Last year I ran on adrenaline. I worked extra hours on adrenaline, did the school runs on adrenaline and trawled back and forth to the hospital on adrenaline. Adrenaline got me through preparing and weighing out 3 streams of meals, 3 times a day (plus snacks) for my family’s
insane unique dietary requirements. I even leaned on adrenaline for the occasional night out or social occasion.
Yes, adrenaline was my friend. But as 2016 dawned we started to drift apart. No more cancer. No more hospitals. Adrenaline is not such a big part of my life anymore. These days I’m running on something a bit less powerful. With the absence of adrenaline, I’m now running on.. well…. not much of anything. I think you’d calling it running on empty. Although actually that’s taking a bit of poetic licence, because the stark reality is that I’m not really running much at all. I’m barely even walking most days.
On January 3rd I started talking about my big plans for this year. (I would have started earlier but there was a horrific hangover situation). With all the positive energy that a new year brings, I laid out my plans to a certain long-suffering husband. They involved new clients, overhauled strategies, community work, writing projects and at least one business launch…. and that was just the first few months. Scott (AKA long suffering husband) sought clarification, offered valuable insight and lovingly supported the creative process. And then he said ‘Maybe you should just take a few months off first’.
Maybe you should just take a few months off first.
Well you’d have thought he told me the cancer came back. I cried and cried. The tears came from nowhere and poured out of my eyes. My first thought was ‘OHMIGOD I can do that!??’ My second thought was less coherent. A cacophony of thoughts tumbled around my brain. That’s just lazy. Such a criminal waste of time. The money I could make. I’d feel so worthless. I could nap. I’m not that kind of person. I could do yoga every day. I’m definitely not that person. What would people think. What would I think? How would I define myself. Who would I even be if I stopped doing stuff? I don’t know how to do nothing. What does it mean to have time off? Off what? Off everything? Oh the relief. The blissful quiet. I could read all day. Don’t be ridiculous. I can’t do that. I have stuff to get done. I have to achieve. I have to do. Do. DO.
I wiped my eyes, agreed to think it over then fell promptly into a slump. This went on for several days. Children became intolerable, cooking impossible and I had a constant, overwhelming urge to lie down. I cried some more and got angry for no good reason. The idea that I might do nothing for a bit absolutely knocked me for six. It both thrilled and terrified me. And yet I knew it was the right thing to do. Anything that opens such a floodgate of emotion is obviously touching a nerve. With fear and trepidation I signed up for 3 months of nothing and fought hard against the urge to make detailed plans for the time.
Before I go on, can we just discuss how incredible my husband is? After everything he’s endured this last year, you’d think he’d be focussed on his own needs, rebuilding his health and getting back to work and a normal life. Really, the last thing he needs is more instability. He’s back at work now and although we’ll be OK, we could certainly do with the additional income that comes with me working more hours. Instead he offered me this gift. I know it’s ultimately my choice, but we’re a partnership and my decisions affect both of us.
So while Scott faces a few more months of frugality, I’m diving into week after week of time to myself, quiet hours alone and slow, blissful peace. It sounds amazing doesn’t it? Well let me tell you right now, it bloody isn’t. It’s fucking hard doing nothing. I’m exhausted and emotionally drained. I’m lost and confused. I’m running on nothing, which is nowhere near as effective as adrenaline. My tank needs another source of fuel and the busy-ness of getting things done is no longer available.
I got through January because, lets face it no parent spends the school holidays lying around doing nothing. I was suitably busy and occupied. But now it’s 10 days since school went back, and I’m struggling. I just can’t stop doing things. I end each day defeated, failing to meet my own expectations of successful time off. I feel a failure if I haven’t properly achieved relaxation by the end of the day. There was one great day when I went to yoga, did some gardening, read a book and lay around a bit That was a winner of a day. One day in ten.
I’m terrified I’ll waste the next two months NOT doing enough of nothing. I haven’t meditated or gone back to yoga. I haven’t spent hours stretching or taken long walks in the sun. I haven’t read a single page of a single book or enjoyed leisurely bike rides by the river. Oh no. Instead I’ve run errands and picked up things at the shops, returned a skirt that was the wrong size, done a spare room clear-out, rearranged the kids bedrooms, been out for a few coffees and done a lot more work than I needed to. I’ve achieved a lot of stuff but not a lot of relaxation. I’m torn between satisfaction for my achievements and disillusionment at my complete inability to slow the fuck down.
But then today, a revelation. I’ve had it all wrong. I’ve been focussing too much on the DOING. What things did I DO today? Did I DO enough of the right things? What value do I place on the things I DID today? Which other things should I have DONE instead?
Wasn’t I supposed to be taking time off from doing? This was my time to simply BE, with no expectations. Instead of worrying about how best to achieve DOING NOTHING, I could have simply woken up up each day and … just been alive. What if I just follow my heart and do whatever brings me joy in that moment? It doesn’t matter if I go to the shops or lie on the couch. The important thing is that I’m present in the moment. Present to simply being. That is what I’ve lost and what my spirit longs for. The incredible luxury of this time to myself is the opportunity to practice being, with no judgement or expectations. Just me, and my uninterrupted, alone state of being.
Of course I will still find it challenging. Being doesn’t come as naturally to me as doing. But it’s a whole lot easier than trying to do nothing. Is it just me? I feel a bit like the world is obsessed with being busy and getting shit done. Do we all need to spend a bit more time just being? And why do we find that so damned hard?