recall that last box that needs ticking … perhaps it’s worth practicing the lost (or just forgotten) art of doing nothing, even if the discomfort hovers.
And if your immediate surroundings won’t let you relax into it, here’s my recommendation. Find a body of water you’d enjoy spending time next to, and go there. Even better if there’s no cell reception or signal whatsoever, no wifi at all. Maybe your thoughts will come rushing in, but maybe the sound of water will be all that’s necessary to drown out the noise. I do hope you go.
I’m still struggling but every now and again, I succeed.