busy doing nothing…

When did it become unacceptable to be unoccupied?

To take time to smell the flowers?

To contemplate one’s navel?

To daydream?

To be bored…

“Only boring people are bored” Does anyone say that anymore?  It seems that children’s lives are now packed full of activities – extra tuition, sports clubs, dance classes, musical instruments, car maintenance and junior nuclear physics…  and this is on top of before and after school clubs.  I might even have had children if I known I’d never actually have to see them!

When do they get to mooch around the garden and sit on someone’s wall kicking their heels and being told off for scuffing their shoes?  The first mention of the B-word and a whole world of activities are offered – the newspapers are full of advice on how to occupy your family in the holidays.

I remember being told to go and find something to do if I ever complained I was bored – don’t think it did me any harm.  It probably did me good – I am an adult who is only bored when I choose to be.  How can anyone ever be bored when there are books and films – even if they don’t have hobbies (which I do have in abundance…)  You need time as a child to use and develop your imagination and learn to be creative – how does that happen if you are spoon fed entertainment on demand?  We used to act out books we’d read (everyone I knew read) or make up stories and we could roam – admittedly further than people feel is safe these days – and have adventures!  They weren’t really dangerous (they weren’t really adventures) but they certainly kept us occupied.

Doing nothing is a whole different thing to being bored.  If I take some time off and tell people that I’m not going away and don’t have a detailed home improvement scheme to complete some look at me quite oddly and say ‘but won’t you be bored?’  I prefer the people who say “lucky you!”

There is a photo that I always keep on my desk.  It was taken in a cafe in Santorini and I can still capture that exact moment.  I can feel the heat of the sun, hear the sound of the busy busy people going past, smell the homemade food from the kitchen and feel the hot soft prickliness of the fur of the cat who thought that the best seat in the house was on top of my feet!  If I’d been busy texting, phoning, status updating or even just reading the paper would I be able to transport myself back there?  Probably not – but I can look into that picture any time I like and escape to a quieter time.

It’s healthy to take time out – the world is too busy and noisy to think and if you have the luxury of a day or more when you can just be instead of doing then it is a huge joy.

Take some time out…

Let your mind wander (I promise it will come back!) (Usually…)

Just try doing nothing – and that includes not feeling guilty about it!

6 thoughts on “busy doing nothing…

  1. Couldn’t agree more. I enjoy watching my children run around the house alternately hiding from and then scaring each other while pretending to be ghosts, and many other imaginary games that they make up to stop feeling bored.

    Also, at the risk of sounding too much like the HR Manager I am, recent thinking suggests that in order to minimise stress everyone needs an average of 9 hrs sleep a night; regular, moderate and non-competitive exercise AND at least one day a week to rest body and mind. That rest means doing nothing at all, not watching TV, not surfing the web, not having a glass of wine, but giving your body and especially your mind a complete break. How many people actually do that, ‘cos I don’t know any?!

  2. It’s important to do nothing on a regular basis…otherwise you end up with a backlog of nothing (it’s like laundry) and you have to catch up with it all at once…
    S x

  3. Nice post. I managed to do this in Crete recently. Decided at the last minute not to bring my laptop so had a week off from the book, and therefore Twitter and email as well. Fantastic decision which helped me unwind and properly drink in the place. Your description of childhood ‘adventures’ is spot on – completely resonant of mine too, the last generation that were allowed to stay out all day…

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