(To those of you who really are not paying attention around here, I recently took a month off work and off other productive activities. It was a noble plan but one that refused to stick to the blueprint in my mind)
So are you one of those who think doing nothing is easy? It’s a cakewalk? Maybe you’ve even mentioned to someone that you’d love to live a life where you did absolutely nothing. BIG MISTAKE, my friend. I have just spent a month doing nothing, and I have news for all you do-nothing lovers. A month of nothing amounts to exactly that…nothing. Nothing to show for it, nothing to rejoice, nothing to bitch about, nothing to work towards and nothing to congratulate yourself for. Oh uh, I am sorry, I forgot, oh yes you do get something out of it, you get yourself a big fat ZERO.
The past month has been a death of sorts and a re-birth of an entirely different sort. When I decided to take one month off from work, it was meant to be the start of something monumentous. Okay, maybe to say that it was to be a ‘start’ is a bit optimistic, but at the very least it was meant to be a month’s hiatus from regular work craziness and a welcome to brief but supremely dazzling fun and excitement. I had even defined what the fun and excitement would be (albeit a bit randomly). I would learn something fantastic like jazz piano or karate (I know, I know). I would re-connect with nature…in Mumbai that would mean walks by the sea while listening to Katie Melua melt my heart or Usher making love in the club. I would have exotic cocktails and dinner parties at home, which would include (but not limited to, for all you lawyers out there!) a table set to perfection, music to suit the mood, an eclectic menu and great conversation. I was going to spend the month meditating and focusing on my positive affirmations. I was going to come out of this month a new and improved me, better health, better attitude. I was going to re-connect with old friends. Lunches, dinners, drinks, dancing, plays, drives, agony aunt, psychopathic counselor, I was going to do it all. I was going to read serious books (all those chick flicks could find another fan, I was going to defect over to the dark side). I was going to write. A piece a day…okay…let’s be honest, a piece every two days. Okay, lets’s be really really honest…a piece every five days. And finally, I was going to catch up on my sleep and tv watching. Now, for those of you who think I am being extremely superficial, welcome to the real me. And just for my ego, let me put this into perspective. I have not had a decent night’s sleep for longer than I care to remember (no funny thoughts here, please). And I barely watch a full episode of anything once a month. So no, as far as I am concerned, a full night’s sleep and watching tv are the Rolls Royce of luxury. I would even go as far as to say that I would swap a Swedish massage for these two. Er…actually on second thoughts, there’s no way that would happen, I take it back with immediate effect…the only thing I would put over sleep and senseless tv is a Swedish massage.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans. My plans invariably have a plan of their own. For starters, on the very first day, I re-invented the word ‘lounging’. Which means that I did nothing meaningful. I hung around at home. I was in my pajamas at 11 in the morning, at 4 in the evening, at 8 in the night. A month of finding myself was ahead of me. Sure I could take a day off to do nothing. I could find myself in the remaining 27 days. But as I quickly discovered, lounging is addictive. It’s a slippery slope. Even more so than tobacco, or alcohol or narcotics…it’s free and requires absolutely no application of any kind, mental or physical, no searching for suspicious looking dealers in shady bars, or guilty puffing on the footpath or stocking expensive scotch. No, all you need for this addiction is to keep your body still and turn the switch in your brain to the OFF position and you are all set. And so as with all things addictive, I lounged on day 2 , day 3 and day 4. By day 5, even my ever-ready-to- laze mind began to worry about this no-end-in-sight lounging.
So I finally pulled up my socks (I love the pun) and went for that long walk on Bandstand, right along the sea. The first round of walking was perfect. I looked at the setting sun and sighed with satisfaction – Ah, this is the life, the sea, the fresh air, the exercise, getting all those endorphins flowing, nodding to fellow walkers, timing the walk. Ofcourse, barely 3.5 seconds after this wonderful thought, I felt the first fat raindrop on my nose. It must be my own strange doing that the month I choose to take off to do all these great outdoor things is the wettest month of the year. Now walking in the rain sounds great. It even felt great initially. The first few seconds were so liberating, like as if I was finally taking a chance with life. But as the sweatshirt got drenched and water seeped into the socks, and starting making squeaky sounds, the rain started to fast loses its charm. And five minutes later there was no hope in sight, literally. There were no autorickshaws in sight on a road that is usually swarming with them. The rain was really coming down and I found myself cold and clammy with an entirely inadequate coconut tree for shelter. It rained nonstop for the next eight days. And I watched my walks literally go down the drain. It reiterates why I never ever plan on regular exercise. The plan inevitably gets jinxed….it’s all one big conspiracy to keep me from becoming any fitter / trimmer / any more gorgeous than I already am :-)
And so I decided to stay home and start some of that serious reading – I took the first important step towards that – I went shopping! I stocked myself with The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out, Surely Your Joking, Mr. Fenyman, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, The Tenderness of Wolves, Of Men and Mice, Paradise, Awaken the Giant Within. I stopped myself from picking up any cover with pink on it or with a remotely pleasant script. It was gut wrenching to choose war over psychological thrillers and science over sex, love and rock and roll. For the next few days I was nose deep in words that required a dictionary and thoughts that required a revolution. I am sure I emerged a more mature thinker and a better person somewhere deep down, but the process was not pretty. I loved some of the books and some I could not even finish. The bad ones were worse than watching paint dry but on a positive note, I had found a pretty effective cure for insomnia.
And for the bit that really got my goat: The rain would cause my Direct to Home television connection to go on the blink before the first drop even fell. It was so accurate that I began to wonder why the weather bureau didn’t link up with my tv service provider. My tv was able to predict rain far more accurately than the weatherman! My ultimate ambition of being a couch potato was proving to be far more difficult to achieve than I imagined.
So in the final analysis of things: There was no piano playing (too much work for what was meant to be time off from work). There was no learning something new (there was no way I was getting out into the rain to learn anything). There were no fantastic dinner parties (sure there were plenty of dinner parties, but regular drunken, dumb charade / Uno ones which do not qualify as fantastic). There was very little writing, for writing requires application of the mind and when the mind was as lazy as mine was, the only thing I my hand could produce were doodles of top caliber and I doubt anyone would want to decipher those. Friends who were normally free to hang out at a moment’s notice were completely indisposed that month – pregnancies, death in the family, freelance work, travel, ill health – you name it, they had it. As for the positive affirmations, I wrote exactly one down, it had something to do with being positive and living each moment to the fullest, which the month ended up being anything but. And seeing how everything else was going that month, I decided to not even bother with starting any meditation. I had seriously failed in being able to have serious fun.
But you know what, as the month came to an end, I gratefully embraced real life with both arms. The work and the running around like a headless chicken and the caring for people in my life and the confusion and the chaos and the laughter and the adventures and the craziness that is my life were so worth living for. It’s funny how it took a month of nothing for me to see it.
PS – I am quite sure that there is no word such as ‘nothingness’. I was aiming for the nothing equivalent of emptiness. So there.