The Art of Doing Nothing


A typical "flat white"

Okay, I think I’m about to perfect it.  I can now do practically nothing at all for a whole day and not really exert myself trying to do it.  Until recently attempting such a feat would end in frustration and exhaustion and I’d finally take on something that required a tremendous amount of effort.  Thankfully, and with persistent practice, I’m moving beyond that.

Case in point:  It was Sunday here today.  I got up at my usual 6:30, went into the kitchen to make coffee, got everything out on the counter and then promptly went back to bed.  I slept for another hour and a half.  When I got up again, I went into the kitchen and put all the coffee stuff away, pretended to tidy up a bit, and then went to a little coffee spot that I like around the corner.  I took my journal and a pen and it must have looked very Hollywood of me sitting there at the outdoor café scribbling in my notebook.  No one had to know that I was writing “Every good boy does fine,” “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country,” and “Peter Piper picked a peck….”  Repeat.  Repeat.  It’s all in the facial expressions and the intensity in which you approach your writing that impresses people.

Once I filled 4 pages of my journal and got a good coffee buzz (flat white) going, I came back to the apartment and perused the book collection of the people who really live here.  I picked out two.  Books are essential tools for doing absolutely nothing.  So is the Internet.  I read until lunchtime and then realized that I didn’t have any soda pop in the house (I still treat myself to one at lunch every day).  There’s a convenience store nearby (about 100 yards), I decided it would be a nice adventure to go over there and get a Sprite for lunch since the grocery store was another 100 yards away and I really wasn’t up to that much activity.

After lunch (leftover sausage sandwiches from the night before, potato chips (crisps in the local vernacular), and one of the freshest Sprites I’ve ever tasted, I decided that I should really take a nap.  But to be more productive I decided I’d read a few pages of the one of the books I’d picked out first (I’m not completely lazy).

After a nice slumber my body told me that I should go back out again and find another flat white but this time I should do so in a place with better people watching.  I often agree with my body, but what it didn’t realize was that in order to undertake such a strenuous ordeal, walking the three blocks to Oxford Street, I’d have to shower AND shave beforehand.  So I did, and I was able to protract that into another hour (hey, I’m sunburned and old; I have things to “attend” to).

I finally made it out of the house again.  On the way to Oxford Street I had to stop in a park to stop and relax.  I’d already gone two blocks nonstop and had another to go.  As I was sitting there I tried to remember the Prime Minister’s name.  Shit.  I’ve committed her name to memory so many times (I thought) only to have it escape me 30 minutes later.  The Premier of New South Wales is a similar problem.  They are both women…that I remember, and they seem like really nice people on TV.  I even listend to the Prime Minister’s New Year’s address.  She encouraged people to use the holidays to relax, spend time with familty, and “not to come back to work too soon.”  I’m not kidding, she actually said that.  I would have fallen off the couch if I weren’t so firmly rooted into the hollow that I’ve made in it.

I finally made it to my “other” coffee place, Coco Cubano, on Taylor Square,  and got my flat white (large, $3.95).  The large can last an hour, and I was regretful that I didn’t have my journal with me.  It would have been a great prop, I mean activity, there.  By now, it’s nearly 5:00pm.  If I walk slowly home, I can make that last until 5:15, check my email (nothing), check my voice mail (nothing), take a prepared dinner out of the refrigerator for later, write an article, and before you know it, you pretty much shot the entire day.

For those of you who work, I would not suggest attempting this entire regimen on the first day of your journey into “Nothingness.”  Start slow and add some activities.  You’ll see, you can gradually remove those activities until you can do absolutely nothing for an entire day and still feel like you’ve accomplished a lot.

It’s worth the effort.  Stick with it.

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8 thoughts on “The Art of Doing Nothing

  1. Snow days! That’s where I’ve perfected the art of doing nothing. I’ve been off three weeks and have graded two classes’ papers which leaves four to go. I have done no lesson plans and have put no grades in the computer. I must do so today, but it sure has been nice to have a break. My intentions last week were to work at least one hour per day on school work and go by school at least once to put my room in order. Oh well!

  2. You need to watch the Hugh Grant flick ‘About a Boy’. Not only one of my fav films but Hugh’s character has some cute insights on how he divides his day into segments or blocks…:-) And it would fill about 90 mins of your day 🙂

  3. So glad I got out of bed and turned on the computer today, because reading your latest RS post made my day… I will say that yesterday I to tried to do nothing.. Remember I have a 5 year old and Derek is visiting so I had to work extra hard at it, they seem to always interrupt ” my work”. But is was very rainy, cold, and a Saturday, so I am happy to report that I was able to watch a DALLAS marathon for almost 6 hours:).. I did go to Target and buy toothpaste ( i did not shower first), I sent Brent and Derek to pick up Chinese food for dinner so there for I did not cook and did not have to leave the house again.. Also I want to thank you for letting me know that doing nothing is a true art form, because I don’t have any other talents. And I have always been envious those who did.. I regret to say that even though I am just a stay at home mom, my art work will most likely not be practiced again for a very long time..But it does my heart good to know you are keeping up the good work and I can live vicariously threw your success…LOL Once again I love reading your post and if that is all you get done in a day just know that it brings much happiness. Oh, and also I love when I am thinking about something funny you wrote and just kind of giggle to myself and then Brent gives me “the look”, as to what is she laughing about.. I never tell him..;)

  4. I am SOOOOOOOO proud of your nothingness. Have you thought about tutoring-big market out there. It is another rainy, fog filled day. Hey, by chance, did you steal the sun?

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