Y’all, I’ve forgotten how to do nothing.
It makes a certain amount of sense – stuck at home for a year-plus during the pandemic, when I couldn’t do a lot of fun, social things I’d ordinarily be doing, coupled with firming-up plans for two big pandemic moves, I got up every day and tackled some part of the ever-increasing, never-ending task list. The pandemic was terrifying, the planning/decluttering/moving was stressful, it was all a big ol’ ball of bleargh. I brought my job with me remotely, which is a positive in terms of being employed but also for adding structure to my rapidly-changing life, which is good for me.
But what the heck happened to my ability to just … loaf? Sit around and watch the dust motes dance as the light shifts from morning to afternoon, read a magazine, take a nap, without feeling like I should be mopping the kitchen floor or going through my unopened mail?
I clearly remember being able to do nothing like a pro – sit on the couch and dream. Or sit at the beach, for instance, staring out at the sea. Maybe I’d read a book. Blissful afternoon naps on the porch or in a hammock. That sort of thing. On vacation, my nothing-doing is often of the flâneur variety – lots of slow, aimless wandering of unfamiliar streets, pausing to eat or sit on a bench while watching the world pass by. On a rainy day, I’d be perfectly content sitting in a hotel room reading a book, maybe popping out for tea.
After the most sedentary year of my life, sure, I want to get out, even if it means wearing a mask (again) due to delta COVID. I walk in the early morning through my neighborhood, the afternoon on errands, the evening for free, live music on the Plaza. And that’s all great! But sometimes what I want to do – what I feel like I need to do – is just sit and be still, and every time I get antsy. After about twenty minutes of live music, that things-to-do-places-to-be urge pops up. I want to linger, and … somehow I can’t. I look at people napping on blankets in the shade at the park and am manifestly jealous.
I guess I could read this popular, well-reviewed book on how to do nothing, although the irony has stopped me thus far (I’d need to do two things: buy it and read it.) It does sound pretty great, though, so maybe I’ll order it. I’m terrible at meditation, probably for the same reason I struggle to sit still. Googling “how to do nothing” led me to this article in the Guardian, one man’s quest to get comfortable doing nothing, where he shares this hilarious / depressing nugget:
“A 2014 research project by the University of Virginia asked individuals to sit alone in a room and entertain themselves with their own thoughts for 15 minutes. Should they find the task too difficult, they had the option to distract themselves with a small electric shock. Across 11 separate studies, most people said they hated being left to think. Two-thirds of men and a quarter of women chose to electrocute themselves at least once, just to alleviate the boredom.”
Right this second I’m pretty much as close to nothing-doing as I get these days: I’m writing this while drinking an iced chai. (Sidenote: they’re jackhammering up the patio next door, which they politely warned me about ahead of time, so I spent much of today out walking and running errands.)
Highlight of the week: two separate and wildly different acupuncture/Chinese medicine treatments, dealing with my ongoing, out of balance stress-response issues. I was practitioner-shopping since in my experience it’s a longer-term relationship rather than a one-shot deal. The first felt very traditional (tiny needles and moxibustion) and was in a wonderful old adobe studio with coved ceilings and New Age vibes and felt like the consummate Santa Fe experience: 10/10 would repeat (and I’m already scheduled.) The second practitioner is in a decidedly less groovy and meditative space, a modest new-ish building where you can hear the neighbors through the walls. However, after chatting with me for awhile and checking my pulses, she leaned hard into a different direction – gua sha, a little bloodletting, digging her strong fingers into various tension points on my upper shoulders and sternum. I’m making it sound awful and it wasn’t; it was … kind of an unexpected and wild ride, honestly, in a stress-releasing way, and I felt great after. So, I’m going to see her again too. It’s not … nothing, but it’s something. We’ll see where it leads.
Winner of the Scents of Egypt class with Dora Goldsmith: shiva-woman! I’ll connect you with Roxana.
So … what are you doing? Do you just hang out and chill and enjoy the moment? How do you get there mentally?