do nothing

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I just started reading How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy  after ages of it being on my “to read” list. Just twenty-six pages in, and I’m already feeling like this is one to highlight, star, dog-ear and re-read. In fact, I’m kicking myself for starting it last night in bed without a pen in hand. After a year of stress that was also marked by the opportunity for some of us very lucky, privileged people to slow down, I’m feeling resonance with the author’s thesis.

Before quarantining at home, I always heard that prickly little voice whispering something in my ear about the need to tune-out more. Throughout that experience of living and working at home, I had more time than ever to mindlessly scroll, but it also highlighted so clearly for me how much my life was previously marked by busy-ness and stress.

I have a cyclical habit of overdoing everything with energy and fervor top-speed, and then following that whirlwind with a necessary time of dropping out, being quiet, being alone, and, frankly, being exhausted by the mental and emotional exertions of the day to day. I vaguely knew and understood this cycle, but couldn’t really acknowledge or accept it in myself. I also felt owned by it.

After so much time to slow down, after the freedom from the burden that socializing sometimes feels like for me, and the freedom from the guilt of never feeling like I’m doing enough, I realized that this cycle is something I can not only accept, but, to a certain extent, embrace. I can enjoy the energy and enthusiasm when it’s here. I can use it and appreciate its utility. I can also fully enjoy the slowness and solitude. I can plan for it, allow a little bit more of it, trust myself to know when it’s needed.

Before these experiences, I felt deeply aware of the American cultural taboo against going slow, resting, taking it easy—as a result, I felt shame or tried to push aside the need for rest as long as possible. Now, I’m trying to listen to the feeling in me when it whispers, and heed its message. If I’m feeling slow, I take it slow. If my energy isn’t where I want it to be, I forgive myself– tell myself there’s nothing to forgive, in fact.

I’ll admit I’m not always perfect (big duh!). I write this all as if it’s my successful present tense. It’s not always. Sometimes it’s a promise to future me. But the point is, I’ve shifted things. I don’t feel like a different person, but I do feel like a wiser creature, a more loving and balanced human. And that’s pretty joyful in and of itself.

prompt #53:

Grab that timer and set it for five minutes. I know we may be tired of all the think pieces, and I definitely feel frustration at hearing people describe the pandemic as if it’s all in the past, so I don’t mean to do that; however, as you can well tell from this newsletter, I’m a pretty big fan of taking time for self-reflection.

So, for today, I encourage you to contemplate these questions: what have you learned over the past year and a half? How are you different? How have you grown? And also, for good measure, how are you the same?

As always, take a break after your timer goes off, then go back for a read. See what you think. Take your writing and trim it or fill it out. Let the piece guide you. And, if you’d like, share with us what you’ve made! Hit “reply” and I’ll post it in our next newsletter.

ashley’s piece, if the world ended today:

You ask me if I’m the same person,

“I feel totally new.”

You’ve transformed, and you feel it,

see it,

know it.

I, though, am still me.

I still enjoy my solitude.

I still ooze energy.

I still take my pants straight off after a long, exhausting day.

I still prefer a book.

I still soak in the sun.

If you are a different person,

I’ll stretch alongside you,

slither my feet under your thighs,

bother you with my need for touch,

upset you with my temper,

not because I want to,

but because I must.

I’ve been a thousand people before,

my cells have all changed,

but at the core is something

eternally me.

If the world was over today, I’d still

be reaching for a book,

screaming with frustration,

crying at a hard word,

not because I want to,

but because I must.

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