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The Art of Doing Nothing

27 Aug

I find that I am often very tightly wound. Having OCD certainly doesn’t help, but being open to finding ways to cope does. For the past several days I’ve allowed life to really get to me. Everything was getting to me. The stress of it all had me extremely irritable and often times angry and distant. I find it so hard to relax.

I recently found myself lamenting to my brother about how sometimes it’d be great not having to be an adult. Childhood really is fleeting. When you think about it, in the grand scheme of life, it lasts but for a moment. Long gone are the days of having someone else to take care of our responsibilities for us. We were all so anxious to become adults. We couldn’t believe why our parents and others told us to enjoy our childhood. And before we knew it, the long march of adulthood was at our doorsteps.

I’m a details type of person. And because I am I agree with the idiom, the devil is in the details. I try to live a very structured life. I plan out my days in blocks of time and prefer for things to be regimented. Because of that, I find that I am not a fan of surprises or the lack of planning. It frustrates me when you have to tell someone something more than three times and I always feel as though the weight of the world is squarely on my shoulders. I can sometimes get so crippled by losing the rigidity that I like that I sometimes take it a bit too far and even become depressed that I can’t live up to an unrealistic ideal. I expect more from myself than others do of me and I can, at times, allow that to eat at me. From childhood I have tried to do the best and be the best and I think that there are times where I find that sometimes need to, as in the now famous Disney’s Frozen song, Let It Go.

In general, letting go isn’t easy. Whether it’s in letting go of the pain of a relationship or in letting go of expectations, hopes or dreams, it’s hard. Wu wei is a Taoism concept that means non-action or non-doing. Thus, wei wu wei, action without action or effortless doing, is the belief, in a nutshell, that inaction sometimes is the best course of action. We are to simply let it go and allow for things to happen. The energy we expend in getting upset or attempting to control a situation is best used somewhere else. You know, those moments where we really need to just walk away, to breath, to take a break, those are the very moments that some of us don’t allow to happen. We always feel that we can fix everything, control everything, do everything. As much as we’d like to, we can’t. And we have to accept that that’s okay.

Just like life going on regardless of what we think, want or do, we must allow the moments where we truly need to be still to also occur. A client of mine reminded me of the term Oprah often uses, woosah. Just calm down. It can be difficult if you have children to take care of, a household to run, or mounting bills and other life issues to deal with. However, you’re of no use to yourself or others if you allow yourself to become overwhelmed and too stressed out. Allowing the stresses of life to get to you really does change you. You don’t act like yourself. You’re short-tempered and mean, you become even less productive and as a whole, you’re simply unhappy. I know that saying it is far easier than doing it. Giving up any semblance of control feels unnatural to me. But I also can’t say that I’ve been used to living a stress-filled existence either. Making changes can be hard even if it’s the right thing to do.

Christians liken this approach to, letting go and letting God. Others see it as taking a chill pill or simply going with the flow. Regardless of how you see it, a lot can be said for being still and taking a time out. This can include simply stepping outside for a moment to feel the sun’s rays on your face or it could also mean simply walking away from the computer screen or the situation until you’ve again found your center. Don’t take for granted the opportunities where inaction is the best action.

This article appeared on page 5A in the 8/27/14 issue of The Union-Recorder.

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