I can’t for the life of me, recall the last time that I had nothing to do. When I say nothing to do, I don’t mean that juvenile feeling of despair on the weekend when you complain to your parents that you’re “ bored and have nothing to do.” Rather I mean that I have nothing pressing to do. Nothing that requires my immediate attention. No deadline. Nothing that I need to complete with urgency. No place I have to be. No “to-do list” with items needing to be crossed off.
I think the last time I felt remotely like this was that summer so long ago now when I graduated from High school. I remember the sense of the 13 years of study unburdening themselves off my shoulders, after I completed my final exam that hot November afternoon. Afterwards as I walked to the train station returning home, I knew that that would be the last time I’d leave my school and wouldn’t return again for any scholastic purposes, apart from the annual award night (that didn’t count though). When I got home I remember I cried. I didn’t really know what was the appropriate response to commemorate that chapter of my life ending.
But even then, I harboured a sense of activity, of restlessness. There was a need to work, to save money, to prepare myself for the next chapter of my life, which was undoubtedly leaving my home to go to university. Even though leaving wasn’t actually required, I made it so. I somehow, had to prove myself with my actions and decisions.
My entire 20’s were characterised by this anxious restlessness. That decade, looking back from the lofty heights of my 30th year (oh coz it’s sooo high!), was punctured by the belief and need to being doing something, to be something, to achieve something, in order to be “someone.” At times this anxiety was crippling, and I fell into bouts of depression. Every time thinking that if I just jumped into this next venture, whether it be work, or school or some new activity, I could once again work towards being that elusive someone I was meant to be.
So it is with great surprise that I observe myself now in this situation where I truly have nothing to do, and I am completely content with it. The past couple of months have been a little topsy turvey. Having found out that I was going to be ‘let go’ from the law firm that I had worked (slaved) for, for just under 3 years, has really been a blessing in disguise. It forced me to re-evaluate my career goals and aspirations as well as to seek out connections with old friends that I had not seen or spoken to in a long time. The uncertainty of not having secure employment after the end date of my contract (I was being supported through the ‘transition’ meaning that for an entire month I could come and go as I pleased from the office of the law firm situated in the big end of town), meant that my proclivity to fret over million things that could possibly go wrong as well as question my own self worth bubbled to the surface.
It is only now, that I am in a position where I am about to commence a new, much better paying role for a government agency, that in hindsight I recognise the gift I was given by being “let go”. If I had just surrendered to the uncertainty of my predicament much earlier than I did, I am sure that I would have enjoyed this time of ‘nothing to do’ a little more. Yet for what its worth these 2 weeks where I have really embraced the nothingness, I have had a chance to reconnect with myself and recharge.
But then what is the point of this post you may ask? Well it dawned on me that in today’s society there’s a push to be perpetually busy, to be constantly doing ‘something’ meaningful. When in reality life is more like undulating waves, where periods of action and busy-ness are followed with moments of calm and stillness. I feel as though the latter aren’t really appreciated as much as they should. Or perhaps they are, except not in the culture of work that I have inhabited for the past 3 years.
This undulating wave is replicated in spiritual practice. For the past few months I have felt like a bad pagan because my practice has been anything but consistent, rather erratic and not focused. However I realise that the ancestors and the gods are always there, whether or not I have formally ritualed for them. I have felt their presence when saying a short pray at my work desk to help me get through the day once the awkward set in office as I was preparing to leave. I felt them when I greeted the emerging sun after the relentless rain we have experienced in Sydney. They were by my side as I prepared to sleep.
I guess what I am trying to say is that – its ok. We don’t have to be ‘on’ or plugged in all the time. We’re allowed moments of calm and of introspection. The Gods, the ancestors, the earth exist without needing anything from us. They are there. Watching and guiding. They understand the cyclical nature of life.
Perhaps, though you knew that already, and this was more my need to justify it to myself.
Perhaps it is something that I am slowly learning, with my entire body and being, as I get older, and enter a new phase of life. Perhaps its a new found confidence in the knowledge that I am ‘someone’ without having to do ‘something.’
With that said – I am going to go and do a little more ‘nothing.’