I am a do-er, a go-getter, a self-starter. I make to-do lists. I complete the tasks on the list. I cross them off the list. I make a new list.
Inactivity makes me uncomfortable and, as a stay-at-home mom, there is no shortage of chores to be done – toys to put away, breakfast dishes to clean, laundry to be folded. And once the kids are in bed for the night, I immediately turn on the computer to begin my other job as a freelance writer – drafting web materials, writing blog posts, editing my book proposal.
On the rare occasion that I turn on the television to watch a Cubs game, the Daily Show, the local news, or Glee (a true guilty pleasure), I simultaneously “do” something – perform a set of crunches or push-ups, go through old emails, comment on some of the blogs I follow, or work on the next day’s to-do list.
You see, like Rabbit in the tales of Winnie the Pooh, I am a Bisy Backson. I am uncomfortable with an open calendar, a free hour, or a lazy afternoon and I immediately fill it up with something – an activity, a chore, an outing.
A favorite quote by which I try to live my life is the following statement by George Bernard Shaw:
“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”
Unfortunately, striving to live a life that will leave me thoroughly “used up” is often at odds with the notion that sometimes it is important to just sit down, take a load off, and breathe. But when I looked at this week’s photo for the Photo Inspiration Challenge, I thought to myself: Those chairs are so sassy and fun that the mere act of sitting in them would be “doing” something.
There is something about the whimsical teal hue of the chairs set against the stark rigidity of the brick wall that says “Climb on in. This is where you want to be. This is where you need to be.” Sitting in these chairs would be more than taking a load off, it would be an activity in and of itself.
As I thought about this, I realized that sometimes, it is in the idleness of what may seem like “doing nothing” that we are actually fulfilling a very important activity. By shutting down and shutting out the distractions, we can hear things and see things and learn things and experience things that we would ordinarily miss if we were caught up in our rushed lifestyle.
I have found that idleness reaps the most benefits when it is intentional, however. When I am mindful of my inactivity and savor the opportunities that it provides. Unlike boredom or laziness, intentional idleness occurs when we are mindful about the activity within our inactivity. When we notice the hum of a lawnmower a half block away. When we see, and not just hear, the excitement of a child telling us about something new he or she has learned. When we heal and restore our bodies by resting our muscles and minds. When we look into the eyes of a loved one and hear all of the things they are not saying with their voice.
So in an effort to be more intentional about carving out time for idle activity, I have come up with a few resolutions for myself.
- I will mediate for two minutes each day.
- When I watch tv, I will not do other chores at the same time (unless I am watching a Cubs game since the games haven’t been all that gripping lately).
- I will spend five minutes a day stretching.
- I will eat meals sitting at the table and not in front of the computer while I work.
- When I find myself with unexpected free time at the end of the day, I will not add something to my to-do list or get a jump start on tomorrow’s list; rather, I will take a bath, read a book, or just sit down, catch my breath and enjoy the silence.
I understand that to some of you, these resolutions might seem ridiculous. Perhaps you are even trying to do the opposite – watch less tv or motivate yourself to tackle your “for another day” list – but, for me, these changes are quite substantial. I am a recovering Bisy Backson (a mere two days into my sobriety) and I need to start small. But I am slowly realizing that, sometimes, it is in the slowing down that we allow the greatest moments of activity to spring forth.
As that ingenious little Taoist Winnie the Pooh said, “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
Are you a Bisy Backson? How do you slow down and create intentional idleness?