Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Friday, May 11, 2012

American Idle


My teenager told me that given the choice she'd rather just do nothing.

"You know," she explained. "Just lie around and read and and think and eat dark chocolate."

"Mmm, yes," I said. "You get that from me."

For I am fundamentally very lazy.

That could be hard to believe coming from a mother of six with a couple of part-time jobs who works out several times a week and makes at least a little effort to put together clean, trying-to-look-like-I-care-about-the-world outfits even if I'm just hanging out at home. You will see me regularly at school functions, community events, and every Sunday morning at church. I make my kids' lunches, write a few columns a month for the local paper, keep up with the laundry, do my best not to forget to water the flowers, and sometimes dust up high.

It's all so exhausting. And, really, I would so much rather just do nothing. Nothing at all.

I am convinced that heaven will involve nothing. I'm counting on God allowing me to just lie there among the wildflowers (the weeds and itchy bugs will be in hell with Chuck E. Cheese) and watch the clouds. That's it. Please don't make me sing in the choir or watch after the littlest angels.

Keep your theological arguments to yourself, by the way. I'll find out in due time but right now the thought of an eternity filled with doing nothing is my happy place.

My favorite monthly read is Real Simple magazine. Because if I can't do nothing then I at least like to keep it real simple. They posted an article on their website about the best ways to do nothing. I'm familiar with them all and can vouch that it is expert advice.

Yoga is good. At the end they instruct you to do nothing. I like that.

My teenager asked me why I stay so busy doing so much when I'd rather do nothing. I explained as best I could to someone still in that ideal, it's-all-about-me stage of life that if I stop doing all the things I do then life will crash down around our family's collective ears. Laundry, grocery lists, bill paying, etc. have to happen. Believe me. I've tried letting them slide and it's never ended well.

There's a bigger reason I just keep swimming in the tide of busy American family life. It's the law of inertia, which explains basically that an object at rest will stay at rest until something pulls or pushes on it. What that means for your average parent is that if you stop, you might never get up to start again, and that also does not end well.

When you hear someone say the dishes will wait while you go play with your child, the truth is that, yes, the dishes will wait. And while they're waiting more dishes will pile up on top and the eggs and cereal will harden and the dishes will be twice as hard to get done when you finally get around to it. A better rule, in my opinion, is just wash the stupid dishes as fast as you can and then go. Or use paper and seriously increase your time for doing nothing.

The Real Simple expert extols the virtues of being idle. And I believe there are many benefits to being still and really listening. Like everything else in our lives, it's usually about finding the balance. And while you are finding it, here's a little tip from a long-time fan of idle:

If you just close your eyes and tell them you're praying, mostly they'll leave you alone.

44 comments :

  1. I enjoyed every bit of the post. Well said!

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  2. THIS!!! "...the weeds and itchy bugs will be in hell with Chuck E. Cheese..."

    Still laughing.

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    1. Beautiful blog! Loving it already. :)

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    2. Yours, that is. Not real clear here in the early morning...

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  3. Haha, if you stop you might never start again. Oh boy, I feel like that all the time.

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    1. I call it the treadmill law...so much easier to just keep going rather than hop off and face catching up.

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  4. I really enjoyed this post! I'm so glad someone else is convinced that Chuck E Cheese will be in hell. And PS-My name is Susannah :)

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    1. Thanks! There aren't many of us Susanna(h)s around. And you write AND hate Chuck E Cheese?? We should be BFFs. :)

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  5. I agree wholeheartedly. I would much rather lie around and do nothing but if I stop for a minute to actually lie down, it's all over. I'll never get up again! Great post!

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    1. Yes, because life is a treadmill that never stops and it is sooo hard to get back on it.

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  6. Love your analogy with the dishes!! It's so true!

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  7. Hhahahaha. I also enjoy doing nothing.

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  8. Love your vision of heaven. That is also my hope for heaven. Nothing, all the time. *sigh*

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  9. The law of inertia explains SO much. I love this post!

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  11. Huh. I could have sworn I commented already...If you have moderated comments and haven't posted mine yet then you can delete this lol...

