Normalizing the act of doing nothing
By Abe Villarreal
Even as I write this, I'm thinking of sitting outside my second floor apartment and just staring out at what seems like nothing. Thoughts of seeing little movements of almost somethings happening are making me happy.
The sounds of cars passing by or doors closing in the distance only happen after long stretches of hearing almost no sound. Still, there must be sound happening all around. I just can't hear it, and I like that there isn't much of anything to hear.
When I think of the happiest people in the world, I think of older men sitting outside their front doors and looking out into the world with appreciation that there are moments to do just what they are doing in that moment. They've lived their life. They've heard a lot of noise, sometimes too much noise. Now, they want to sit and appreciate what they see around them.
They aren't waiting for a parade to pass by or hoping for a ride to pick them up. They know what time it is because it's about the same time of day that they come together for a whole lot of nothing. They aren't listening for the phone to ring. The TV set is inside and turned off.
They are doing what I feel like doing right now – nothing. I think people that do nothing for good chunks of their existence live happier, longer lives. They do what they have to do to feed their families and pay the bills, and when that is out of the way, they just sit and relax.
During those times of silence and thought, their appreciation for what they have intensifies. At the end of the day, they have time to think about what they did, how hard they worked at doing it, and how much others are benefitting from it. After thinking about all that, they smile, knowing that life is passing by too quickly and sitting and smiling isn't done as much as it should be done.
Society frowns at those of us that are even thinking of spending time doing nothing. We are told that there is too much too do and too little time to do it. We are lectured on the value of using our free time going above and beyond, spending more time at work, doing something for someone else.
I, too, am guilty of pushing these mindsets. I spend too much of my free time staying busy. And each year I promise myself that I need to use more of my time just sitting and doing nothing. I know that even if I dedicated one or two extra hours a week to nothingness that I would still have time to do all the other things that I'm meant to do.
I want to be like those older men sitting outside their front porch all smiles. They lived their life and now they are enjoying it, but I don't want to wait until my life has been lived to enjoy it. When I see their faces, they look like faces that have experienced many ups and downs, with lines running in all directions, and still, their expressions are more rested than most people I encounter at work or at the store.
Take a moment of your time this week to do nothing. Don't feel guilty about it. Forget about deadlines and worries. Grab a chair, go outside, and sit.
Life will be waiting for you when you get back. Until then, just do nothing.
Abe Villarreal writes about life and culture in southern New Mexico. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.