{ the art of doing nothing }

I found a bookmark in a used book I purchased several months ago but only recently decided to read.

When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person that walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.

Haruki Murakami

True words. Jay and I are finding new measurements of peace in the aftermath of loss. We’ve spent several months focusing increased attention on maintaining our emotional energy levels, and we wondered if the holidays were going to be particularly draining.

As it turned out, our holidays were quiet and contemplative. I think that’s the first time in 48 years of marriage I can really speak to that.

In early December I walked out of  Vroman’s bookstore with a title I couldn’t resist. “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy,” by Jenny Odell, was calling my name.

I’m still digesting the author’s premise that “Nothing is harder to do these days than nothing. But in a world where our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity…doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance.”

What’s the personal appeal?

I’m no longer contributing through the workforce, I’m not interested in making a name for myself, and I’m really content being described as a happily retired grandmother. What could possibly be “driving” me? What do I need to resist?

There’s a reason I haven’t put up a blogpost in a couple of months. Whenever I faced the computer screen all I could think was, “Why would anyone want to know what I’m thinking about anything?”

Rather than feel distress at this thought, I actually felt relieved. It feels good to know that I’m not promoting anything at all. Not even my opinions.

I have felt drained, however, by excessive negativity, critiquing, and the incessant anger and pervasive judgments that seem to be hard for me to tune out. I don’t know when I reached a saturation level, but I did.

So I’ve had to find a strategy to keep my energy high and not to give in to the siren song of griping.

I know what I need.

I always find my best self when I’m near the ocean, and even the possibility of bringing the beach indoors works for me!

I enjoyed a wonderful day with a friend who was fortunately staying at the beautiful Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach. What a treat for me to meet her there!

And any time it’s clear enough off the coast to enjoy a view of Catalina Island I am happy to sit, even in the cold, with my only thought and focus, what a privilege to live where this is all so close. I might have been humming “Let it Go, Let it Go…”

I love the ocean in winter.

 

I know my response to the noise and clatter of today’s “opinionating” isn’t at all unique to me.  Sensitive people of all ages are questioning how we can turn the tide of negativity and become a more pluralistic society.

While I wait…

I can’t always stop the unnecessary chatter, but I can cultivate whatever peaceful pastimes drown out unnecessary cacophony.

I keep this Carl Jung quote next to my computer.

I am looking forward enormously to getting back to the sea again, where the overstimulated psyche can recover in the presence of that infinite peace and spaciousness.

I hope we can all find quiet places to retreat from the maelstrom.

May 2020 be the year we all find a place to rest our often overstimulated psyches.

Perhaps with intention we can better understand the gift of doing nothing.

 

64 thoughts on “{ the art of doing nothing }

  1. Oh Debra, first of all, peace to you and cheers to you favoring comfort and balance. On the other hand, why would anyone want to know your thoughts? That’s easy – some of us care about you and are willing to listen to what you have to say – but I also have a sense of what you are saying.

    FYI: Because we go back so far, I want to make sure you know. Although I haven’t set a timetable, but I see my closing posts starting in the last half of this month. Keep you eyes open. BTW – the last concert will be this weekend … DUETS – (not duos) – EX: Simon & Garfunkel are a duo – not a duet. Elvis and Sinatra would be a duet.

    1. I am really going to miss your regularity with posts and being part of the blogging family, Frank. I do understand that when it’s time to step away, it just is time! But I hope you’ll stop by from time to time just so those of us who have enjoyed your friendship will know you’re there. 🙂

      Thank you for your kind thoughts, and I do appreciate them. I think my thoughts about not having anything worth sharing was an outgrowth of being so sensitive to all that I hear, and wondering if we shouldn’t all just go to our corners and be quiet for a while. By posting it’s clear that some of my discomfort is lifting, so that’s a sign of good movement forward, I think. I’ll look forward this weekend’s concert. Thank you for the heads up and blessings to you and your wife for a wonderful new year, as well.

      1. You are special to me – no question. Odds are I will still be around – but not posting – maybe not as frequent – but my future is part of my closing posts … I think the last one (off the top of my head).

