Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Art of Doing Nothing

Apparently, people don't know how to relax anymore.  At least, that's what one of those 'between-Christmas-and-New-Year' filler articles in The Guardian was claiming today.  Which all seemed more than slightly ironic to me as my reading of it was part of my relaxing Boxing Day.  This is actually my second consecutive day of doing bugger all.  Which is what Christmas is all about, surely?  Often, on past Boxing Days, I've engaged in a flurry of activity: I've coded websites, constructed model railway baseboards, edited films and many, many other things.  After all the 'excitement' of Christmas Day, it always seemed to provide an ideal opportunity to refocus oneself.  But after the last year's experience of stress-related serious illness, I decided that this time around I'd just relax completely for both Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  I mean, I needed the rest after the preceding three days of wrapping, then delivering, presents to relatives, recording and editing podcasts (both my own and a contribution for someone else's), putting together that bloody film of local Christmas lights, the start of my household clear out and baking sausage rolls.  By contrast, my only physical activity today was going out and buying a newspaper.  Yesterday I spent mainly on the sofa - I finally watched, in a single session, all 220 minutes of Once Upon a Time in America on DVD (the DVD I bought several years ago to replace my VHS copy, but never got round to watching until now), followed up by the 1978 version of The Big Sleep with Robert Mitchum, (a very nice DVD transfer, complete with introduction by director Michael Winner).

That's what relaxing is all about - being passive. Which, according to The Guardian, is a lost art nowadays, thanks to our 24 hour, IT dependent lifestyles.  We always have to be 'on' and interacting with something or other.  Which doesn't really describe the working conditions which eventually stressed me to the verge of having a stroke, although increased pressure from my employer to be constantly 'available' and their increasing encroachment into 'my' time in addition to the time I was actually being paid for, were big factors.  Another major factor in my case was that of Health and Safety, or lack thereof  - I was constantly being put in harm's way by the job, which, believe me, is hugely stressful.  But, over the past couple of months in particular, I've pushed back and made it clear that this situation simply isn't acceptable, that, whether they like it or not, my employer has a duty of care with regard to my (and their other employees') health.  I've also made clear that I'm no longer prepared to take risks on their behalf or work unpaid overtime.  Indeed, from January, I'll be reducing my hours and working only four days a week.  I'm also reacquainting myself with the pleasures of ding nothing in particular during this break from work.  Really, you should try it: just stretch out on that sofa and, well, do nothing in particular: watch an old movie, read a book, listen to the radio, or even just think.  People don't take enough time to simply think these days.  We all need time to have a good think - about life in general, our circumstances, where we wan't to go, our relationships, even just let your imagination ramble.  Believe me, you'll feel a lot better for it.  You'll find it helps bring clarity, improves decision making and is hugely calming.



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