Ten ways to enjoy doing nothing
By Stephanie Riley
Summer seems like the ideal time to try something new, so when I saw an article called “Ten Ways To Enjoy Doing Nothing,” I felt certain that this would be my new summer pursuit.
I’m surprised I hadn’t tried it before, because doing nothing sounds like my kind of thing: You don’t get sweaty, you don’t need special equipment and it’s free. Or so I thought.
Eager for my first lesson in laziness, I hired a babysitter, drove to my office, turned to the appointed page in Real Simple magazine and began reading.
Step 1: “Banish the guilt.” It says here that people feel guilt and shame for relaxing. The author reminds his readers that monks receive much praise for spending their days chanting and praying. If I used this approach, I would hear my children chanting “feed me” and I’d find myself praying for a housekeeper within about 25 minutes. I could banish the guilt, but the hunger would be tough to eliminate. Step 1 is clearly not for me. I’m no quitter, so I continued with the article.
Step 2 advocates choosing the right lazy role models. The author includes a list of notable slackers, including John Lennon, Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman. Aside from that whole between-the-sheets peace protest in 1969, Lennon did quite a lot in his day. They use his songs for commercials, for heaven’s sake. If that’s not working, I don’t know what is. And Wilde and Whitman were quite accomplished writers. Not my idea of doing nothing. Wait—if writing is indeed doing nothing, perhaps I’ve been doing it all along?
Steps 3, 4 and 5 on the road to idleness advise me to sketch a flower, take some time to go “bumbling” and play the ukulele. Seriously? Those are all things I suggest to my kids when I want them out of my hair so I can read Real Simple magazine.
Step 6 provided some alarming information. We’ve lost an entire day of the week! Says right here: “Bring Back Sundays.” Apparently, while I was doing nothing (aka writing), we sold Sunday to China to pay the national debt. Dang, I’m gonna miss Sunday, especially since the author suggests that I devote it to drinking wine and eating chocolate. I had definitely been going the wrong route by doing laundry and cooking on that day. As soon as I find Sunday, I promise to change my ways and dedicate it to these other noble pursuits.
Tips 7 through 9 are amusing, and clearly not meant for parents. The author suggests things such as: lie in a field, gaze at the clouds and take a nap. When I got to this part of the list, I knew that this guy was a multitasker just like me.
I could easily do all of these things simultaneously. If I had the time. I think he got bored with his list and just added some stuff to fluff it up. Besides, doesn’t he know that if you lie in a field, you are going to need sunscreen and insect repellent and maybe someone to put your hair in a ponytail so you don’t get tangles? That sort of takes the idleness right out of it if you have to tend to sunburn, mosquito bites and snarls later.
Here are some additional bits of advice from the article:
Sleep in church. Says here, “If curling up in your office isn’t an option, go somewhere quiet like a church.” Last time I checked, they kind of frowned on sleeping in church. Even for the monks, this is a no-no. Unless you chant in your sleep.
Busy people are to blame for global warming. “It is precisely our restless activity that has caused the environmental crisis.” This line right here proves to me that the author is not some idler, but someone who is thinking about climate change when he is supposed to be staring at clouds while playing the ukulele. Also seems that the author broke rule 1 about guilt. When I have another free moment, remind me to write him an e-mail about that.
Finally, step 10: Pretend to meditate. The real thing sounds very peaceful and restful, but apparently that’s too John Lennon for the author, who says that meditation is just an excuse to go into your room and read.
The next time I want to read, I guess I will get out a sketchbook, draw a picture of a ukulele and pretend to meditate. But first, I have to find Sunday. I did learn two things while I was out. First of all, doing nothing is not free. While I was trying to hone my skills, I spent $20 in babysitting, $50 on wine and chocolate and $45 for a parking ticket.
I also learned that I didn’t need to read a magazine to learn how to do it. I just needed to ask my kids. When I returned home to find them in a room surrounded by electrical cords, peanut butter and Legos, I demanded to know what they were doing. The answer was, of course, nothing.