        1. What majestic views Debra of the Pacific, how wonderful to be able to find solace there. Happy to find you here with another post on something we all could be doing more of…nothing, but not neglecting your feelings. Wishing you many more visits to the ocean in the next decade.

  2. Happy to see you back. I cannot imagine the turmoil that the loss of your step-son must bring, nor do I want to try. Blogging has to be fun, otherwise, it makes no sense. I often say that I blog to amuse myself and if others also find it amusing, all the better. I find your perspective amusing and worth reading. The stars aligned as I posted a story just before reading yours and I think they go hand in hand. https://mitigatingchaos.wordpress.com/2020/01/02/perspective-2/. May 2010 be a peaceful journey for you.

    1. Thank you, Ray. I will be eager to see what you’ve written as well. I wasn’t really trying to be at all provocative in my statement that I wondered why anyone would care, as I think another way I could have said it was that I really didn’t have anything to say! LOL! Holding onto perspective at times is an art in itself!

      Thank you for remembering us in your thoughts of Christmas without Jeffrey. We have found that talking about him openly and remembering better times has been good for us. I must say that we were kind of glad to close out 2019. 🙂

  3. M-R

    I LOVE that Jung quote, Debra !
    Your post causes me to question my rationale/s for my own: I’m probably doing nothing so much as being narcissistic.
    :\
    I believe I shall give it a rest for a while; and just .. do nothing.
    You are as wise as you are beautiful.

    1. Thank you so much, M-R. You are such a good voice of reason, I don’t want you to stop sharing all that comes to mind.

      And I must say that I wasn’t even thinking of fellow bloggers in my desire to quiet the social media noise. We need healthy outlets to express our thoughts–even outrage, and in blogging we can say what we want and if someone isn’t inclined to hear it, they can move on. I’ve sensed a general increase in negativity, however, even among friends of mine. Dialogue is critiqued, positions weighed and measured against someone else’s, and God help us if someone is successful, we’re going to knock them down. Once I started noticing, I couldn’t help but see examples everywhere.

      I think in the run up to the Presidential elections in the fall of this year I’m concerned we as Americans are going to rip ourselves to shreds, and I just hope we can at least gain some perspective. I am very disturbed about current policies, but I don’t want us as people to turn against each other. I am still thinking a lot about the book that I referenced. I may need to read it again. 🙂

      1. M-R

        Yes, I fear that tearing and ripping are going to be very popular activities this year. I doubt very much the perspective is going to get a look-in.
        Much as it doesn’t down here, either – not that we have another election forthcoming (alas !).

  4. This speaks to me on so many levels Debra. Something I wrote recently, I commented how I never knew I needed the ocean until I was there. I would love the ability to go and sit. (Though I am envisioning a rocky-Ireland coast-kind of beach. 😉 ) . But the same theory as yours. I would love to go and listen to the noise of the ocean, which is silence and salve to my over stimulated brain.

    1. I think we experience true hunger for solace, sometimes more than other times, but at our deepest level, always. And for me, the ocean is an accessible source I’ve relied upon since childhood. I was watching a Scottish detective show the other day on Netflix and was drawn to the rocky ocean landscapes in that particular show, and I thought how much I’d like to see that part of the ocean’s edge some day. My grandmother was born in Scotland, and it seems a shame I’ve never made the journey. I can understand your pull to Ireland, Colleen, and I always enjoy traveling vicariously with you. Let’s see what we both can do to embrace more of that calm this year. 🙂

      1. I will join you in this endeavor Debra. I ended the year by going on a solo, albeit very short, hike. And my first 2 days were started with intentional hikes. Not alone. But still, with the nurturing of nature.

        I understand the call of the ocean. The need for it. I hope at some point you might include me in your thoughts at the beach. It would make me feel closer to it. I hope you make it to Scotland. The most amazing things happen when you stand where your ancestors stood.

  5. I so feel this post. It’s a constant struggle I have. And as I move towards “retirement” in a couple of months, I so want to disconnect from all of this stuff that we have cluttered our lives with.

