The Hardest Nothing.

I have a naturally busy mind. That is to say, whether or not it’s something that I aspire to or not, I’ve had a lot of noise rumbling around up there for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried all kinds of different methods to quiet down a bit—meditation, relaxation, organization, exercise, nutrition, whatever.

The only thing I’ve ever learned is that I like to DO things, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The whole purpose of Zen meditation (as I understood it) was to create a waking state that you carried with you at all times to keep you focused and present. And that’s not really a problem for me. Usually.

Lately, though, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. So much to do. So many LISTS. And I do have a very good grasp on what needs to get done and when, and in what order. The real problem right now is that I have absolutely no downtime whatsoever. This is a problem that I’ve always grappled with in the past, but don’t we all? When we have free time, it is always too too easy to watch it fly away than to use it to deal with boring things that have to get done.

Now that I’m a parent, the illusion of free time has been ripped asunder once and for all. There simply is no such thing anymore. In a huge way, this has been a relief. Despite this lack of time, I still seem to get everything done that really needs to get done. Every day becomes a battle against time and the forces of evil, and I like a good challenge. Strange, I don’t consider myself masochistic at all, but when I say that out loud….

So my currently overwhelming state had me kind of spinning the wheels of my mind in Mississippi mud this morning. I don’t know why I did it, but I decided to skip coffee with breakfast. I felt really awake and fine, so I just let it go. As the morning went on, I started feeling draggy, and I felt my mind tail-spinning. My family went out in the car, and while my wife stopped in at a shop full of breakable things, I took our munchkin to the coffee shop. I drank a marvelous americano (my takeout coffee of choice – obviously because I’m such a devoted patriot) while she munched on cheddar bunnies. I had this delightful moment of just doing nothing in particular, conversing with my 2-1/4-year-old daughter about nothing in particular, and realized something both wonderful and terrible.

The one thing that I need to do more of is NOTHING.

I’ve been working so hard lately, I hadn’t been able to take the time to stop and let my mind unwind a bit. I’m actually quite capable of detaching and just appreciating a moment for what it is, but when you’re too busy for that to just happen, you have to really go out of your way to make time for it to happen. It sounds so unspontaneous and uninspiring, but my experience is that it only doesn’t work if you lack spontaneity and inspiration in the first place.

The most important thing that I have carried out of this small moment that I had is just a simple but very strong reinforcement of a truth I already knew. There is no such thing as multi-tasking. Spending time with my daughter requires my full attention in order to make it truly worthwhile for either of us, and when I give it my full attention, it becomes a huge and deep experience. The same thing happens with everything else….

Being a parent is like being a camel in the desert, and time is water. A little bit can go a LONG way. So in between the items on my giant interminable list of things to do, I’ll pencil in a few minutes of NOTHING. Maybe I’ll use pen.

P.S. I started P90X yesterday. Pray for me.