The Lost Art of Not Doing a Damned Thing

Sometimes it’s hard to sit still. Work hard/play hard is a nice motto to live by, but there is a third element you should always consider, and one that is often difficult for me to attain: Rest hard.

It’s easy to get caught up in the go-go-go lifestyle, especially if you are like some of us and feel like you have been living under a rock for a long time. Either too much work or family responsibilities can make us feel like we are not getting out enough, and so when the weekend comes, you hit the play-button hard. But after a while even that can be exhausting, especially if you have kids and are making a point of dragging them along with you.

A lot of us have fallen into the trap of thinking we have to play as hard as we work, but if you are spending all of your time playing and working, you are really just working all of the time. Some days just need to be lazy days, and we have to refocus our minds to understand that we are okay with that.

Read a damn book

As a writer, I have seen the decline in how much people read. Not the news or clickbait articles, or things like that, but things like fiction, memoirs, books on history, poetry. I’m just as guilty as anyone else. Who has time to just sit and do nothing? That’s just the thing, reading really isn’t “nothing”. It’s exercising your mind in ways that seeing the movie adaptation can’t.

I’m a slow reader, as I tend to immerse myself in the story and just really let the writing sweep over me. It’s not something I want to do quickly as I absorb all the details and language, but sometimes I feel guilty when I’m just reading instead of running around from place to place, either making money or spending it.

Coffee

When I was a kid, my mom used to have friends over for coffee. Sometimes she would have some kind of coffee cake around, other times it was just the coffee. They would spend most of a morning decompressing from the responsibilities of adulting as the other kids and I were relegated to play in other rooms in the house. There are also places that serve coffee where you can just sit and drink it, in mugs, at a table! They are often found inside the place that you drive around when you pick up your coffee in a paper cup on the way to work every morning. Total insanity.

For me these days, it’s hard to just sit down and drink a coffee, but it can be nice to do. Don’t bring your laptop. Stay off your phone and just breathe. You don’t always have to be writing the next great screenplay or whatever the hell it is everyone is doing on their laptops these days.

Play a game

Normally games irritate the hell out of me. I’m not a fan of card games, board games, or anything that you just have to sit around and go through the motions of. I would rather be creating something or seeing something, but an afternoon of dominoes with the family can be fun. It helps your mind work in other ways, and can really be fun, especially with some friendly competition, laughter, and just sitting around with other people doing nothing. If it’s poker, Cards Against Humanity, Monopoly, dominoes, chess, or even some good old fashioned Dungeons and Dragons, sitting around playing a game with others can be a relaxing way to spend the day.

Just hanging out and talking

Some of the worlds most difficult problems might be close to being solved over some snacks and your beverage of choice. Beers, wine, Moscow Mules, and not having a drink to get sloppy either. Meat and cheese trays, or even some nachos or anything covered in melty cheese works too. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it doesn’t have to involve a lot of work like a big barbecue.

Fire Pit

My girlfriend and I love a good firepit. Some nights it is just nice to sit and watch the embers and visit, while sipping a glass of wine or scotch and enjoying a good cigar. Roast marshmallows, play music, or just stare at the flames in silence. Just stay off your phone. Let your mind wander. Be “present” as the people who sell the Himalayan salt lamps say.

Cigars

Cigars are often demonized because of the recent hatred of tobacco. Yes, tobacco can kill you. Cigarettes are especially bad. But you know what else kills you? Stress. That shit will kill you faster than almost anything. Stress is linked to eating disorders, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, personality disorders, suicide, high blood pressure, and pretty much anything else that is bad for you.

Sitting down to smoke a cigar really isn’t all that bad. It sure as hell isn’t stressful. In the US, we have almost no concept of moderation. If we drink, it’s until we black out, if we smoke, it’s a couple packs of cigarettes every day. Even excessive exercise and dieting will kill you. Just don’t smoke cigars all the time and you will probably be okay.

I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.

Do you know what will kill you? An inability to just sit down for even half an hour. A cigar literally requires that you not do much of anything else for around half an hour. You don’t even inhale the smoke. I’m not sure how this is much different than sitting around in a room full of burning incense. Oh, wait, yes I do. The big difference is smoking a cigar is actually enjoyable.

I still think it’s funny that people think smoking marijuana is beneficial, but the moment someone lights up a stogie, everyone loses their damn minds. The thing about smoking a cigar too is that you pay $10 on up for each one, and if you don’t take the time to enjoy it, you are really just burning your money up. If you don’t feel like you are truly having an experience without spending a little money on it, try cigars.

Go for a walk

Do you know what is almost totally free? Going for a walk. Put on some shoes, maybe a jacket if it’s chilly, and just start walking. Don’t powerwalk; this isn’t for exercise. Don’t wear headphones and block out the world with music. Don’t even use your walk to run an errand near your house. Just walk.

Don’t do anything

It’s fine to just do nothing sometimes. If you are running all over town working and playing, you are still just running. All that running sounds exhausting. Take some time for yourself to enjoy the simple things in life. Have nice conversations, or just look outside of yourself and ponder the world. Let your heart slow down just a bit, let those muscles relax, be still, be quiet even. Just be.

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