Find time for nothing
Thursday, May 01, 2003
Just do it; just slow down By Lynn M. Gibson
Photo by Frank Pinc
Lynn Gibson sits for a brief moment of nothing with her children.
Think about it. Accomplish nothing. Accomplish, as defined by Webster, means to succeed in doing. Nothing means void of any act, not doing.
Accomplish nothing. The mere phrase can bring winter chills to some and sheer joy to those of the opposite personality type.
I first started thinking about this concept while sitting on the dock at our cabin in Wisconsin.
The day was cloudy and breezy and the sounds of the choppy gray waves splashed in rhythm with my fingers on the keyboard. An occasional boat speeds by with an enthusiastic skier in tow. The sun breaks through the clouds periodically, casting a dazzling spray of diamonds across the water. The summer breeze plays with my hair, lifting it here and there in a random pattern. The lazy sounds of summer surround me.
My two youngest daughters are playing in the water. They are sending out leaf boats with tiny flowers (translation: little people sailing on pirateships) to see how long they will float before they collide with the rocky shoreline. The girls laugh as they make wet leaf patterns on the wooden dock.
They place our glasses of lemonade on top of new leaf boats so they will curl enough to float. Their shiny blonde hair tangles in the breeze.
I watch them with joy … and a touch of envy.
As a mom, my responsibilities are numerous, and I turn my attention to a mental list of things to accomplish when we return home. The girls carefully place ice cubes on the wooden dock to watch them melt in the heat of the day. On their stomachs, they surrender themselves in complete silence to watch the puddles of water broaden as the ice shrinks.
Satisfied, they roll over on their backs and soak up the sunshine. They laugh and talk and give each other secret smiles and whisper in each other’s ears. Their deep blue eyes sparkle.
They are accomplishing nothing.
There is a familiar, yet long-ago, ring to the phrase “accomplish nothing.” As children, we didn’t realize it; we just lived as children are supposed to live ... simply and in the moment.
As an adult, I have to remember what that means. How to do it. And why it is so important.
I glance at the girls again and notice they have moved from their backs to the end of the dock to watch for fish. Their tanned, slender legs dangle and swing slowly in an identical pattern. They sit in complete silence with their arms around each other waiting for a fish to grace their presence. At this moment, there is nothing more important to them than to behold a finned creature at the surface of the water. This is entertainment. This is what their lives are all about. A fish appears. They quietly hug each other; all is right with the world.
This is a miracle ... happening right in front of my eyes.
This is “accomplish nothing” in the flesh.
And it’s so close to me that I can literally reach out and touch it.
Tears fill my eyes as I think of how fortunate we are that their childhood is graced with time for respite and reflection. At the same time, I long for those lighthearted, carefree childhood days that are long past.
Accomplish nothing. This is what I must learn to do. Somehow. Sometimes.
So, how does a mother with five children actually remember how to accomplish nothing and maintain her sanity? Where does it fit in? Somewhere among my children’s lessons and activities, our 4-H club, mounds of laundry and writing grants for the local school district?
I realize that I will probably always be seeking the answers.
Somehow, though, I must find a way to gain and keep this perspective. I must learn to play more with my children, sit quietly and listen to wind blowing through the leaves, sleep in every once in a while, walk in the rain, lose myself in a good novel or watch a movie without falling asleep right after the opening credits.
But isn’t doing nothing an oxymoron in today’s fast-paced, “just do it” society? We take multi-tasking to its highest level. We do the dishes while we return phone calls. We e-mail as we write bills while cooking dinner. We can be reached anytime, anywhere through the use of technology that allows us to live plugged-in lives 24/7.
“Busy” is okay as long as we don’t allow it take over our lives. And when we know we’ve reached our capacity, filled up our personal disk space, gone on systemoverload, and not balanced our emotional balance sheet, that’s the time we need to kick back, replenish our souls and … accomplish nothing.
Perhaps I should begin by observing my children at play. I can watch and learn from them when they curl up in a comfortable chair and allow their minds to wander. When they are pretending to live in another world and be someone else. And especially when they color outside the lines.
I can just … stop. I can find a way to listen to life and appreciate its simple cadence. I can search my soul for the salient rhythm I left behind; I can close my eyes and breathe deeply.
I am determined to learn to accomplish nothing, or I am in danger of becoming what I never want to be—a person who has forgotten how to get out of her own way.
I want to lose myself from time to time so that I can be a woman who sees the world through a child’s eyes, who relishes the sheer act of living, and who, occasionally, accomplishes nothing.
Lynn Gibson is a freelance writer, who lives in Rockford with her husband and five children. She has a masters degree in educational administration and writes grants for the local school district. She is learning to, sometimes, accomplish nothing.