    And, yes … the ocean. Always refreshing, reinvigorating. A place to disconnect and reconnect all at the same time.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that my words (and concerns) resonate with you, KM. I think there are millions of people feeling the same concern and I’m hoping that our collective energy will share more positivity wherever we find ourselves. And congratulations on your impending retirement. It’s a big shift for most of us, but I hope you find it a new adventure. My husband and I had many concerns about how to jump out of the constancy of being alert and attentive to work responsibilities, but we were pleasantly amazed, maybe shocked, that we made the adjustment rather quickly. Happy new year to you. And perhaps a few extra visits to the ocean. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Ann. Here’s to more unplugging and embracing the rhythms and gifts of the natural world. Nothing better for recharging.That, and the support of good friends like you. 🙂

    2. Sunnycovechef

      This is a wonderful post that resonates with my own being. A broken ankle forced me to slow down tremendously.
      Having gone through such a tremendous loss in your life as you and your husband did takes time . Doing nothing is the right medicine in such difficult times.
      Living on the ocean is such a gift, I am listening to the fog horn and waves while I am writing this.

      1. Oh, my goodness. I try not to let envy sneak into my life, but the idea that you can hear a fog horn and waves from your home is a huge benefit I would enjoy. Lovely! Thank you for kind words and thoughts towards us at this time. We are really feeling stronger all the time I think because we acknowledge the loss and haven’t set any “goals” along the way. I have said to my husband many times that we are fortunate to be at a stage in our lives where retirement means we don’t have to face other people if we don’t feel like it, and we can “rest” our minds daily. Had we been younger I don’t think this would have been an option. Or we might not even have understood the need. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your kind thoughts. It means a lot.

    1. Thank you so much, Andrew. Sitting still hasn’t always come naturally to me, but I’ve found it very welcome of late. Doing nothing seems to be doing something profitable. 🙂 Blessings to you and Heather in the new year.

  6. I find the negativity and disgruntlement (is that even a word?) takes a toll on my health. Throughout the summer we had dinner in our screened porch and didn’t watch the news. It was so healthy. Now I frequently use the mute button. I’ve also seen it in friends. Sometimes I think it would be best to live on an island at least for the second half of this year. My mantra is “be kind.” I wish us all peace.

    1. I love “be kind.” I’ve had the same intention. I have even taken to telling our dog to be kind to the cat. LOL! It makes me laugh when I call out, “Zena, be kind!”

      I think the mute button is a great metaphor. We need to mute the chaos of external noise and maybe our internal noise as well. I have a few friends I might like to mute more often, too.

      Thank you, Kate. I hope for peace in our lives as well. Blessings to you and yours as we get this year underway. 🙂

  7. I, too, love the ocean in winter…and summer, fall, and spring. As you know, I’m a beach kid. I’m lucky in that I have a knack for doing nothing. But I do have a couple more books to write. That will keep me in the doing something realm for a while yet. It’s a happy problem.

    1. Doing nothing is an art that some people embrace naturally. I haven’t always understood the value, but I do at this stage in my life. I’m learning, anyway. 🙂

      I have never lived right at the ocean’s edge, but I’ve never lived more than an hour at the most away, and I seek it out every chance I get. Just a glimpse can even rejuvenate me. I think in part it’s the sound of the ocean that pulls me in, because it drowns out other noise.

      I hope that your writing life is abundant this year, Jim. You are gifted, and I look forward to reading “what comes next!” All the best in the new year for you and Laura and the family.

  8. Thank you for this Debra 🙏 I’m so glad you are embracing calmness and finding your Middle Ground. The sea is so nourishing for mind, body and soul. Remember, doing nothing is all about simply being.
    Be well 💕

  9. Debra, I’m glad to learn you’re embracing the concept and activity of “doing nothing.” Indeed, it has it’s own rewards when we let it…I’ve been practicing this myself for some time and it gets easier. I was always amazed at your activity level filled with many agenda items; dare I say, envious too. Know that I think of you frequently and utter a prayer when your smiling face crosses my mind. Blessings, E

    1. Thank you, Ellen. My “doing nothing” still entails a great deal of gardening and spending time with my granddaughters, but unplugging from the outer world is my version of being still. The new year is a blank slate at this point. 🙂 Love and peace!