    I agree doing nothing is awesome but getting stuff accomplished is an even better feeling...except when it comes to the dishes. I really hate doing dishes! I will be eternally grateful to the person that created dishwashers

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    1. Strange. I definitely did NOT remove your first comment. (Sometimes computers scare me with their autonomy). But thanks for the comment and, yes, HOORAY for dishwashers and dryers!

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  12. "When you hear someone say the dishes will wait while you go play with your child, the truth is that, yes, the dishes will wait. And while they're waiting more dishes will pile up on top and the eggs and cereal will harden and the dishes will be twice as hard to get done when you finally get around to it. A better rule, in my opinion, is just wash the stupid dishes as fast as you can and then go. Or use paper and seriously increase your time for doing nothing."

    May I PLEASE steal this for my Facebook status??? Or can somebody make a Pinterest thingy so I can like it? No, LOVE it!! I am laughing at you!!

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    1. Are you kidding? I would be totally and utterly honored if you stole me for a status! (And I have yet to venture into Pinterest...I'm truly afraid my family would never see me again.)

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  13. I love doing nothing. Maybe I can blame my messy house on inertia - I stopped years ago and have just never gotten moving again.

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    1. Works for me. I do love the Phyllis Diller quote: "Cleaning house while you have children at home is like shoveling the sidewalk in a blizzard."

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  14. I'm with you on the doing nothing and I'm with you on the never stopping. I haven't had a free moment since I don't know when. Loved this!

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    1. Perhaps we will meet in heaven. And do nothing together! :)

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  15. Wonderful post! My husband often says he wishes I would just sit down and relax and I (try to) refrain from asking who's going to do all the stuff I'm doing while I'm sitting around relaxing. . .

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    1. Did I read on your blog that you're a Dallas girl? I grew up in Oak Cliff. Is that anywhere close to Jesus-ville? Dying to know.

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  16. Loved this post! Stopping...definitely not an option...as I may not get going again. Get it done while the getting's good & then take time to read some great blogs!!

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    1. Yes, I am getting happily addicted to my "job" of reading 50 blogs each week!

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  17. I think "fundamentally very lazy" doesn't mean what you think it means. ;)

    Actually, I understand exactly what you are saying - but I don't live it. At least I don't think I do. I have some people fooled, for sure, but I'm much better at being lazy than you are.

    Enjoyed this post very much.

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    1. "I'm much better at being lazy than you are." Hahaha--do you think any one but mothers would have this conversation?!

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  18. OHM. i never understood or valued laying around doing nothing until i had a child... and now i can't wait until my son is old enough to lay around with me.

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    1. That's so funny...it drives me bonkers how lazy my teenagers get to be!

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  19. Wow - right there with you on all of this. It is very possible to be a truly busy and productive mom yet underneath it all a very lazy person (you described me to a T!). I'm worried though about that whole "if I sit down for a while I'll never get up thing..." I better not stop!

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    1. Yes! The whole treadmill thing. Just keep going......

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  20. HA! I just laughed out loud at that last line. I can't believe that as a mother of 6 you still have time to put outfits together, have a few part-time jobs and oh (!) write a blog! I liked the contrast between the peaceful picture of doing nothing and the words that describe anything but!

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    1. I can't believe it either. As it write this the baby just played peek-a-boo for the first time on his own and one of the teens said, "Mom! I said to look. You never look. You miss everything." Sigh.... I do NOT miss everything. :)

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  21. I love the last line too! You sound way more together than 80% of the moms I know, and the other 20% scare me a little. Great piece, Erin

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    1. Yeah, I definitely do NOT want to be part of that 20%! :)

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  23. Mother of 5 here and boy do I get it! Just get it done! I find I spend too much energy thinking about getting to the things I let go then if I would just get off the couch/computer/bed and do it! This was very well written and engaging! I really enjoyed it! and p.s. thanks for the tip about praying .... I just may try that!

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    1. I once read that a busy mom of many answered this way when asked how she "does it all"...she said, "I just do the next thing that needs to be done." I think of that quote at least once a day. All I have to do is the next thing.

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  24. I love that magazine! Yes, I let our dishes pile up, the dog hair too, but I always keep my son on his routine, as that is most important (that and working from home). And I'm pretty good about walking our chocolate Lab twice a day. Would love to sit and relax and eat sweets, tho! Maybe when I retire!

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