The Beauty of Doing Nothing (Until It Gets Plain Ugly)

Freelance workers. Business owners. Juggling managers. Diligent employees. Keen-to-impress interns. We all do it: dream of long days of nothingness. Imagine hours not filled with deadlines, checklists, worry and rush.

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On those weeks with runs of 6am starts and 11pm finishes, where the laundry basket is overflowing and the post remains unopened (specifically the window envelopes, funny enough), we wistfully consider what it must be like to have days where no demands are made on you, from you or from those around you. I find myself envying my friends on maternity leave with their daytime TV and endless cups of tea, interrupted only to meet other new mums at coffee mornings (yes, easy know I’ve never had a baby). As December rolled in we added more hours to the work day in the hope that this slog would at least help toward making the dream of days where dressing is optional, a reality.

busstop And as Christmas rolled in and the wind down finally arrived, I thought ‘this, I could get used to’. Where once every festive day was filled with constant boozing and socializing, my life has now become slightly less ‘spirited’ and the need to find myself in a busy boozer every single night of the season seemed to dissipate. St. Stephen’s Day saw me take to my couch with such love it was like the very first time all over again. The fire was lit, the fridge was leftover heavy and the TV was shite (but that didn’t matter). A day of endless flicking, snacking and snoozing was the stuff dreams were made of, weren’t they? When the poor TV lineup began to really disappoint, I decided to sign up to Netflix (again). A free month and surely… surely, there was more on it than there had been when I took this journey in the past. I mean as far as I could see, the entire population of Facebook were watching some gripping piece of Netflix entertainment.

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As it turns out their offering was just as bad as before, nay, worse. Finally I found and watched Annie Hall, and followed it up with Eat, Pray, Love. Now find me one person that actually liked that movie and I’ll eat my hat but I was willing to use it as snoozing fodder.  Julia being my hooker icon for a number of decades now meant this particular Hollywood douser already had some plus points from where I was sitting  And, to be fair, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole thing; nothing like lowered expectations to bring out the best in a movie (person / place / meal). Yes it was cringe inducing, predictable and not in the least bit challenging, but isn’t that what this longed for extended period of nothingness was to be all about?

womenreading1 Yes, it was. This was confirmed when Julia moves to Italy for 4 months and discovers Dolce Far Niente, meaning The Beauty of Doing Nothing. Exactly, Julia. Exactly! I watched her shovel down pasta, scoff pizza and guzzle wine to her heart’s content and I it was clear that she knew what was up. Doing nothing was the business. As the movie – and the evening – went on, my legs began to get slightly restless. Soon I was considering the possibility that her nothingness seemed more involved than my own. When she showered she didn’t just get back into another (albeit brand new and fluffy) pair of pajamas. Next thing she was in India. I went to India! I spent a month adventuring, discovering and battling. It was exhausting. There was very little down time (unless you count the Ashram of course but the yoga still killed me) but I was remembering that it was thoroughly exhilarating, that relentless need to plan and make happen. But I was here now, pajama-ing. And it was great. As I crawled to bed I patted myself on the back for a day well done. Yes sirree. Watch me take tomorrow and do absolutely nothing with it.

And so the days continued. There was some visiting and catching up of course. Mostly, however, there was eating and drinking of red wine at ungodly hours of the morning (the morning drinking when you have actually been to bed the night before). And there was more consumption to tackle. Well that once a year purchase of white sliced pan wasn’t going to eat itself, is it? And so, Christmas cliché as it sounds, my waistline grew accordingly. As it did, I began missing my gym. Missing my gym? Who had I become? Well I absolutely refuse to go to the gym because I’m using my time doing absolutely nothing. And. It’s. Beautiful. I considered returning some items but I was told town was busy. I thought about sorting out my nails but they say Dundrum was a nightmare. And I was not bringing that upon myself. I will not upset my perfect plan. A long walk? That seemed just unchallenging enough to make the nothing cut.

ladies walking And so I took myself and my pal, The Clever Counter off to Bray and walked along the coast all the way to Greystones . Heroes we were; absolute legends in our own eyes. For some reason it did take about three hours and I pondered how people that aren’t doing nothing would ever have time for such meandering, lingering jaunts. We rewarded ourselves with some hot chocolate with marshmallows (of course) , cheese & crackers and Bakewell tart. I rolled home with a sort of fluey feeling and a fleeting thought that I couldn’t actually remember the last time I cooked or vegetable I consumed.

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As I found myself entering the last day of 2014, looking ever so slightly rotund, feeling positively lethargic and absent of any sense of achievement, I couldn’t help wondering if this doing nothing was all it was cracked up to be. Julia certainly didn’t appear to display any of my aforementioned symptoms after her life-changing discovery. In fact she looked utterly glowing. Clearly we experienced different formulas. Doing nothing is fine and well in theory but have you actually ever met anyone that succeeded at it? ‘Oh him, he deserves all of that triumph, he did absolutely nothing’ ‘I know, look at her, she’s simply marvelous at what she does. She got there doing simply nothing’. I understand that by looking for the achievement in doing nothing I am more than slightly missing the point but right now I think you can keep your nothing, thank you very much. So I don’t want nothing but I’m trying to not want everything. I believe my word for 2015 shall be balance.

new-years-eve-1950s As I write I am promising myself aim for 5-10 minutes calmness in my everyday. I will try to bring myself back down to earth by taking a few moments to switch off, literally and figuratively. It’s unlikely I’ll take my schedule down a notch and I’m not about unrealistic resolutions this year so instead I will try to fill it with more positive activities like exercise (well if you can’t at least believe it on January 1st when can you?); walking – the 8 year old school nature walk variety rather than the ‘I’m wearing a pedometer type; meeting with friends for long chats and laughs instead of limited characters and LOLs; hanging out with family; eating – still – but feeding myself with goodness; listening – the type that doesn’t have competition from screens or message notifications of any variety. So nothing groundbreaking here, I know. Nothing at all sexy. But hey, this year I’m talking about a resolution rather than a revolution. If I can remember these basics and stick to them, I think I’ll be able to appreciate my mini attempts at Dolce Far Niente more than my previous extreme pursuit. And then I’ll probably stop envying my friends that have sore nipples, dirty nappy fatigue and can’t remember what sleep is.

laughing Wishing y’all a year where you achieve everything that is possible. Or nothing, if that’s what you prefer.

x Irene x

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