It looks like the time I tried didn’t work for others this week. So, instead of a conversation, I’m going to spend the time doing some written introspection. I’m still interested in hearing what others have to say about the book, so please feel free to weigh in!

I balk when I first try to define “nothing.” It’s nothing. It’s an absence. Except even a complete absence is something. It’s a vacuum, it’s air, it’s darkness. So. What is nothing to me, personally? Maybe the absence of progress? Or perhaps the absence of struggle. That feels more accurate. “What are you up to?” “Oh, nothing.” It’s a mix of activities. Household chores, cooking, gardening, reading, crafting… when it’s these things I generally finish the day feeling that pleasant, light kind of tired that reminds me how good life is. Other days, it turns into hours of deep thought on a topic or comment that’s gotten under my skin. These are the days that my mind builds castles and maps and foundations for systems that I wish I had enough bodies to implement. Still other days, it manifests as avoidance and distraction – hours of scrolling through social media or playing games that frustrate as much as they satisfy. On these days, I struggle not to condemn my own choices, not to berate and belittle myself for escaping.

Always, there’s a sense of lost time. On the easiest days, those that produce some measurable effect, a vague sense of guilt for not building a traditional career hovers quietly at the edge of my awareness, but it doesn’t overly intrude. I’m doing something. It may not produce capital, but it can be measured. I have proof of my existence and worth. On the harder days, I mourn my lack of career and traditional access to places of power. I long to share those cloud castles my mind spins out with others who can share that excitement, help me add the stones necessary to bring them to earth and manifest them on this plane of existence. These dreams are too large and unwieldy for my two hands alone.

So I suppose my answer to the second question is that yes. I do make time to do nothing. It’s a busy-looking nothing. It’s filled with judgment and self-recrimination, but I do make time for it. The pieces that involve caring and providing for others in an immediate sense are easiest. Cooking and cleaning and the making of gifts. Those are a simple function of timelines and deadlines. They fit themselves neatly into a productivity framework. Gardening and making for myself are a little harder. Home renovations would be simpler if I just paid someone to do them. They feed me, but I’m more likely to delay them. I wonder if the time I spend learning and exploring and undoing mistakes is actually worth the end result. Would my time be better spent “getting a real job?” But they bring me joy. I slip them in while I “watch” TV or play games with family. I “neglect” other work that would provide a more measurable benefit.

The distraction and avoidance, on the other hand, are easy to condemn. I’ve been learning slowly to forgive myself for not always functioning at my highest levels. I’ve been learning slowly to acknowledge the work that does get done when I allow myself the hypnotic escape of simply not thinking. I live so deeply in my mind that having that release valve… I think it does me more good than I acknowledge when I listen to what my emotions are telling me – if I stop when my heart says, “Stop.”

Through all of this, I find reflections of myself in both the Useless Tree and their carpenter-adversary. I know what I need - I know where I shine, and I know that it isn’t in the producing of large quantities of anything. Yet, I’ve internalized this belief that my inclinations make me somehow less, so I point to this work I do and call it worthless.

I think that’s why this book has called to me so deeply and so strongly. Because the thing it advocates for is the thing my heart longs to do. It advocates for finding value in the simple act of being. Because at the end of all of this, I think that’s really what it means to do nothing. It means to simply exist, with compassion and attention that becomes expansive because it delves so deeply into the specific.