Permission to do nothing.
Today marks 10 weeks of being isolated in my apartment. I have gone out a few times for curbside pickup of meals, walks in my neighborhood, a couple of trips to the grocery store, and a couple of actual ‘social’ meetings (from a distance). But I have spent the bulk of this time alone in my apartment.
At first, like so many people, I had all sorts of plans about the massive productivity I would have during this enforced quarantine. One by one, most of those projects have fallen by the wayside and the only major project that still remains (other than this daily blog) is working on my novel.
Today is the first day of my staycation that also coincides with a full day of work going on at my job – so technically today is the first day where I am not working while everyone else is working. Before all of this madness, I was slated to be on my way to New Orleans this week for a meeting and then a vacation. That canceled, for obvious reasons. So now I am taking ten days off and have nothing specific to fill those days much differently than the prior 60 days of working from home.
When I woke up this morning, I found myself feeling antsy – unproductive and feeling like I “should” be doing something. I even broke my cardinal rule of vacation and actually checked my work email – more than once. Then about noon, I suddenly got incredibly tired for no specific reason. I plopped down on my couch and closed my eyes, thinking I would just relax and meditate for a few minutes.
Instead, I fell instantly asleep and slept deeply for nearly a full hour. Wow! It’s rare that a midday nap can zonk me out so completely, but I was nearly comatose for that hour – and dreaming vividly. When I woke up, I felt exhausted still, but a few minutes of stretching along with a glass of water seemed to wake me back up again.
I cannot recall what I dreamt, but apparently that nap and my dreams were both important because after I woke up I realized that I did not have to do anything today. Nada. All of the “shoulds” in my brain are leftover voices from my past trying to guilt me into being “productive” and “worthy.” I realize that sometime in my past I learned that I was only accepted if I was useful to other people in a tangible kind of way. Only by doing things for other people or doing things that had a tangible, quantifiable positive result could I be seen as a successful person.
Today, I finally thought, “Who says so?” I mean, here I am alone in my apartment on vacation with no plans and only one official thing on my schedule until I return to working from home next Monday. There’s not a single human being out there who will know if I am productive today or not, so the only one that matters is me.
So today, I finally gave myself permission to do nothing!
Of course, it’s impossible to just sit still and do nothing at all (at least for me), but what I mean by “nothing” is just taking my day moment by moment with no plans and no sense of urgency to accomplish anything. So I have napped, taken my clothes to the laundromat for overnight service, done a little meal prep, read my tarot cards (twice), worked on this blog, and even sketched out a few things for my novel. But none of those things were the result of me feeling stressed to accomplish anything. Instead, they were all just moments of me thinking, “Right now, I feel like doing this.”
How liberating to finally feel more comfortable with unstructured spontaneity like that! In fact, as I finish typing this sentence, I think it’s time for another nap.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.