In praise of idleness

Today was beautiful, and didn’t even feel like winter: 50 degrees and sunny. I wanted to go for a hike, or at least spend most of the day outside. I got involved in a bread making project mid-morning, however, and didn’t finish baking until after two. As I waited for the bread to be ready, I lay on the couch, reading. The sun streaming in through the windows warmed the house and made me drowsy. I set my magazine aside and closed my eyes.

“Wait!” My brain protested. “It’s a gorgeous day, you should be outside! You should be writing, looking for work, doing something productive!”

But the aroma of baking bread, the warmth of the sun and the peaceful ease of the afternoon took hold. I napped. Later, on a walk with the dogs, I reflected on the concept of “wasting time”. Because my work schedule is so sporadic, I end up with a lot of unstructured time on my hands. More often than not, I feel compelled to be doing something. I feel guilty that I’m not working, writing, painting, creating value. And yet, there’s magic in lazy afternoons, in stillness, in quiet. The multifaceted pleasure I felt today as I lay in the sun and let my body relax, smelling the bread in the oven and seeing my animals lying peacefully around me was unquestionably worthwhile.

Although I sometimes feel anxiety when I “do nothing”, the understanding that my time on earth is fleeting prompts me to reevaluate societal notions of value and productivity. I love it that my days aren’t tightly structured and controlled. And, while I would welcome more paying work, I’ve decided to enjoy my down time, to revel in the blessings of relaxation, solitude and unhurried reflection. This winter, I’m giving myself permission to hibernate, to find joy in idleness. Spring will bring busyness once again; no need to rush.


About ea

Reluctant technophile, immoderate lover of words, food, cogitation, the sensory world. We are not done evolving and there is no free will.
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4 Responses to In praise of idleness

  1. Belinda says:

    I think we were talking about this the other day. As a person who could never sit idle in the past Iam happy to say I enjoy my naps and down time. I think when you live in a place with defined seasons your body is controlled by the seasons. Sit back and enjoy your winter because before you know it spring will be here and you WILL be very busy. Thinking of you often xo Belinda

  2. hrockwel says:

    Well said, sister. I am hard pressed to just relax and not worry about what “needs doing” (I guess that’s to be expected with a 3-year-old, but even when he’s not with me I feel the same compulsion). On a totally unrelated note, did you get my e-certificate to Amazon? Perhaps you could find some music that would help you continue your state of relaxation. 🙂 Love you.
    p.s. – I will be seeing our parents on Mama’s b-day and will get the gifts you sent at that time.

  3. emilya says:

    I did get it, thank you! “Snail mail” thank you note OTW!

  4. annie says:

    I’m glad you’re learning to let yourself succumb to the pleasures of a peaceful house filled with warm sunlight, the smell of baking bread, a comfortable couch, contented napping animals and no agenda.

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