By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
A wonderful thing happened Sunday afternoon. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’d carried my laptop to the sofa with every intention of working and trying to get a jump on the week’s long to-do list.
But then I noticed Tom was pulling a blanket up to his chest and hitting the recline button on his chair – classic pre-nap moves I’ve seen him do a thousand times. Perhaps the mood was contagious because I convinced myself I’d just “rest my eyes” for a few minutes before I began work.
I set my laptop aside, grabbed another blanket and spread it across my legs. But I shouldn’t have picked the big, fuzzy gray one, which has earned a reputation as “the narcolepsy blanket” at our house. It has a near-perfect record of inducing a nap within minutes. Sure enough, I went from resting my eyes to full-on nap mode faster than you can say Sunday snooze.
I woke up briefly when I felt our Beagle burrow under the blanket and curl up next to me. Meanwhile, the Corgi settled down across my lap and joined the circle of sleepers. I considered forcing my eyes open at that point and starting my computer. But it would’ve been cruel to force a sleeping dog off my lap and replace him with a laptop. I decided to sit still and let the dog finish his nap. If I should fall asleep again while waiting, so be it. The dog’s warm weight helped me tumble right back down into dreams, where I stayed for at least an hour. Maybe two.
I woke up a few minutes after Tom did and tried to shake off the sleepy haze. We marveled at how we could’ve slept so long even after having had a good night’s sleep. But we both agreed it was – in a word – awesome.
That’s when I heard my teenage-self mocking me from decades past. I flashed back to being 15 or so, standing on the stairway that overlooked our family den. I looked down disapprovingly at my dozing parents – one of them stretched out on the sofa and the other leaned back in his recliner. They had turned the room into a symphony of snores, snorts and nose whistles.
I shook my head in dismay, bewildered by how they could be that tired. I never felt tired back then. There were so many things to do. There were mixed cassette tapes to make. There were outfits to plan. I just couldn’t understand why my parents wanted to do something so… boring.
But now that I’m on this side of 40, I get it. What seemed boring back then is a luxury today – the equivalent of a hot fudge sundae, minus the calories. It’s the rare chance to slow down and just “be,” despite a world that constantly pushes us to “go, go, go.”
The Dutch even have a specific word for doing nothing. It’s called “niksen,” and it means that you do something without any real purpose. Like gazing out a window. Or staring up at the ceiling while your mind wanders. Or sitting still on a sofa under a fuzzy blanket. (Side effects of that last example include drowsiness and unplanned napping.)
In a society that’s quick to honor “hustle culture” despite the toll a frantic pace can take on us, perhaps we could all use a little more “nothing.” There have been several articles published in the past year about how “niksen” or doing nothing can boost creativity and productivity. If your Puritanical work ethic won’t allow you to zone out minus a guilt trip, remember that experts say occasionally doing nothing will make your ability to do something that much better.
So, grab your favorite nap-loving, non-judgmental pet or spouse and enjoy a little niksen soon. I’m already looking forward to my next chance to spend a Sunday afternoon doing a whole lot of nothing.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her book is available on Amazon.