Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Art of Doing Nothing

I sit here, at 9:47 AM on a Saturday morning, more or less where I've sat for the last hour and a half, messing around on the computer, ignoring the siren's call of the unclean bathrooms, the cabinets that need put back together after my husband and his contractor pulled everything out to repair my broken kitchen drawers, and the bedroom carpet with the distinct pee stain that really needs shampooing.  Instead, I have spent a little time on Facebook, a lot of time peeking into people's homes in the Pittsburgh area courtesy of Trulia, and now this.  Sigh.

There was a time in my life when I never would have allowed myself this kind of down time.  Or if I did, only as a rare reward for something extraordinary.  It's not that I didn't do anything fun.  It's just that I didn't do nothing at all.  But, it occurred to me yesterday, after I got home from work to an empty house, Greg off playing that video golf game he's addicted to and Marissa out of town with her boyfriend's family, and plopped down on my bed to stare somewhat mindlessly at an old Seinfeld episode that I've come full circle.  I am back to the point in my early 20's when I did my job, which carried with it no particular ongoing responsibility once I left the office, came home to only the dogs wanting/needing attention.  My time was my own in essence to do whatever I wanted within the means I had available (which wasn't much).  I could do nothing if I wanted to and there would be no one there to care.

But I rarely did back in those days.  Because I thought it was slovenly.  When I did just sort of sit around, I felt horribly guilty about it.  I felt as though I was wasting my life and my youth.  I needed to be up doing something productive.  Anything.  Of course, on the other hand, there was the lost night when the Austin area first got MTV, and I sat almost transfixed in front of my little portable TV just watching hour after hour of music videos.  I remember watching U2's Gloria over and over, fascinated by these unknown boys from Ireland.  Trust me, that totally counts as doing nothing.

What I failed to take into account back in those days was that I should have savored the ability to just laze around because once I began a true career, started a family and became responsible for my own house with more than a few tiny rooms, there would be absolutely no time at all to sit and simply reflect or watch the sunset or ponder the existence of fireflies. 

Now I'm full circle.  Back to where the dogs crowding around my feet are the only ones who truly need anything from me, and even they are more often than not fed and watered by my husband.  All they really need from me on a lot of days is affection.  The difference is that now I can accept the value of sitting and doing nothing.  (Fantasizing about bumping into Mario Lemieux at Home Depot after pulling off a move to Sewickley completely matches a lost night of MTV - maybe even trumps it.)

I know now that just contemplating the sound of the cicadas in the dark is healthy for the soul and recharges batteries worn down by the corrosion of time and experience.  I believe in and relish in the power to do nothing, absolutely nothing, but take up space in the universe for a little while every now and again.  The bathroom will be about the same amount of dirty in 30 minutes as it is right now, when the birds are chirping and the wind chimes are singing.  Right now, they seem more important.

But, wow, what a strange, hard road to get back here.

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