  10. I am so grateful to live in an area that gives me access to the ocean in the winter. Even though our beaches seldom get completely deserted, a stroll along the tideline is one of my favorite ways to still my thoughts and just be. Best wishes for a happy, peaceful new year.

    1. Thank you, Janis, and I certainly return the best wishes for the new year. I fund the energy of the beaches in summer very special, too, as I watch happy families playing together and recall the years when our children were younger. But for solitude and contemplative opportunities, the winter months are enchanting. There were surfers just a few feet from where the photo cut off. There’s always some activity, isn’t there!

  11. It is incredibly hard to do nothing… unless faced with a beautiful seascape 🙂 🙂 I’ve never read anything here that I wouldn’t want to read, Debbie. You often express, very beautifully, what I’m thinking. And I leave feeling better for what I’ve read. Wishing for peace and harmony doesn’t make it happen but it sure won’t hurt anyone. It’s a pleasure to share our blogging world with you. 🙂 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Jo. You’re very kind. And a beautiful view is exactly what we need sometimes to stop us in our tracks! That’s why I so appreciate your walks. The view from your new home location would have me simply stunned. 🙂

  12. I LOVE this post and hope that you feel inspired to continue to share your words and insights with us. Not for ambition or a purpose – just to share YOU. I felt like I was with you as I read these words. To do nothing takes a tremendous effort, which seems like an oxymoron. My yoga teacher encourages us to meditate silently when we breath in (LET) and breathe out (GO).
    To the sounds of the seashore, whatever coast we may be on). I agree with you – when I’m walking along a shore, I feel my innards and my bones and my mind R E L A X. Namaste. xo

    1. Thank you so much, Pamela. You’re very kind. And I can hear in your references to what you’ve experienced in yoga that you really do understand the intention behind what I’m sharing. I appreciate that. To you as well, Namaste.

  13. Gail

    There is a relaxed cadence to this post that underscores your message — retreat, and seek peace and quiet. Always beautifully written and evocative. Thank you for continuing to share of yourself. P.S. I’m finding country living also promotes a sense of calm!

    1. I love thinking of you in that country living, Gail! I have to use my imagination to “get there,” but I can do that, too! 🙂 Thank you for your kind words. I’m thinking about them a lot myself as we move forward. I do talk to myself quite a bit. 🙂

    1. Thank you so very much. It’s been a hard year, but then when I measure against all I know of what other people are going through, I realize we are all making our way through myriad struggles. Life is indeed complex! It is lovely to hear from you and I really appreciate your very kind words. Blogging support is a lovely addition to our lives. 🙂

      1. Tell me about it. I am glad 2019 is over. The last three months were hell and heaven. Terrible mix of emotions. Blessing in disguise. Lessons learned, all of the above. Perhaps I came back to blogging just in time to write about it. I guess I miss you all!

  14. There is something about our society that makes people feel undesirable if they aren’t constantly rushing around. I am so tired of people who try to force their values onto other people.

    Good for you, Debra. Enjoy the ocean, its power and its beauty. When you emit the sense of peace that the ocean environment affords you, others will envy that special quality of peacefulness that you exude. They would pay lots of money to achieve that feeling in their lives!

  15. I always enjoy your posts Debra – so they’re definitely worth doing 🙂

    The digital age has certainly brought a culture of needing to be ‘liked’ and ‘followed’ to the point where, for some people it becomes all consuming. I’m sure you’ve had the ‘like’ from an SEO page offering to increase your following! I’d admit that when I first started blogging I wanted to grow my ‘following’ and have people ‘like’ my posts. Then, a couple of years back, I looked at where chasing likes was taking me – posting things that were what I thought other people wanted to see rather than things that I wanted to post for myself. I took a very important decision – I was going to post what I wanted to post – take back control of my blog. Now I don’t get as many likes as I once did but I feel much more comfortable in where I’m at 🙂

    Twitter is a different story, but then it’s also a different sort of interaction. It allows me to keep in touch with my football club and friends. It allows the vibrant community of Virtual Truckers to keep in touch too – it’s a place where we spur each other on for the regular events that SCS Software hold and many of the regulars have become friends too. It’s a different kind of friendship to the one you have with people you actually meet but the friends are no less valuable for all that 🙂

  16. Glad to hear you are finding peace by the ocean, Debra.
    Whatever you finally decide to do about blogging, for me finding and reading your blog and your posts has always been a pleasure and I have learnt a lot.

