The Necessity of Nothing

I decided to stop at Panera for breakfast today.  I love Panera, but I’ve never grabbed breakfast there before for one reason, and one reason alone: no drive-thru.  What kind of place, in this day and age, doesn’t have a drive-thru!? I don’t want to get out of my car! It’s 31 degrees here today, and Bob and Tom is playing the Truck Stop Thanksgiving song that I just can’t miss, and that involves MOVEMENT! Screw that.

But, today, I did it.  And I discovered something magical.  It’s called waiting.  Not the kind of waiting where you have a stack (or rack) of magazines with inflammatory headlines to keep you entertained, or a plethora of impulse-buyer-tempting gadgets, a hand-held video game to pass your time, or even a blaring radio to keep you distracted from the tedium.  No, I’m talking about the kind of waiting where there’s absolutely nothing to do and not even really anything interesting to look at.  The kind that, in this technologically-advanced, “time saving” devices-saturated society, is viewed as a total waste of precious time.

And in that time, I found myself thinking.  Not thinking about anything in particular, like I have to do when I sit down to think hard about which recipe to cook this Sunday or set out to discover why, exactly, I find comedic men so very attractive almost completely regardless of what they look like.  Just meandering, tangential thoughts.  “Oh, look at that lady’s hair, it’s a nice color blond.  I wonder if I should continue dying my hair, or let it grow out? I probably don’t have any gray yet.  I love gray hair.  Gosh, I turn 30 in just a few weeks.  It doesn’t feel any different being 30.  Well, maybe it does, but I think I’ve felt 30 for a long time, several years even.  Wow, I’ve only been married to Anthony for three years.  It feels like more.  I wish it was more, just so I could say it’s more, because I want to be able to say we’re THIS happy after ten years instead of just after three years.  Well, we’ve been together for five and a half, so that’s something.  I wonder if most couples are still this happy after five and a half years? Gosh, everything is a competition to me, huh? I wonder why that is.  Oh, that bagel looks good.  I should buy a half-dozen bagels for the firm.  Wow, only $5.69 for a half-dozen? That’s cheap.  I wonder if the people at the firm think anything about me always bringing in food.  I wonder why I’m always bringing in food?”

That train of thought probably doesn’t seem very enlightening or productive.  It wasn’t, I guess.  But afterward, it felt like it had been.  Despite the fact I’d done nothing for those five minutes, I felt as though I’d accomplished something – something more than just the process of ordering, purchasing and receiving a breakfast panini.  I felt quieted.  Waiting for my food at Panera didn’t feel like a mere inconvenience in the pursuit of my mortal need for sustenance, it felt like a sophisticated choice I’d made, to take a few minutes to get out of my car and walk into an establishment and WAIT rather than demanding my food be handed to me after mere moments without moving more than my credit card arm.

And as I walked out, I realized I almost never do nothing.  I’m almost always doing something, no matter how menial or unproductive.  Even in my quiet times, I’m sitting on Facebook, I’m watching television, I’m reading a book.  I’m never just sitting and thinking.  And waiting is the most wonderful, natural time for that.  Nonetheless, it seems to be our society’s goal to eliminate waiting altogether.  Everything is NOW, faster, more efficient.  Use every second of your every day to its “fullest.”

Well I, for one, am promising to myself to do more of this wonderful thing called nothing.  And I’m pretty sure it will actually contribute to the fullness of my life.

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One thought on “The Necessity of Nothing

  1. Waiting is totally underrated. And these days we have to make ourselves slow down and wait. Last spring when I was over in Wales, we were having a discussion about that, and one guy was saying that he tries in small ways to slow down the hectic pace, such as actually waiting for the light to change to walk across the street, even if there’s no traffic. Little by little, we do need to figure out how to do nothing.

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