Nowhere to be, nothing to do, is a beautiful, deeply meaningful phrase often spoken by yoga and meditation practitioners. I hear them every week in my postnatal class as I rest my head on the floor in child’s pose, when just for a minute of my day, I truly have nowhere to be, nothing to do.
It’s funny that I should hear those words in child’s pose, because the last time I remember having nothing to do for longer than a minute I was indeed a child. When I wasn’t in school or studying for exams that’s exactly where I was, somewhere outdoors blissfully sitting on grass or sand with nowhere to be and nothing to do.
Sure I had plans, dreams, ideas, but no real clue what to do about them. I was just a kid. So most of the time I basically did nothing and you know what, I loved doing nothing. I was happy doing nothing. Until doing nothing became a problem.
Of course, doing nothing doesn’t get you very far in life. Doing nothing doesn’t make your dreams come true. Doing nothing doesn’t help you discover who you are. And so, when I realised that doing nothing was to blame, I knew it was time for a change, time to grow up.
In a nutshell, I studied harder, I started working, I travelled, I said yes to the man of my dreams, we had a baby, and little by little, those moments of nothing disappeared completely.
And so the pendulum swings from left to right, from nothing to everything. Only in hindsight could I see that I overdid it. I tried to do everything at the same time, treating life like a race, rather than a marathon, in search of short-cuts and fast-tracks that, spoiler alert, don’t exist. I tried a little of this and a little of that, a rudderless boat floating upstream.
Possibly to compensate my guilt and fear of doing nothing, I also took on more work than I could handle. It’s one thing to dream about a career as a child and quite another to face the challenge as an adult. When what school you went to and which friends you made is suddenly no longer about friendships and extra-curriculars but access and opportunity.
I also think that a lot of the pressure stems from how public our lives have become. Our fondest memories and most embarrassing moments now just a click away, no longer tucked away in a forgotten box in the bedroom. Whether that’s your LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, blog or IMBD, we all exist online somewhere.
But which version of ourselves? Although we know for a fact that most people behave differently when they’re being watched or filmed, we still buy into it. The endless stream of photos and insta-stories serving as a constant neural feedback loop telling us to look better, dress better, travel more, be sexier, richer, and it’s fucking exhausting. Minimalism and mindfulness are just two of the many lifestyle trends trying to combat our excessive environment.
Unconsciously, over the past few years, I found myself trying to regain those lost little moments of nothingness. Of anonymity, of peace, of pre-social media hashtag like click caption fuckery. Once while sitting on a postcard perfect beach with a Pina colada in hand, it dawned on me that I wasn’t fully there. That wherever I was, there was always that feeling of something else I’m supposed to be doing, somewhere else I should be.
The more I tried to fill and not waste time, the more I started to obsess over the time, to be on time, to have enough time. Time was slipping, the clock keeps ticking. Until suddenly it was time for me to have a baby and before I knew it I was pushing a life into this world and holy shit everything, and I mean everything changed.
These last eight months have been the busiest time of my life, but in a completely different way. I have both lots of time and yet no time, the time is fleeting time, precious time, once in a lifetime. And during this crazy time, I have managed to rediscover those simple moments of nothing.
Since becoming a mother, I feel like I’m exactly who and where I should be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. It took me completely by surprise because I had no idea what motherhood would be like for me. I couldn’t have known how I’d feel because there is nothing else like it, nothing you can compare it to.
My days are full, busy and exhausting, but crucially, there is nothing and no one more important in the world right now than raising my baby. There is no higher priority, no competition, no FOMO, and it’s given me such clarity. For now, at least, everything and everyone will just have to wait. And I’m fine with that, I’m good with that. Like every chapter in life, it’s only temporary.
I had hoped I could juggle it all, but I can’t. I don’t have a nanny or family nearby so I’m doing it all while my husband is at work. So when I do happen to get five minutes to myself, I decided that I would allow myself to do absolutely nothing with them if that’s what I want to do. Now is not the time to put pressure on myself, I am tired enough I don’t need to work late into the night and experiment with my breaking point. I don’t think that would be wise or healthy. So I’ve been taking a time out, and it’s been liberating.
It was my choice and privilege not to work in the first year of my baby’s life. But more than that, it’s my choice and privilege to be fully present when I am with him. Which is why I’ve maintained only a minimal online presence and cut back on the time I spend blogging.
I know I’ll have time for myself again soon, lots of time, decades of time. But if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s to apply the wisdom of others in your own life as best as you can! So I understand how precious this time is. I understand that I will never get it back, and I don’t want anything to take me away from enjoying these moments right here, right now.
Nowhere to be, nothing to do has become my antithesis to all the noise, pressures and distractions in life. A spoken invitation to relax, stop, breathe and connect. A reminder that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.