The Art–and Value–of Doing Nothing

Woman laying down watching TV on her laptopBy Kim Fernandez

This was supposed to be a busy year. Besides work, I had several days of out-of-state college touring with my daughter, plus a five-day trip as a chaperone with her school choir group, plus days to move my son home from college, plus a family vacation, plus a few other out-of-office things planned. Quite frankly, I wasn’t quite sure how everything was going to fit.

And then COVID-19 hit. The county where I live has been a hotspot for quite some time and we’ve been very much socially distancing (read: trapped in the house) since March 15; most of our businesses remain closed even now. Everything on my calendar grew a thick, red line and because everyone in my house was in my house, taking previously scheduled time off seemed pointless. Cancel, cancel, cancel.

Our office closed for a few days after the IPMI Virtual Parking & Mobility Conference & Expo and because we’re still not going anywhere, I planned 48 solid hours of organizing, cleaning, and task-accomplishing. Sounded great. Super productive. And then the days came and I sat on the couch and sort of didn’t get up. I spent two days doing absolutely nothing–watching movies, binging shows, dozing a bit, snuggling with dogs, playing on the internet, and hauling upright with a grumble when it was time to make dinner. This is, to put it lightly, out of character and slightly unnerving, and I did wonder multiple times what the heck was going on.

The weekend came and the family routine returned and guess what? I felt a little guilty that my to-do list was cobwebby from inattention, but I mostly felt rested up and refreshed. Even though we haven’t been leaving the house and it feels like we’re doing nothing, my brain needed that respite of actually doing nothing for a few days. It’s been written about a ton, but this was a revelation to me.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen to our planned vacation this year and I have no idea when things like college tours–or even college–might start up again (or how long it’ll last even then) but I’m leaving those empty days on the calendar. Taking a break felt fantastic, even though it wasn’t physically much different than the last few months. Going forward, an occasional few hours or days of nothing will be a priority.

Kim Fernandez is IPMI’s director of publications and editor of Parking & Mobility.