Thursday, January 31, 2013

Do Nothing

There are turnaround moments in our lives, some monumental and some mundane.  Sometimes we know without a doubt when we experience one, some take days or months or weeks to catch up to us as such.

Last week I had a quiet night at home with my sweetie.  Neither of us had any plans on the evening, and ended up just doing our own thing, with him in his office and me downstairs.  I’ve been trying hard lately to separate my “work” hours from my “off work” hours (mostly to make sure that I actually have some off work hours!) and that evening I was trying to figure out what to do with the ones I had.

Innocently enough I started looking around the house for little chores I could get done or fun projects I could do, and it began to strike me that everywhere I looked were items or areas taunting me with obligational guilt, i.e. I was completely surrounded by “I should’s.”  It escalated, rather quickly, to the point where I was frantically pacing around the house feeling like I was in one of those horror movie scenes where everywhere the character turns there’s another scary thing in a quick zoom lens knocking them in the face ‘til either they go insane or the camera blacks out.

Seemingly small things had added up to make an overwhelming weight for me, and I was paralyzed to do anything at all about any of them.  I called my mom to try and calm down, and she asked me for an example of the “small things” I was referring to.  I went to a random surface in the bedroom and began naming off everything I saw there and why it was something else that “I should be doing.”  Then she asked me another good question.

What advice would you suggest to your readers if they were to find themselves in a situation like this?  What would you advise them to do?

After a second of contemplating this shiny new thought I practically yelled, “Chill out!  I would tell them to do nothing!”  

That was precisely what I needed to do.  That state of complete overwhelm and panic is a terrible place to do anything from, sometimes even impossible.  Once I surrendered to that notion, I tried relaxing on the couch playing my favorite game on Will’s phone.  Couldn’t do it.  Then I tried reading, but the second I opened the book I couldn’t do that either.  Nothing, Shawnee.  Just sit there, and be still.  Do...nothing.  Not as easy as it sounds, though I had NO idea it would be that difficult!  ...And I will confess that I never actually succeeded.  Thank God for midnight and a comfy bed ;)  

I know many of us can get so driven that it’s hard to get off the productivity train, even when it’s stalled out and stopped dead on the tracks.  It’s hard not to feel like every minute that goes by without something else getting done is five minutes wasted.  

My only flash of solace during this experience was, at my mom’s suggestion, to go around and make a list of every thing, big or small, that was the source of a “should” in my surroundings.  Hence began my daily fun of the Super Duper Ultimate To-Do List!  :)  It’s on a spread sheet on my computer, and I mark off the day something gets done, so I can organize it by day, with all the things I’ve already done at the top.  Sure, my list is well over 100 items long, including tasks, household or otherwise, of varying size (“make a new record” is right there next to vacuum the stairs), BUT in just a few days over 30 of those things got done!  I decided not to care how small something was.  As long as I determined it was taking up brain space, it qualified.  

Even if a list is long, at least then it’s quantifiable.  I much prefer to have it all written down where I can see it, rather than just feel the ominous presence of an unidentified shadow.

Ok then, I’m off to cross out “Write Thursday’s blog” now ;)

I wish you a beautiful day.  (And a little bit of nothing.)

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