“We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
So, I’ve recently discovered something about myself.
I don’t do enough of Nothing.
(Hush up, grammar police, that was NOT a double negative. I capitalized Nothing, so therefore it becomes a something. See? Seeeee? Ok, now if you will let me continue….)
I have always been someone who is continuously on the go. Sometimes by choice, sometimes not. My life is one of constant movement. I have a job that is over an hour’s drive (one way) from my home, so work alone keeps me on the move for much of the day. Then, in the few hours that I have remaining of the day, I spend my time trying to squeeze in picking up one child from dance, one from cross-country practice, and even…(gasp!) making time for my own activities. I know, right? A mom with her own activities? Trust me, I know how unheard of that is. I have gotten the lecture from strangers and family alike. I get it.
But that’s a blog for another day.
The point is this – I’m busy. And I like it that way.
Well, until I don’t anymore.
Lately, I’ve been noticing that I’m not handling stress well. It’s like I’m in constant “chaos” mode. Whenever anything negative happens – no matter how small said something may be – my brain signals the “catastrophe” alarm. All hands on deck! Snap to attention! This problem MUST be solved. Now! It’s HUGE. The world itself will stop spinning on its axis if this problem is not attended to RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. Even if said problem is…oh, say maybe I’ve run out of milk at the house? MY CHILDREN ARE GOING TO STARVE, PEOPLE!! Milk must be procured IMMEDIATELY!
Good grief, I’m tired just reading that paragraph.
As a friend of mine posted on Facebook recently:
I think it’s finally starting to catch up to me. So, I’ve made a conscious decision to stop.
Yep. That’s it. Just stop.
Now, I’m not going to stop everything of course. Some of the things I do can’t be stopped. (There would be some angry, hungry teenagers sitting outside dance studios and cross-country tracks if that were the case.) And some things I do, I don’t want to stop. My hobbies are more than just “hobbies” really. They define me. I’m a writer – so yes, I want to keep writing. I’m an actor, I want to keep acting. I’m a runner, I’m going to keep running (I’m even training for my second half marathon right now).
But here’s the difference….
I’m going to chill out a little bit. Or rather, I should say, I’m going to allow myself to chill out a little bit.
I have started to cut back quite a bit on my blogging. If you’re a regular follower and you’ve noticed, please allow me to apologize. (Oh, and if this fictitious regular follower person exists, let me extend my deepest gratitude for reading my stuff so often that you actually noticed I was gone. How cool are you!?) Being a writer, I never really stop writing exactly. Phrases and ideas are constantly going through my head. And when they do, I write them down somewhere. But the difference now is that I’m not in such a hurry to get to a computer (or a notebook – yep, I still handwrite things sometimes, can you believe that!?) and put those words and phrases into a story or blog entry. They’ll still be there when I’m ready – when I have time. There’s no deadline. There’s no need to push myself to the point of exhaustion to keep up with some imaginary quota that I’ve invented in my head. That’s ridiculous.
As for acting – I mentioned in a previous blog that it’s time to take a break. Auditions came and went for the next show at my theatre and I didn’t attend. That alone was a source of pride for me – I was actually taking a stand for my own sanity and health and forcing myself to rest a little.
But then something happened that made me really have to put my money where my mouth is. I received a message asking me to consider a role.
Whoa. Ok, now that’s different.
I didn’t even go to auditions…I did what I said I was going to do, right? I stuck to my guns and tried to take a break. But to be asked to play a role? How flattering, right? Acting is what I do. And this role – man, it sounds perfect for me. Right up my alley. It would be ok to accept it just this once and rest later, right?
I politely declined and thanked them for the consideration. Wow. I turned down a role. I can honestly say that as an actor, this was a first for me. Acting is so important to me – I would jump at any chance I got to play a role like this in the past. But now? Well. Right now I’m tired. Bone tired. I don’t want to see something I love turn to something that I feel like I have to do. I just can’t let that happen. There will be other shows. When I’m ready.
Now, as for running….yes, I know I just mentioned that I’m training for my next half marathon. I know what you’re thinking. That’s not “stopping,” right? What the heck is up with that?? I thought this chick said she was going to chill out. How is training for a half marathon chilling out? Well, you’re right. It’s not. Not really, anyway. But see – this is something that I really want. Yes, it’s hard work, but the feeling I get when I finish a run – no matter how slow the run happened to be or if I met any ‘goals’ or not – is one that is hard to beat. It is a relaxation in itself. It’s a purging of all that’s wrong with the world. If you’re a runner, I know you know what I mean. Before a run, you can be weighted down with all the worries you can possibly carry – and then after the run, you feel lighter. You feel free. I need that right now. I need to create a better me. A calmer me. A more controlled me.
A me I can live with.
Yesterday, my daughter and I were sitting in the living room at home. The errands were done, homework finished, work and school day complete – and there we were. Just sitting. I looked over at her and said, “Is there something we’re forgetting?” She replied, “What do you mean?” and I said, “Well, I just feel like there’s something we should be doing.” Her response? “I guess it’s all done.”
“I guess it’s all done.”
At that moment, I’m sure there were other things that could have been done. I could have went over my sad budget one more time. I could have washed another load of clothes. I could have exercised, I could have laid out my clothes for the next day, I could have forced myself to start on my next blog. But I didn’t do any of that. At that moment, sitting in my living room in the silence with my daughter, it really was “all done.” Everything else would be there when it was time. But for right then, I allowed myself to bask in the nothingness.
There’s an Italian phrase that comes to mind: dolce far niente. This means, the sweetness of doing nothing.
And it was perfection.
Time to start creating more moments like that in my life.
More dolce far niente? Why, yes, thank you. Don’t mind if I do.
“The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of room, not try to be or do anything whatever.”
– May Sarton