In Praise of Sloth

It's been 10 days of not doing very much at all aside from reading good books, watching good TV and lollygagging and it has been bliss. Just bliss.

It took me more days than I care to admit to stop with the "shoulds." Every time my internal voice said "you should be (insert work-related or other type of obligatory task here)," I managed to very clearly say NO and push the urge away.

It is remarkable how many shoulds there are in a day. I don't think it's good for us. 

Therefore, I decided to banish the shoulds from my life (at least for two weeks), eventually becoming nothing but a walking (metaphorically speaking) Id. I got so good at the banishing that when last Monday, one of the last really nice days of the summer, I felt I should be going down to the lake, I somehow managed to persuade myself that I shouldn't be doing any such thing if I didn't want to. So I stayed inside all day and messed with some photos instead. There was something wonderfully wanton about holing up inside on a beautiful day, very deliberately not going out and enjoying it. It may have been even more enjoyable than going outside to enjoy it!

Every day for the past two weeks, I've gotten up and asked myself what I felt like doing and usually, the answer was read, talk to friends - or more often, not talk to anyone at all - noodle on the computer and nap. And I did and in the process started viewing my busy life as just a tad crazy. I started thinking that this value we put on being busy, on getting a lot done, and moving so very fast is… well, nuts. If I don't have time to notice how the sun sparkles off the water or that pigeon fighting with a french fry or the colour of the sky at sunset, then my priorities are really screwed up.

In Word by Word, Anne Lamott says "being busy is the drug of the 90s. It's keeping us all stoned and wasting our lives." That lecture came out in 2004 and by now, I'm starting to suspect being busy may have replaced religion is the opium of the masses. The thing that keeps us from paying attention and realizing that life is supposed to about more than the busy.

I need to get back to mindfulness. Not should. Need, as in it’ll be good for me and my ability to prioritize with some degree of perspective.

So after all this lollygagging, do I feel better? Well, sometimes yes, sometimes no. Overall, there is a bit more energy, but I still run out fairly quickly and in between the overall bit of improvement, there have been days where I've felt as crappy as I did at the start of this time away from work. Which wasn't supposed to be the point of this whole thing, but I can't argue with my body. I can ask it repeatedly why the hell it's not getting any better, but no answer. It prefers to remain mysterious.

I do feel well enough to be able to have gained some perspective and in retrospect, working what for me is the equivalent of a full-time job, rewriting The Book, supporting two family members through different, but equally intense events, dealing with root canal and crown, as well as an unreliable wheelchair (and the exorbitant cost of the latter two) to mention just the most memorable parts of this summer is a recipe for burnout and depression. No wonder every day had begun to seem insurmountable.

And hence sloth. Because sitting by the water doing nothing and having no plans for the afternoon other than going home to eat lunch when I get hungry gives you time to think and process. To imagine and create. And to get en effin’ grip.

I'm not quite sure how to incorporate sloth once I return to work, but I'm thinking I should start with taking one day off a week. There's a reason that a certain divinity rested on the seventh day. It's good role modeling.