The Importance Of Being Idle

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Katie Barrett / Unsplash

I haven’t done a thing all week. Well, at least not anything that would pass as being conventionally productive. I did some things. But they were the sort of things that require having nothing to do, in order to do them. It’s been fantastic.

There’s been a lot of sitting down. Heaps of eating. Reading. Attempts at writing. And some overdue conversations with people I haven’t been making enough time for. I’m considering more of it too, perhaps another week or so. The guilt, which looms around every chain-tea-drinking session and my extended sleep-ins, will have to be fought off for another while.

I’m not used to doing nothing.

The bulk of my time, since turning 17, has been spent engulfed in full-time jobs. Sometimes two. Jumping always from one to the other, leaving little vacant time in between. My most frequent source of employment has been hospitality. I’ll forever respect the industry, but it’s certainly not the most swift avenue towards carving out a career. Money has been the attraction. Free time the sacrifice.

The scenario I currently find myself engulfed in is an interesting one. No one I must answer to, nothing I’m obliged to do and nowhere I have to go. Unemployed is the word I think. I won’t be able to sustain it for long though. A man needs to live. And the kind of fortune he obtains from a year spent in a metropolis like London, unfortunately doesn’t have the legs to carry him far beyond a fortnight. Then there’s the people. They might start talking. “Look at yer man.”, they’ll say, “you’d think he’d get himself a job”. That, I must avoid.

The idleness seems to have done me good.

My two sisters haven’t seen much of me in recent years. I’ve been coming and going. Working then sleeping. My presence coming nowhere close to resembling what an older brother’s should. I’m sure the 10-year-old can’t believe how much I’ve been around this week. We watched movies. We conquered ‘Introduction to Fractions’. And we discussed her brilliantly simple little version of life. I bet she expects me to take off at any moment though. The eighteen year old, hasn’t been around as much. She’s been coming and going. Working and sleeping.

I got to drink pints with my friends too, without being interrupted by time. A scenario I have shamefully allowed to turn into a rare occasion. Like my sister, they didn’t seem convinced by my commitment. The purchase of a fresh Carlsberg was my only tool of persuasion. Perhaps they knew the importance of a five euro pint to a man without work. I was administered a fair amount of slagging for my absence. We laughed a lot.

But the biggest benefactor has been my head. It’s as though all my excess mental-cargo has unpacked itself. The space up there which is usually consumed by the whose nexts; the where to’s and what times of work, has been alleviated. Freed of these mental grips, my headspace feels like a more enticing facility for the production of nice, interesting thoughts.

It hasn’t all been roses and pots of tea though. Constant bouts of inner conflict have made sure of that. As soon as I dare to basque in the bliss that accompanies doing nothing, a kind of guilt comes cascading in to unsettle me. I sway in and out of feeling liberated and feeling worthless. Content and anxious. Peaceful and tormented. It’s not the easiest battle to entertain.

I’ll continue to fend off the negativity for now though. And I’ll try to relish the rest of this rare opportunity to be idle. Perhaps for another week or so. TC mark

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