When Nothing Becomes Something

July 2004

I awoke this weekend with a stunning realization. The heavy, biblical rains that have hammered Dane County were at it again. Ergo, no golf and male camaraderie, but, on the other hand, five reclaimed hours.

Also, no long bike ride to Mt. Horeb to keep the thumper strong. Two more hours found.

I sip my morning coffee and listen to easy morning music and come to the giddy conclusion that for the next two days, my schedule is totally, utterly empty. To make things even simpler, the bride is up north with her sisters. I will miss dear woman, but it means one less opinion concerning agenda, and thus a simpler day.

By the time my youngest makes his way down the stairs mid-morning, as 16-year-olds will do on a dark, rainy morning, I am ready to pose a question for which I have become famous in our household.

“Mornin’, Dad.”

“Mornin’, Son. Guess what we have on the schedule this weekend?”

JT smiles at the query, waits a beat, then asks, “Nothing?”

I nod gravely. “Exactly.”

And so, with nothing to do, I prepare breakfast for my son. Next down the stairs comes his older sister, our high school graduate. The two of them sit at the island in the kitchen and laugh as I juggle all the elements of breakfast. Scrambling eggs, picking shells from the bowl, burning toast, zapping bacon. It is more circus than meal. When it is finally prepared, we sit and chat lazily about the most important fact that we have nothing at all to do today.

I saunter out to the lawn and rummage around the small drainage canal that I have constructed to keep the rains from our basement. I trim a few hedges. Tidy up the garage. The rains have stopped now. Out of nowhere I ask my son if he cares to go for a bike ride. To my utter amazement, he agrees. We have not gone on a bike ride together since he was eight. We laugh as we take turns jockeying for the lead.

Later that afternoon, we go to a movie together.

When we return, I head to the grocery store with my daughter. Mags will be gone to college in just a few weeks. I surprise her with some flowers that I bought along with the grocery sundries. She gives me an “Oh Dad!” and a peck on the cheek.

After we put the groceries away, I mosey outside to sit down on the porch steps and marvel at how pleasant this day of nothing has been.

Most days we seem obsessed with jamming as much activity into our lives as possible, especially on our days “off.” Soccer matches, basketball tournaments, a gathering at the in-laws, a big game that must be watched on TV, community events, parties, concerts, shows, golf and biking, the constant social drone and buzz of the western world.

It seems that every day there is something we HAVE to do. And so few days to do so simply what we WANT to do.

Like nothing.

I rediscovered something else this lazy weekend. Doing nothing is immensely relaxing.

Few conversations. No moments of panic when you can’t remember where you are supposed to be next. No need to get appropriately dressed, for any garb is good for doing nothing.

And when I think about it, I am proud of all the things I got done this weekend while doing nothing.

I made breakfast for my kids.

I went on a bike ride with my son.

Bought flowers for my daughter.

Things I have been meaning to do, but was too busy doing something instead of nothing.

Maybe it’s when you are doing nothing at all that you get the most done.

I think I’ll do nothing again next weekend.

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