The Art of Doing Nothing

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” -Lin Yutang


A couple of weeks ago, I distractedly sat in church multi-tasking. I was listening some, but mostly organizing my life (i.e. making lists), when the speaker of the hour placed this quote on the overhead screens. Surprisingly fitting and convicting enough to draw me out of myself, the words blew my mind. I had/have no idea who Lin Yutang really is, but you’d best believe The Importance of Living is now on my to-read list. And, yes, I did add the book to my list during services, but I swear I put away all such list making after that point.

Long ago when pursing Barnes and Noble with a warm cup of joe was feasible, I came across a little, coffee-table book entitled The Art of Doing Nothing. I can’t be sure that I ever read a singular paragraph but I leafed through its shiny, little pages enamored by the prospect of time spent engaged in nothingness. Fantasy, I know, but I left the little work of art out in my line of vision for inspiration. Inspiration to down-size, minimize, and just be still. I wonder if I still have it around here somewhere?…

Anyhow, It’s been quite some time now since I’ve had the chance peruse B&N without having to chase short, stubby legs around the train tables or prevent little hands from throwing piles of books to the floor. And it’s been even longer still, since I’ve had the chance to do nothing. In fact, given the opportunity, I’d likely fail. Hard.

I’ll spare you the details of my day-to-day comings, goings, and everything in between, but my guarantee is that there is no alarm set early enough or midnight oil that burns long enough to finish it all. But believe it or not, there are days where I try.  You see, I am a lover of all things organized. Trust me, this does not necessarily translate into being super organized. I just happen to have a deep-seated love for checklists and planners, clean towels, labeled bins and tidy shelves, etc. This tendency is quite valuable for keeping my family moving day-to-day, but it discourages spontaneity and rest. Maybe it’s just who I am, or perhaps it’s the influence of our go-go-go society, but I really struggle with relaxing. I sometimes become so preoccupied by the process of getting things done that, if I’m not careful, the days are often a blur of meaningless activity.

I have the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom.  My primary work these days is parenting and taking care of our little home. My wonderful husband and I share the responsibility of raising two young girls, but because I’m the primary caregiver, the brunt of that responsibility falls on me. In this line of work, multi-tasking is the name of the game. It’s rare that I get to do one thing at a time and it’s even more rare that I’m able to devote my attention to a single task. Whatever I am able to accomplish, you can rest assured that it was done with someone on my hip, under my foot, or, in some cases, strapped to my belly, boob, or back.  Yes, things are getting a little easier as the girls are becoming more and more independent, but my workload hasn’t shifted one bit. Mind you, I am not complaining. This is just where I am today. I’m overworked (yes SAHM’s do work!) just like you and in need of more peace.

I’m up early to gather my thoughts and brace myself for the chaos that’s sure to come and I’m up late stealing a few minutes to work on things that can’t be attended to during the day.  Basically, I’m burning the candle at both ends and at some point, something’s gotta give. Since Yutang’s timeless words came into my life, I’ve been making the effort to start my day with greater and more focused intention. I sit down and ask for guidance in deciphering what must be done and what can wait. And once that list is narrowed, there is still room for heart logic. For example, dinner must be prepared, but surely I can stop for a few minute and read a story with my youngest. Yes, I may need to do a grocery visit after school pickup, but still, there is time to wiggle my toes in the sand with my girls at their favorite playground beforehand.

I need reminders and this one is so in tune with where I want to be in life right now. I’m not perfect by a long shot and getting it right every time is not even an option. My family is loving and forgiving, but I sincerely appreciate someone calling me out of the busy, distracted state that I sometimes find myself in. I’m grateful for the much needed prompt to focus more on right now as opposed to what’s next.

Life is a gift. I know you’ve probably heard that a thousand times, but it’s true. I find that the longer I live, the more appreciative I become.  I’ve been around long enough to see and experience that just like the late Zora Neale Hurston said, “there are years that ask, and there are years that answer .” 

We have little control over the chaos of chance and circumstance. But the thing we do possess is the power of choice. We can choose. Each day has the potential to be filled with opportunity, redemption, and joy. Learn from my mistakes and choose wisely.

Now, with that said, I’m off to spend a little time doing nothing.


Peace, love, and joy,




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