“Hey, Judy, whatcha doing?”
“Really? I’m sure that isn’t true.”
“Really. I’m doing nothing.”
“Oh, that’s hilarious! I know you — You’re always drinking coffee or talking to friends, or at the very least, complaining about something.”
“Yes, usually, but not right now.”
“Don’t you have to get ready for the holidays? Even if you don’t have a tree to set up, don’t you have some Chanukah stuff — some candles, or something?”
“Yes, there’s a menorah somewhere around here I might eventually find.” And spend an hour chipping last year’s candle-drippings off of, I said to myself but not out loud.
Instead, I handed my friend the book I had just finished reading. “Niksen,” she read, then broke off. “Is this going to be about impeachment?” she said. “Because that isn’t funny!”
“No, no, it’s not ‘Nixon,” though I think it’s pronounced the same,” I answered. “Read the rest of the title.”
“Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing,” she read, then looked back at me. “So is that what you’re doing now? Nothing? I mean, what you’re not doing?”
“Exactly,” I said. “Everyone is so busy this time of year, rushing around, getting things done — including me, most years — and some of it’s nice, but most of it feels like an endless amount of chores. And this year, I just can’t keep up! So when I read an article in the Washington Post about this book, I had to get it and sit down and read it.”
“So you did SOMETHING,” my friend said, accusingly.
“Well, yes, but it’s literally the last thing I did. And now I’m sitting here, practicing doing nothing. Why don’t you join me?”
“Where? Here?” She cast a critical eye at my sofa, which except for me was completely covered with unmatched socks and unfolded towels and sheets. I pushed the laundry farther down the sofa to make a seat for my friend.
“Is that actually dust on them?” she asked me.
“Not one word!” I warned her. “Or you’ll miss all the benefits of doing nothing!”
We both sat on my couch, staring out the window. After what must have been all of 30 seconds, my friend turned to me. “Can I practice my yoga breathing?”
“If you must,” I replied,” but that sounds like doing something, to me.”
Another 30 seconds went by. “So this is really doing something for you?”
“I hope so,” I replied. “There are lots of people who say this makes them less anxious.”
“Less anxious!” she yelped. “I’m a nervous wreck, just thinking of all the things I’m supposed to be doing!”
“I know,” I answered her. “But you have to push past that. The Washington Post article said that it’s hard, ‘especially if you’re someone who can’t ignore dirty dishes.’”
“Lucky for you you’re so strong minded,” my friend said, with a wicked smile. “But honestly — why are you doing this? I mean not-doing this?”
“Well, it’s supposed to help you feel less stressed and more creative — So I figure it’s worth a try.”
My friend started picking at a loose thread on the laundry pile. I took pity on her. “You know,” I said, “some people find that they can empty their thoughts more effectively if they keep their hands busy — with knitting, or sewing….”
“Or folding laundry!” she said. “Here, you take the other end of this sheet.”
We worked together. “No talking though,” I cautioned her.
“I’m all right with that,” she said, “but it might kill you.”
I opened my mouth to say, “I know!” But shut it again.
It wasn’t long before all the linens were folded, and all the socks were matched. My friend stood up. “Judy, that’s just about all the nothing I can stand to do for one day. Unless….” I saw her face light up like a Christmas tree. “Unless you’d like to come over to my house and do some more nothing? There’s a lot of mindless chores I can give you — I mean, as long as you’re doing nothing anyway, you may as well do it for me!”
I paused to sort out all the “nothings” in her sentence.
Then I lit up like a Christmas tree, or a menorah, as well. “I’d be glad to,” I told her.
Never let it be said that I was the kind of girl who couldn’t share “nothing” with friends!