The importance of doing “nothing”


It feels good to get back to the blog.  I processed some huge chunks of work over the past couple months.  After almost a year of planning, dreaming, and the almost constant guilty “do I dare?” thoughts, I quit a job that I hated.  With nothing to go to.  No safety net.  No new job waiting in the wings that allowed me to take a mere day or two off in between.  No more constant push push onto the next thing.  I had something I haven’t had in years.  Like since the summers before I started working in high school. I had UNSTRUCTURED FREE TIME.  And no fucking clue what to do with it.  The only time it’s ever been okay to do nothing is when I’ve been sick and my body has forced me to take a break from my insanely stressful jobs, my anxiety, my chaotic life.  And then, I never really rested.  I sat around, hacking, coughing, or whatever- and berated myself for all the things I should be doing in my house because I wasn’t at work.  The urge to be productive is so hard wired into my character that it’s become a royal pain in my ass.

I firmly believe that we all need down time.  And I just recently learned how to allow myself to truly take it.  I spent a lot of time during my work career fantasizing about what I would do if I had the time.  The vacations, the writing, the sleeping in, the cooking, the almost endless list of projects…. if I just had time, I would get all that shit done.  I had a HUGE to do list of What I Would Accomplish After I Quit My Job.  And when I finally woke up on July 9 with no job that needed going to, I kind of cratered.

I don’t think I really had any clue how exhausted I had been for so long.  I slept a lot the first two weeks.  I told myself I would postpone the List and give myself 30 days to do whatever the hell I felt like doing every day.  After 30 days, I would start looking for part time work and start developing my businesses.  Then I could truly figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Now I was always a kid with direction.  When I was 15, I decided I was going to law school.  I finished high school with that goal, chose my college majors with that goal in mind (Who in their right mind chooses the exciting major of political science otherwise?)  I had no flippin interest in Political Science.  Politics bored me.  I thought Government was boring.  But I wanted to be a lawyer, and this is what you did  when you wanted to be a lawyer. I made some smart choices.  After the demise of my financial aid sophomore year, I worked really hard to finish my AA so I could transfer maximum credits to a school in Colorado, where my parents were moving.  I started school and worked full time to finish.  My parents helped me as much as they could-much more than I realized at the time.  I remember calling my mom when I had one more Political Science class left to take to fulfill my BA requirements.  By that time, I HATED my major. I was not going to take one more class.  Her response was “what do you mean you don’t LIKE it?”  (My mom’s attitude was usually “it really doesn’t matter what you like.  Do it anyway.”)  I was only halfway through my junior year and didn’t have enough credits to graduate. So, I chose to shift my Communications minor into a second major.  And I didn’t take that goddamned Political Science class until the last possible minute-spring term of my senior year.  I graduated with a double major.

Drive to succeed is not my issue; direction is.  I have been blessed enough in my life that I can seemingly do whatever it is I set my mind to.  The only exception I have discovered so far has been understanding college level macroeconomics.  I worked really hard for once in that class and the professor was still speaking Greek.  I read the book.  I think I was the only one  in class that really filled out that stupid workbook.  I still had no concept what the hell that man was talking about. It drove me crazy!  I was not used to academic failure.    We had to do a computer simulation on economic conditions in that class, and the prof said our average score would be somewhere in the 70’s.  I, of course, waited til the night before it was due to try the simulation- I really have always harbored secret hatred for computers.  I walked into class the next morning and told the prof I needed some tutoring, since  I obviously had no understanding of the interrelatedness of  economic factors.  When he asked what my score was on the simulation, I told him I got a negative 12.  NEGATIVE FUCKING TWELVE.  And he said (I will NEVER forget this)  “That’s okay.”  IN WHAT ALTERNATE UNIVERSE IS A NEGATIVE TWELVE AN ACCEPTABLE GRADE????    I was a freakin honor student.  I didn’t HAVE to study- I was lucky that school was easy for me.  Until this class.  I took it as a personal affront.  I busted my ass and still ended up with a C by the skin of my teeth and the mercy of the bell curve.

Once I started working at age 15, I never really quit.  There were times in my early 20’s that I had 3 jobs at once.  The law school thing didn’t pan out (and this is a good thing)   I’ve always either had a job or looked for a job.  Sometimes both at once.  I don’t know that I ever quit a job without a Plan B.  I got fired twice (both times in the last ten years as my tolerance for inter office bullshit began to wane) and those were interesting growth experiences.  My point is that I NEVER did “nothing.”  Adults don’t do NOTHING.  People who do nothing are lazy slobs.  People to be frowned upon.  Is it a surprise that doing nothing was never in my family’s plan?.  In a culture where you are valued for what you can do, produce, or accomplish, doing “nothing” with your life will bring about gasps of horror from everyone around you.  I have to say I got a perverse glee many times in the past month having this conversation:

Me:  So, I quit my job…

Other person (with expression vacillating between terror and fear): What are you going to do next?

ME:  I have no clue what’s next for me, but I’m open to it.  (BIG smile)

Other person:  …….<crickets>………

Wow.  The varied reactions to this interchange are ALWAYS interesting.   And a whole world has opened up to me in the last 30 days.  I have tons more writing material, much of it dealing with fear.  Despite feeling excited about being on this Grand Adventure, there is a quivering part of me that’s been terrified to step off the path of “work hard and then die.”  The part of me that is still invested in what I am SUPPOSED to be doing.  I’m not supposed to quit a job at 48 years old in a shitty economy and go pursue my life’s passion-  who does THAT?!?!  It goes against everything I’ve ever been conditioned to do. I have no husband, no children, no one that I have to be responsible for.  The fact of the matter is, I can do whatever the hell I want to do.

If this is my midlife crisis, I fully embrace it.  I just want to be happy in my own skin.  That’s my new version of success.  I want to make a living doing something that I love.  Something that has integrity and helps people.  My goals are different from the goals of those who used to plan my life for me.  And those people who think what I am doing is CRAZY.

So I quit my job.  I slept.  I watched endless hours of TV and napped.  I played with my dogs.  I did not end up cleaning my house or doing any of those “responsible” things on my list.  I played.  I listed to music.  I rested my impoverished adrenal system.  I got off the anti-anxiety meds  and anti depressants .  All of them.  I healed.  I laughed and cried and felt.  I lived my life indulging myself for 30 days.  It changed my life.    I dreamed and considered what FELT right as a next step. I  spent time with people I love.  I planned trips to see more people I l love.

If I play my cards right, I don’t have to work for 18 months.  I’ve tweaked my own plan as I evolved and began to feel happy again.  I developed hope that I might actually achieve a few of those dreams.   A wonderful opportunity presented itself to me, and I’m working part time at a job I love with happy people who love what they do.  This is such a weird concept for me that it’s taken some getting used to.  I go to work, and nobody bitches.  It’s BIZARRE.  I was raised with the attitude of “well, you’re not supposed to ENJOY it.  That’s why they call it work…” I’ve gotten back in touch with who I am and what I love.  For the moment, I’ve stopped fighting everything and pushing and killing myself.  I’ve started laughing and dreaming and loving much more openly, and I’m a better person for it.  And I’ve planted the seeds of my future by taking a step off the cliff and taking a chance on me.  I’ve furthered my evolution as a human being.

So what have I done lately?  “Nothing,” my ass….

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~ by dancingwiththeshadow on September 18, 2011.

One Response to “The importance of doing “nothing””

  1. I am so very proud of you and so very happy for you.

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