The terrifying prospect of having absolutely nothing to do

The terrifying prospect of having absolutely nothing to do

A few weeks ago, I booked a little holiday for myself. You know that feeling after you get back from an international trip or even (let’s be real) after the Christmas holidays? Everyone comes back to the office and says that classic never-gets-old line of ‘Gee, I just need a holiday to recover from my holiday!’ I wanted to have that holiday. A time to really rewind and actually do the things I wanted to do without getting distracted by people and things in life that just … happen. Instead of reading at a rate of one book a week or two, I wanted to really make a dent in the unread books on my shelf and actually just … rest.

Even the very first day of my holiday that’s how I felt. I settled in and smashed out the first book before I went to bed.

The next morning, it was whole different story. Of course, despite not setting an alarm, I woke up at 6.30am and then promptly laid in bed for 4 hours wondering what I should do. I didn’t feel like reading at that point and I felt bad if I watched a movie before I had done any reading for the day. I kind of laid there feeling annoyed at myself and guilty that I had wasted all this time.

That same day, I spent another hour or so just sitting in a chair trying to read but getting distracted by the fact that I could be catching up on sleep or I could be writing my blog. I could have been taking advantage of the lovely weather outside and the beach only 5 minutes away. I could have been making dinner or doing the washing up from breakfast (Mum will laugh that those two even crossed my mind). I could have even actually got out of my pyjamas, had a shower and got ready for the day.

I didn’t do any of those things and then I panicked. I started making all these little goals for the end of the week. I wanted to plan out my entire NaNoWriMo novel, come up with new blog post ideas and actually write a few of them too! I wanted to sleep enough that the dark circles under my eyes would start to disappear and I wanted to go for a decent walk every day. I wanted to watch the most recent season of Call the Midwife and start watching Friday Night Lights. I even wanted to keep up with my podcasts and there were a couple of moments on Monday when I felt the urge to check my work emails. What?????

I had to take a step back on day two and give myself a bit of a pep talk. Of course, all of these things are fine things, good things and things that maybe I just don’t have time for in my normal week between all the regular stuff that goes on. And let’s be real, they’re all pretty small goals – I’d never been that ambitious. Except I’d come here for a rest. I didn’t want to feel guilty for not doing this or avoiding that. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do with my time because this week – for once – my time was actually entirely my own.

With the exception of the walks, perhaps, nothing that I was feeling guilty over was particularly necessary. Not even the reading that I came to do. If I only read two of the NINE books I brought with me, I would have made progress. I think we’re obsessed with being busy all the time – it’s like a badge of honour ‘Oh I’m soooo busy’ and we’re not making real, dedicated, focused time for the things we really like to do. Our attention is constantly split between the 3 million things we ‘need to do’ – half of which I’m convinced we’ve just invented to give ourselves a sense of urgency.

So, I made a little pact with myself: if I didn’t want to get out of bed at the crack of dawn to go for a walk, I didn’t. From day two onwards, if I caught myself doing something that felt like a slog or like I was forcing myself to do it, I would just stop doing it and move on to something else.

It’s not an approach that’s going to carry over into my day-to-day life – I’m not even the busiest person in the world but I know I’ve still got so much going on that I can’t just go wherever my mood takes me. I think that’s probably a dangerous way to approach everyday life. Instead, I think it’s taking the approach of trying to be as present as possible for the things that I really care about. Not splitting myself between tasks when I can help it and prioritising properly.

At the start of this week, I was pretty terrified at the prospect of having absolutely nothing urgent to do. I love a good list and it scared me that there was actually nothing on it. But right now, it’s Wednesday night and I’m writing my blog post for Thursday because I actually wanted to. It’s been a couple of months since I really wanted to write a blog post because the only reliable time I have to write them is on a Thursday afternoon and quite frankly, by that point, I’m not interested. This whole ‘having nothing urgent to do’ thing is actually making the things I am choosing to do so much more enjoyable.

Of course, this could just be the holiday brain talking and everything is always easier said than done but I’m still going to try to give it a go when I meander back home – only time will tell.

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