Jewish World Review Feb. 3, 2003/ 1 Adar I, 5763

Gayle A. Cox

Gayle Allen Cox
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The value of
doing nothing | My parents live in a modest house surrounded by tall pine trees, and for the past several weeks, I have been spending time among the pines doing nothing.

Take now, for instance.

I am sprawled on the couch, eating lemon pie, watching logs burn in the fireplace. Except for an occasional crackle of the wood, the house is quiet.

No radio. No television. No Internet. No computer. No fax machine. No ringing telephone. Just me, my pie and the smoldering fire.

There is nowhere that I have to be, nothing that I have to do and no one needing my immediate attention. I am at peace and utterly free.

Free to think.

Free to daydream.

Free to self-reflect.

Free to feel.

It is a wonderful freedom, for sure, with nourishing rewards - mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. But it comes about only during quiet times of solitude, doing nothing.

Admittedly, doing nothing isn't as easy as it sounds. My first few days among the pines proved to be quite challenging, as a matter of fact.

For some inexplicable reason, I felt an obligatory urgency to do something.

The mother in me felt an urgency to clean something, to cook something, to wash something, to iron something, to fold something, to find something, to explain something or to worry about something.

The writer in me felt an urgency to research something, to write something, to edit something, to file something, to print something or to e-mail something.

And, of course, the political news junkie in me felt a burning urgency to listen to something, to watch something, to read something or to debate something.

Strange as it might sound, doing nothing seemed like a rebellion of sorts, a mild form of treason, if you please. After all, good citizens are supposed to stay informed.

And, besides, this was wartime!

How could I justify doing nothing when Osama bin Laden still hadn't been found and Saddam Hussein still ruled Iraq? It seemed so cold and indifferent to me.

I mean, at the very least, I needed to turn on the radio and find out if bombs had been fired by either faction. I mean, I really, really did!

Didn't I?

No. Not really.

What I really "needed" to do was to learn how to exit the fast lane, put the car in park and sit motionless for a spell.

Yes, I had many personal things that I could be worrying about, and much was happening in the world around me.

But for my own self-preservation, I needed to learn the art of doing nothing.

And so, finally, I did.

I learned how to take deep, cleansing breaths, long, warm baths and slow, lazy walks to the mailbox.

I learned how to appreciate the splendor of the morning sun, dancing through the pine trees outside my bedroom window.

I learned how to see - and not just look.

I learned how to feel - and not just experience.

But above all, I am learning that doing nothing restores the mind and refreshes the spirit like nothing else can. Indeed, it is a magical antidote for wind-blown souls struggling to stay afloat.

Certainly, I will re-enter the fast lane from time to time and see how everybody in the world is doing without me. But chances are, very little will have changed.

Good people still will be doing good things, bad people still will be doing bad things, and politicians still will be bickering.

So, why worry myself with all of that today? Today, I am going to sit on the couch, eat lemon pie and watch logs burn in the fireplace.

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JWR contributor Gayle Allen Cox writes from Fort Worth. Comment on this column by clicking here.


05/15/02: We need more mean mothers
02/26/01: Is there a way to surgically remove our discontent?
01/29/01: Bush hasn't changed, but our perceptions have
12/07/01: Driving out of an era
11/05/01: Flying the flag isn't a new habit for some of us
09/26/01: Sadly, the green trees among us don't get a lot of attention
08/26/01: Is eating on the run the next target of Big Brother government?
07/09/01: Teen tramps and the mothers who encourage them

© 2002, Gayle Allen Cox