There’s the old romantic cliché about liking long walks on the beach and then there’s the reality of long walks on the beach resulting in feet blistered from the sand and shoulders from the sun. I’ve taken half-day-long journeys down the shore every summer since I was 17. The only thing romantic about them is that somewhere along the way, your mind-body gets so exhausted it surrenders to something I’ll call silence. Doing anything for an extended, uninterrupted period of time—walking, sitting, playing an instrument—requires this shift. The monotony would otherwise be unbearable (i.e. boring) and unacceptable (i.e. unproductive). Once I’ve exhausted my self, little things become fascinating: the way young lifeguards sit atop their thrones, old men posturing like Greek statues in speedos, parents drinking beer from soda bottles, seagulls nose-diving at tourists, decades-old garbage washing ashore. Water shimmering in the sun for miles.
I’m able to walk on the beach because this is vacation week, and I’ve fiercely resisted the urge to hyper-schedule my days off. Something I’m learning is that, it’s necessary for me to actually schedule in time for nothing. It’s necessary to actually write “let go of this” on my to-do list. It’s vital that I tell my inner-critic when it’s time to purposefully make mistakes, my inner-Puritan when it’s time to play. And it’s essential that I tell my inner-navigator when it’s time to get lost.
I don’t know who made busyness a god or when I drank the kool-aid, but the truth is that I like the hustle. I enjoy the adrenaline rush of a time crunch and love working hard under pressure. I get a buzz from checking things off my list and take pleasure in getting things done. These are not demons I aim to exorcise from my life. But if I don’t balance “getting things done” with “doing nothing” then I’m just as lopsided and ridiculous as a bird with one wing that spends its entire life flying in a big circle, or a culture that worships a male god while desecrating the ecological conditions on which it depends. I also don’t think the popular notion about what balance looks and feels like is very conducive to us ever actually finding it, but let’s explore that next time.