  17. Good to hear from you Debra, and Happy New Year, although I am a little late catching up with blog reading. I hope you have plenty of opportunities to visit the beach, do nothing and calm your mind this year Debra. Time is a healer but sea air too I believe! And I hope you will share your thoughts and lovely photos again this coming year too. The quotes you found are inspiring. Thank you.

  18. Hi Debra. I wish there was a “love” option for posts — because I more than “like” this one. I completely understand what you’re saying. The noise these days. . . and I can be just as guilty of making a racket. Lately, though, I’ve noticed myself responding to things, writing it out, and then deleting it and moving on. There are also many days when I avoid all of it and just spend time in the garden. That’s where I feel the most at peace. That’s where I feel present. I’ve also discovered reading — and as much as I love the convenience of my Kindle, I have to say that I’ve rediscovered the local library and have discovered some amazing works of fiction. As for your writing — please, don’t stop. When I receive your comments on my blog, your words fill me with such peace and calm! Reading your words is like a “breathing lighter” exercise. I wish you joy and peace and good health in the coming year and always.

  19. It sounds like Nothing is your Word Of The Year! I came down with a bad cold yesterday. There was a tipping point between working hard all morning since I had just blogged a new post and crashing. I slept most of the afternoon. It felt wonderful to have an excuse to do nothing. LOL!

    Happy New Year, Debra!

  20. Happy New Year, Debra. I loved your thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I’ve always enjoyed your views of the world, and the lovely way you express them. It’s been an overwhelming and exhausting year in many ways, and it can seem unrelenting. I’m so happy to could visit the beach on a crisp and clear day. That’s my favorite time at the beach as well. I’m glad you’re out there in this world. Alys

  21. Welcome back, Debra. And, i enjoy the beautiful ocean in winter with you.
    I love the last line. Yes, we need better understand the gift of doing nothing. 🙂

  22. Dear Debra, back in 2006 when Meniere’s Disease entered my life, I came to realize that –horrific as it was–it was teaching me that I had no control over anything except for the way I responded to life–to its sorrows, joys, vicissitudes, relationships.

    Now–14 years later–I have COPD as well as Meniere’s. What that means is that often I will have a day of labored breathing and then a day of headache and vertigo. Those days are teaching me the same thing. (I’m a slow learner.) But they are also forcing me to live in the present–right now/right here. They are forcing me to do what many suggest: go with the flow of the day–what it presents; what it offers; its gift. The days when I labor to breathe or feel the pounding of the Meniere’s headache and the falling to the floor from the vertigo force me to stop and simply be.

    Here, too, I am a slow learner. I resist, trying to get my writing it, my blogging, my exercise. Trying to be productive for my generation from the 1930s and 40s always has tried to be productive. And yet, I can feel myself being drawn into the simplicity of simply being. Of letting myself sink into the Oneness at the deep center of myself. Then it is that I find the peace that allows me to open my hands to what is happening in my life and to let go and let Oneness guide me into the essence of being.

    For me, your posting was such a reminder of what I’m trying to do. And your posting and the comments following it reveal so clearly that so many of us are trying to live the moment. That is so heartening. Peace.

  23. I was saving a reading of your post for when I had time to savor it, Debra, and here it is, weeks later, that I am finally pouring over your words and images, feeling your sorrow as much as one can feel another’s, and working, myself, at being still, turning off the “noise”, seeking softer moments. I find that grief has no time set, no rules (though some would impose them). You and Jay are doing what is best for you- and a trip to the beach must be pretty close to perfect. Love this post and the Murakami quote. As our friend Dee says, Peace.

  24. I find the sea inspiring and soothing, too. Doing nothing is sometimes what we should do, as hard as it is. Time to contemplate and find inner peace. But also know that we are many people that enjoy your thoughts and writing, exactly because you are not promoting anything.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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