What Doing Nothing Taught Me
If you're a long-time reader you'll know there's a few things I'm passionate about. Craft beer (dark), locally-roasted coffee, fine kilts, cool old cars, and George MacDonald. Besides being buddies with Lewis Carroll and CS Lewis's literary inspiration, he also has a ton of awesome mind-bending quotes. One of which is, "There is such a thing as sacred idleness."
Ahh. It's like sinking into a hot bath after a cold day outside. It's feeling in your gut that everything really is ok. It's doing nothing while being perfectly content.
For example, yesterday was Sunday and one of the things I love to do on Sundays is Cheers Cheers for Sunday Beers! I find a local microbrewery, order something dark, and just sit there. Doing nothing. Basking in the atmosphere, doing nothing like a cat curled up in the sun. I do this because my weeks as a marketer can be long and stressful. I do this over time because a pair of days off just isn't enough for me to begin recuperating mentally. It's so easy to do too much and not even realize it. It's not good to ignore our own bodies as they switch their tired check engine lights on for us each day, knowing that there's a high chance we'll just ignore it again. We wait for things to get too bad. We wait until the smoke comes up from our engines. It's more than the occasional weekend oil change. We need real rest on a regular basis so that we actually feel and function better.
Especially coming out of a success-driven culture where you're supposed to brag about how much you work, how much of an asshole you can be in emails, and how late you get home I realized during the Pandemic that I was sick. Not from Covid, but from stress. From the weight of success's constant demand. From the facade of this person I felt like everyone was expecting me to be. After months of self-quarantining at home, I was forced to change. Imposed sacred idleness is a hell of a drug.
Now, I clock in (remotely) at 8a and clock out at 4p. I take breaks. I usually cook my meals. I have music on or a show I've seen a million times playing in the background. Once I clock out, I'm out. I don't care if work is on fire. I'm also clocked out mentally from work too. I take a walk, I go out, I crack a beer and put on a show. I spend time with my wife. We have dinner. We play video games. I light candles after sunset. Shower. Change my clothes. Maybe have some tea and read before drifting off.
I zealously guard my weekends. I devote myself to the void of nothingness, as much as possible, on Saturdays and Sundays. Sure, I might do some house stuff, but it's leisurely. It's doing things I enjoy like gardening, writing, gaming, or getting out and around. I say no to things and I find that I am all the better for it.
I also take a week off each quarter. Doesn't matter if it's paid or unpaid. Work can deal. And if they can't, that's their problem or I shouldn't be working for them (As James Victore says in his awesome book, Feck Perfuction, "Never work for assholes."). I staycation or I visit one of the places on my running list. Day trip stuff mostly. Our regions where we live have awesome stuff and I have decided I'd rather not live my life in regret. And before anyone goes off on me about being privileged or classist know that I'm sacrificing for this. This way of living and thinking means I lose money. Standing at work (oftentimes). I have to scrimp for a car and gas that can get me there. I'm not an Instagram-perfect guy here. There are no Hiltons or 'bro-life' going on here. There's just things I like to do - experiences I've realized I want to have. Then I go and I breathe. And over time, I feel a little more human. That's all.
Now that I've moved back to the midwest, I can reopen my list of places I want to visit, which delights me because it gives me something to look anticipate throughout the year. Places like the Cahokia Mounds, House on the Rock, and the Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins. And someday, once I can get a better car and really set aside some funds, I want to drive up to Hudson Bay! (Baby steps, Ryan, baby steps)
All these things are important to me, not just for my own personal vitality and mental health, but because life is short. And I want to be able to say I came and saw and dipped my toe in it. It's really simple as that.
As a final shoutout, I wanted to let everyone know that I recently got my books into The Spine Bookshop in St Louis, Missouri. It's this awesome indie-only bookstore and cafe down there, with daily live/virtual events by local authors and artists. If you're ever in the area, go check them out and give them some love :)
Until next time,
happy reading :)