It’s a busy world we live in. From the moment we wake up in the morning to the time we lay down to sleep at night, we’re constantly moving, doing, and thinking. And that can be a good thing. But I’m also an advocate of doing nothing, and doing it often.
I was raised on a small, 32 acre dairy farm in the 60’s and 70’s. Our family of six consisted of mom and dad, two older brothers, myself, and a younger brother who was born severely handicapped. My grandmother lived in a mobile home beside of our farmhouse. Besides the hay fields, corn fields, and cattle, there were always two large gardens being taken care of in the summer, with freezing and canning in late summer. Dad also worked a construction job most of the time. So there was always work to be done somewhere, doing something.
This was my problem…I was born a dreamer. My mind was always someplace else or wishing I was someplace else. I would escape into fairy tale worlds, or dream of riding away from everything on a beautiful black stallion, fading into the sunset. I loved the animals and taking care of feeding the baby calves. But to be honest, there was nothing I hated more than scraping cow poop in the barn or hoeing weeds in the corn fields or gardens. I didn’t mind terribly much carrying pails of milk to the cooler in the milk house, but I hated getting hay out of the haymow for fear of a big black snake being curled up on a bale. I loved spending time with mom and grandma during canning season, and didn’t mind shelling peas and shell beans, but shelling Lima beans made my thumbs so sore I could cry. Sometimes I grumbled and complained and tried, unsuccessfully, to dream myself away.
Taking care of my little brother, Joey, was a task I never fussed about. I loved him. And I would often read to him and he would listen to my voice. He may not have known what I was saying, but I think it brought both of us joy to hear a rousing tale of Three Little Pigs, or a poem from my little book of verses.
Now, Dad always said I was lazy. And I was when it came to all the chores I didn’t like to do, which are the ones he always made me do. I was blessed with two older brothers who mostly got to do all the heavy work. A good work ethic is a wonderful thing to have in life, and I appreciate having been given one from a young age.
With so much work to be done, my dad hated to see me doing nothing. Reading was my passion and what I tried to do every chance I could get, and later it included writing, too. And nothing made my dad angrier than to see me reading or writing because to him, I was doing nothing. Yet, even the sting of the hickory switch and the burn of his belt couldn’t stop me from trying to do “nothing.”
Fifty years later and I’m still hearing voices yelling at me for doing nothing. Until the last few years, vacations of any kind were nonexistent. I would have to plan chores or work to be done around the house or on a project. Guilt would engulf every fiber of my being every time I picked up a book to read. Every time I would pick up paper and pen to write, fear of being found writing would grasp my chest in a stronghold.
Oh, those voices of the past can still be heard. Slowly, I’m learning to silence them somewhat, or at least turn down the volume. I cannot change the fact I was born with this instilled need to dream, read, and write about fact and fiction. Some will still call me lazy. I accept that. But I also now accept this, that doing what I love to do, what some call “nothing,” is exactly what I need to do to survive. When I succumb to the voices, I begin to die inside. When I resist them and follow my passions, I am renewed.
Some of my favorite times of doing nothing are when Maggie and I escape for a stay at a cabin. We’re going back there soon, and I am looking forward to turning the volume off on all the voices from the past and doing absolutely nothing but dreaming, reading, and writing. Doing nothing brings me joy, and I’m no longer apologizing for it. I know when I return home, I will be renewed in body and spirit.
My prayer today is that you find some kind of “nothing” that brings you joy.