Does doing nothing equal something ?

Not really Hank


I was really out of it the other day, because I had a dental implant. I know, it’s miraculous, and I am thrilled, but the day after really knocked me out. I tried to work, but I just couldn’t get my brain to function, and finally just sat on the couch trying to read.

I felt really guilty about it. I thought: I should be doing something. This doesn’t hurt that much. I have too much to do. I’m going to get even more behind. I can’t just sit here.

And after I thought ”I can’t just sit here,” I thought: really? Why not? Why can’t I do this, do nothing, for some finite amount of time?

And it wasn’t even really nothing, you know? I was reading a book, a wonderful book, written by an author I get to interview next week and I am so excited. So it wasn’t even nothing! So why did I feel guilty?

Do you all feel guilty when you relax? Or try to relax? Or can you just–-relax? Does doing nothing equal something?

JENN McKINLAY: Surprising no one, I’m sure, I’m not very good at doing nothing. I’m so bad at doing nothing that the last time I can remember being still and doing nothing (not even reading), I was sitting on the couch in our cottage in Nova Scotia, watching my mom and my sis-in-law play Yahtzee. It lasted twenty glorious minutes and then I had to go walk the beach or pick wild raspberries or something. I wish I could do nothing more often. I truly do, but I’m just not wired that way.

RHYS BOWEN: I’m another one in the not good at doing nothing club. If we go on vacation to one of those all-inclusive resorts I can sit under an umbrella with a book for the first morning then I find myself saying to John, “So there’s a kayak trip to see dolphins and then a Spanish class…"

The closest I come to this inner peace is driving to a local cove called China Camp. I have a year’s membership so I don’t have to pay for parking. It’s a tiny beach on the San Francisco Bay and I sit staring out at the water, watching seabirds and children playing at the edge. It’s very relaxing and restoring but after an hour the little voice starts whispering “You should be getting home. You have those emails to answer. That blog to write.”

I once did a meditation class and was told to clear my mind and think of nothing. What? How can anybody clear their minds? Mine is always running a mile a minute.

HANK: Ha! Me, too, Rhys. I started thinking: how can I think about nothing? What is nothing, really? That’s kind of interesting, because nothing is something, whoa, you could think about nothing and nothingness and infinity forever. It’s fascinating. I wonder what nothing really is….

So much for thinking about nothing.

LUCY BURDETTE: Me too, terrible at sitting around. Terrible. Here’s a photo of something I wrote in grade school–see, it’s my destiny.

HANK: Lucy, that's either hilarious or terrifying...

LUCY: I know! The question is, did the teacher have everybody writing that down over and over? Or did I make it up? Either way is frightening! Anyway, there's always a long to-do list on my desk and more in my phone notes, so it doesn’t feel right not to be working. Luckily for me I suppose, Lottie has to be walked several times a day so that’s downtime. Also, yoga class does not allow me to think or worry.

A couple weeks ago, I saw John on the couch in the middle of the day doing the crossword puzzle. “You’re just relaxing?” I asked, with maybe a hint of criticism in my voice. It’s hard to get past that!

HALLIE EPHRON: Doing the crossword puzzle is not “just relaxing” IMHOP! It’s part of my daily regimen, along with a walk. And Spelling Bee. And… ohhhh I can be so busy busy busy doing “nothing.”

What I find terrifying is that I can no longer and *really* do nothing. No cell phone, book, newspaper, computer. Just BE. Wait for birds to show up in the birdbath. Commune with the stars or clouds or whatever. I’m sure I could have done that, once upon a time.

I don’t think I ever “do nothing” when I’m inside. There is always work, or chores, or that to-do list. Even in the bath I’ll be listening to an audio book. If I am outside and there is a view, or a sunset, or just the birds in the backyard, I can sit for a while, but it doesn’t last long. On the other hand, I spend way too much time staring out the window when I should be writing! 

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I think I know why I'm the Red whose books are always so late... I love doing nothing, and practice it on the regular. I mean, I don't stare into space for long periods of time, unless I'm standing by the sink trying to remember why I walked in the kitchen. But I can spend hours reading for fun, taking meaningless strolls, looking at pretty pictures in the Internet, napping (is there anything more blissful than a Sunday nap?) playing Mah-Jong solitaire... 


Honestly, I'm pretty sure I'm a writer because it's the laziest job I could come up with.

HANK: A. A. Milne had Pooh and Christopher Robin discuss it:

"What I like doing best is Nothing."

"How do you do Nothing," asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.

"Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're going off to do it, 'What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?' and you say, 'Oh, Nothing,' and then you go and do it.

It means just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."

"Oh!" said Pooh.”

What do you all think, Reds and readers? How good are you at doing nothing ? Do you believe in the italian saying "Dolce far Niente"? (Which means "the sweetness of doing nothing.")