You’ve heard the old saying, right – An idle mind is the devil’s playground?
Yes indeed, we are not supposed to be slackers. Ever. That puritan work ethic should ring in our ears loud and clear ALL THE TIME. We should go go go and do do do and be productive AT EVERY TURN because God knows we don’t want that old devil playing on our ground, tempting us into unpuritanical pursuits.
But here’s another one I just read – Feeling the need to be busy all the time is a trauma response and fear-based distraction from what you’d be forced to acknowledge and feel if you slowed down.
Now that one I totally get. Because I have witnessed far too many people jump on that never-ending treadmill daily. Not because they have to, mind you, and please know I have the utmost respect for people who work their asses off because that’s how the bills get paid. I’m talking about people who make a decent living and have time for an occasionally idle mind but they CHOOSE to energizer-bunny it all the livelong day. They join clubs and take up hobbies and volunteer and hit the gym frequently and do whatever it takes to never ever have a moment alone with themselves.
I don’t get it.
I once skied with a girl I had just met (let’s call her L) who was incapable of sitting on the chairlift without humming. Or half-singing. You know, that weird (annoying) thing that some folks do when they cannot abide a moment’s silence. It was a gorgeous late-winter day. The sun was ablaze, the conditions were perfect and the sky was really blue. I was totally content to sit on that chair in silence enjoying the serenity as I mentally prepared myself for the next run. But L absolutely could not. Even when I asked her about her constant need to make noise she still could not stop. The minute there was a pause in our conversation she started chirping.
Was it because she did not want to confront her pain? She was distracting herself from the reality she would have to face in a quiet world? She was scared shitless of that next double black diamond?
I have no idea. But I do suspect that L was a girl who simply could not be alone with her thoughts because she wouldn’t like what she was thinking. Whatever that was.
I have another friend F who never seems to have a moment to himself. Literally. Not to himself, not for his many friends and barely even for his family. Between his high-powered job, his many altruistic pursuits, his hobbies, his sporting endeavours and his love of taking on new challenges, F is one very busy little beaver.
F is also horribly dissatisfied with his marriage.
I don’t think I have to spell out the math on this one.
My father, who was truly the most self-made man I’ve ever known (came from Europe with nothing – no family, no friends, no money, no English), was a HUGE believer in the term “creative idleness”. He taught it to me at an early age. He purported that one must have downtime in order to foster inspiration. In order to allow epiphanies to epiphanize (yes I just made up that word). To process one’s desires, accomplishments, dreams and plans.
I call this two things. 1. Getting in touch with yourself. 2. Getting in touch with God. Or the Universe. Or a higher power. Or your own soul.
Which is pretty much just like #1.
I think that when we fill our heads (and agendas) with non-stop commotion, commitments, quests and business (or busy-ness) we simply expend too much energy to ever find the fortitude to become whole with ourselves. To become whole with our choices, our situations and yes, even our goals. To figure out where we went wrong, what we can do to make it right and even find a way to make those HUGE decisions that may be terrifying and life-altering and yet oh so very necessary.
Essentially, we bury ourselves. And then we wonder why we cannot breathe.
My beautiful friend M is learning. She has long “buried” herself under a mountain of responsibility. Job concerns that keep her up way past midnight. Financial concerns that frighten her into panic attacks. Family concerns that overwhelm her to the point of exhaustion. But M does not allow herself to choose those roads anymore. Because those roads are counter-productive to all that she longs for. Peace. Comfort. Simplicity. A good glass of wine.
M has realized that her job is not the be-all and end-all of her existence. It is a means to an end. The end being mortgage paid and food on the table. M has realized that she can only take one day at a time. Do her best and then allow herself the luxury (and I actually mean NECESSITY) of a good night’s sleep. M has realized that she is not solely responsible for the welfare of her children of her parents. Sometimes it’s absolutely okay if she passes the buck. M has realized that she is solely responsible for her own well-being.
As are we all.
This means YOU.
So … to coin a newly popular phrase, when someone says to me An idle mind is the devil’s playground, I respond, “Yeah … no.”
EVERY creative thought that has ever entered my brain has entered when I was idle. When I was about to nap or walk in the woods or sit in the sun or lounge in the tub. I can assure you I have never had a creative thought whilst skiing (trying hard not to die), working (trying hard to do my job) or taking care of my loved ones (just trying hard).
And the truth is we don’t all have to aspire to creative thought. I do believe, however, that it behooves us all to aspire to become one with ourselves.
But I personally have no problem with the devil invading my playground on occasion. Because it is MY choice what to do with the snake. The beauty is that the snake compels me to CHOICE. To action. To creativity, to affirmation or even just to permission.
And ultimately (I hope) … to harmony.