Day 7: If you want to ‘make merry,’ then first take a minute to be still.

Ooh! The hustle and bustle! Parties! Performances! Music! Cookie baking!!

It’s the merriest time of the year, isn’t it. A whirlwind of sugar plums and Champagne, even in the second year of a pandemic.

Well, if you’re whirling and twirling your way into the second week of December and feeling like pretty soon, one day, you might start feeling dizzy as you try to keep pace, then consider a (very short) story:

When my son was a toddler and my daughter still riding in an infant carrier and I was trying like hell to keep up with my pre-motherhood routine of tennis and social events and other activities and also working full time in a high-stakes job and also trying to get ready for Christmas (merry!), a friend (a good one) dropped by my house with a present. The present was actually from her daughter, whom I’d known since she was in 4th grade and who had, even at age 9, an unusually keen sense of perception.

“She saw this at the bookstore and said, ‘Jennifer needs this,'” my friend said, of her daughter and my gift. “So we bought it for you.”

The title of the book? The Art of Doing Nothing: Simple Ways to Make Time for Yourself

Using 2021 vernacular, when I received this gift I felt “seen.”

Also: I did not, at the time, take one single recommendation from the book. Mama had to make a Toys ‘R Us run at 8 PM, after working all day and then making dinner and then getting the tiny children to bed, and Mama didn’t have time to do nothing.

Were the tips difficult or time-consuming? Of course not. The suggestions in the (very slim) book were very simple — things like, “stand at a window and take 10 breaths,” and “submerge your arms in very warm water for several minutes before going to bed,” but at the time doing any of those simple things somehow felt like the equivalent of going on a day-long silent retreat. It was too much. I did not have time. I did not.

The thing is, of course, I did have time. And I should have taken the time then to make just a few minutes, even just once a week, to be still and do nothing and regain some equilibrium.

So for any of you who are juggling multiple things, perhaps including children and the kinds of Christmas preparations that are unique to parents of young children, listen to the voice of experience from a now-old woman whose children now leave plenty of opportunity for their mother to have “nothing” time: You have time to do nothing, just for a few minutes. You do. And you’ll be so much better off, in the long run, for taking it.

It’s counterintuitive, I know; but it works.

So for today, day 7 of this “let’s not lose our fucking minds in December” little lark, take just one minute to be still and quiet and listen to the world around you. Sixty seconds. You can do it.

Do it.

See you tomorrow.


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