Imagine waking up on a tiny island where there are no cars or scooters at all, only foot paths with the occasional bicycle. Delivery produce only arrives from the larger island once a week and sends the small ferry dock into a frenzy with people from all over the island setting up stands and selling the week’s supply of food. Larger items need to be transported by push cart through the jungle pathways weaving a half an hour to the opposite end, sometimes taking as many as 6 men to complete the job. Electricity shuts off daily from 6 AM to 1 PM to allow the sun to recharge the generators for the day. When the fans stop humming in the morning it pushes everyone outside to begin their day. I don’t think there is any air conditioning on the island so the fan is what allows you to sleep. The first thing you smell every morning is fresh baked coconut bread flavored with ginger or cheddar and the locals speak a mixture of Spanish, English and Creole. Sometimes you’re unsure which one is more prevalent. The people are friendly and the pace of life is slow, untouched from the rush of the rest of the world.
I wrote this on May 27 somewhere in between the BVI and the Bahamas. It is a few days late as I only got wifi again and the motivation to retype it onto my phone and out of my journal.
We’re not used to doing nothing.
We live in a society where we are taught to be productive, constantly making the most of our time. Emphasis is always put on how much we can accomplish- i.e. we want to do more in less time. We are constantly finding new and innovative ways to “save time”; when in actuality, all we are really doing is freeing up more time so that we can do MORE things. So now we just have more shit to do!
“Sitting around” is lazy, even “relaxing” is lazy. Unless you are constantly running around and acting busy, you’re lazy. And “doing nothing” is definitely lazy!
What does “doing nothing” even mean? Aren’t we technically always doing something? Even nothing is something, right? Maybe I’m thinking about this too much…
In today’s world doing nothing is an art. An almost forgotten art. I’m not rewarding genuine laziness or encouraging “nothing” as a lifestyle but I am encouraging people to slow down sometimes, at least long enough to allow yourself to think critically about your day and spend some quality time with yourself.
In a world that makes you feel shame or guilt for taking time to yourself or taking a holiday, most of us don’t allow ourselves to slow down. And those of us that do get called selfish or lazy. It’s too bad that we aren’t taught to appreciate the in between moments where we can be with ourselves. Instead we slow down for a moment only to start thinking of the heaps of other things we should be doing with our time. We start getting anxious- we fiddle with our phones, turn on the TV or look for something else to distract us. Why?
Because we no longer know how to be with ourselves.
As I write this I am making a crossing from the British Virgin Islands to the Bahamas. No cell service, no wifi, no distractions. I have been saving Hemingway’s Islands on the Stream for this trip because I figured no timeless piece of literature would be more appropriate. He writes, “to go outside yourself, you must first go in.”
That’s what this trip is for me and this is what I need- probably what most people need to be honest, some time away from the hustle and bustle of normal life. A chance to sit and “do nothing” but look inside and humble themselves on what’s really important in life.
I started out this morning feeling anxious as we left port. I was trying to send loved ones last minute messages so they knew not to worry and rack my brain to make sure there weren’t any emails left unanswered or a bill I forgot about and then it hit me, “it’s only 5 days” and the rest of the world will be fine! I guess if it does all go to hell there isn’t anything I can do about it on my floating rock in the middle of the Caribbean, days from shore. And that was it, that moment, that beautiful fleeting moment where I let go and relaxed into doing nothing.
An hour later as we exited the harbour into the open ocean I put my book down for a minute and looked to the horizon. As I did I heard a splashing sound and walked towards the bow to find a pod of spinner dolphins playing in the wake. I almost tripped over a cleat as i went running to let the other crew know!
We laid on the nets and I put my hands out as they swam underneath us, getting within a foot of my fingertips. I was laughing and smiling at the absolute joy I felt. In that moment I let go, again. I was fully present and nothing else mattered. A reminder from the ocean to remain present and enjoy every moment.
Doing nothing is an art. The ability to find a space within yourself that allows you to relax and let go needs to be acceptable. We must allow ourselves these moments to find the thing(s) that get us there. It is so valuable and so special! I don’t think most people know what that’s like.
Once you find that space, maintain it. If you don’t you will slowly loose the ability to access it until you wake up one day and don’t know where it went, where you went, where that child inside you went. We will find comfort in distraction once again and loose ourselves completely.
Find time every day to do nothing. I challenge you.