Rest. Just…rest. Or play



An afternoon at the ballet. Bliss!

By Caitlin Kelly

In an era of constant distraction and exhortations to be more productive — (never, Be more creative! Be more still! Be more silent!) — I’m finally seeing published pleas in favor of doing nothing.

Like this one:

Recently I heard someone say if you want to see where your priorities really lie, look at two things: your calendar and your bank statement.

If you believe your priorities are what truly matters to you, look no further than those two places to confirm or deny your hunch.

Let’s do an experiment. Take a look at your calendar, and take an inventory with me. How much of it is work related? How much of it is spent in social engagements? With family? Doing hobbies? Self improvement?

And how much white space do you see?

We have become a culture that is severely uncomfortable with white space. We don’t like being left alone with ourselves, and that’s because it’s not always fun.


And this, from The New York Times:

To Dr. Brown, co-author of a book called “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul,” the discussion begins with defining the term. He describes it, among other things, as a voluntary activity that can take us out of time or at least keep us from tracking it carefully. It is spontaneous and allows for improvisation.

Another crucial component, according to Dr. Brown, is play’s capacity to elicit diminished consciousness of self. Or, to put it in layman’s terms, it gives us license to be goofy. In an interview, Dr. Brown provided the most familiar example: how almost every person makes faces and sounds when meeting an infant for the first time.

“If you take a look at relatives looking at the bassinets, turn your camera back on their faces,” he said. “What you see is nonsense. There is this deep, innate proclivity for nonsense, which is at the core of playfulness.”

Finally, play is also purposeless, at least in the moment.

We’re now at the end of a break for the holidays in Canada, staying with my father at his house in a small town — with nothing to do.

Port Hope, Ontario. pop. 16,500

The town is filled with very beautiful old houses and has a gorgeous waterfront trail along the edge of Lake Ontario. But there’s no movies (my drug of choice!) or theater or museums.

It’s forced Jose and I to…be still.

Time to just sit still and enjoy the beauty all around us — June 2015 in a rented cottage in Donegal

So what have we done?

Organized photos, talked at length with friends on the phone or gone to see them in person for a long lunch, read entire books start to finish, slept, cooked a terrific Moroccan lamb stew for friends who came for the afternoon, browsed several bookstores and bought new books (yay!).

I binge-watched an entire season, 13 episodes, of Frankie and Grace on our computer.

I’ve written multiple blog posts and planned several new ones — Q and As with some fantastically creative and successful people I hope you’ll find inspiring — freed from the production line of life as a journalist. Planned a possible vacation next July and decided against one in Spain this spring.

Lit a scented candle bedside every morning and at night. Enjoyed the rumbling and whistles of passing trains. Savored the skeletal beauty of bare trees and bushes against a wintry gray sky.

Played gin rummy. Talked. Sat in silence to watch the jade green waves crashing against a snow-dusted beach. Emptied my email in-box. (OK. not so playful!)

When do you just…sit?

Took bubble baths in my Dad’s old claw-foot tub.

I loved the Times’ story about planning for play because it’s so deeply unAmerican to even breathe a word of…laziness. Rest. Downtime.

The entire culture is one of non-stop doing, not mindful being.

It’s one reason we keep coming back to my native Canada for breaks; Canadians, in general, value a more balanced life, and love to be outdoors even in winter. In my decades living near New York City, a place of frenzied ambition, I’ve always felt like an outlier for wanting — and carving out in my life — a lot of room for play and relaxation.

Like one of the people featured in the Times story, we’ve chosen to remain in a one-bedroom apartment and drive an old, paid-for car in order to be able to work less.

There are times I’d kill for more space or a shiny new vehicle. But the time and freedom we gain by not having to gin up an additional $500 or $1,500 every single month for years to come to pay for them?


Our priorities are retirement, (so we have saved hard and lived fairly frugally to do so), and travel. Without children, we also have the means, and the time, to focus on our own desires and how to pay for them. Selfish or not, it gives us a life we enjoy and value.

Anyone who’s been reading Broadside for a while knows I’m a high-octane person. But recharging, for me, is every bit as essential as rushing around.


How about you?

Do you make time, and deliberately set aside money, to just relax?


17 thoughts on “Rest. Just…rest. Or play

  1. your father’s home is in such a lovely spot and what a wonderful place to while away the hours. i’m a huge proponent of time spent simply and playfully and love whet you’ve discussed here. my priorities are time spent on personal art projects, reading, travel, writing, seeing family and friends, walking, and just relaxing. i see relaxing as one of the most important ways to spend my time. it helps to keep my stress levels low, offers me time for self-reflection, and keeps my body and mind happy. i enjoy people in small doses and am always energized and inspired by the human story. that being said, i value my quiet time the most of all.

    1. Good for you…I think it’s under-rated to just let our brains and bodies rest. I feel like we’ve been gone for months and it was only (which I know for some is a long time) 2 weeks.

      Now back in NY…

  2. OH YEAH! I’m not taking care of myself if I don’t set aside time each day to relax and unwind. I watch TV, surf the net, read a book, whatever I feel like doing (occasionally that’s writing or editing, which is work and play at the same time, so I’m not sure how to categorize that). Thing is, with the two weeks surrounding the holidays, I’ve done a bit more playing because I know the job market’s a little slower around that time of year. Now I have to get back into the swing of things and job hunt. Fingers crossed I get something soon!

  3. Resting and playing is so important. I’m quite jealous of you sitting in silence watching the waves – it’s something I did often to recharge back in Lewis. Sounds like you’ve had a wonderful break 🙂 Looking forward to reading the Q&A blog posts!

  4. Many people get physically ill when faced with the prospect of a vacation from work. That is a sick society. Good post and sounds like a time you will remember as more special than one that was fully packed with site-seeing and constant business. So many people avoid being introspective at all costs, afraid what they might find, oblivious to the possibility they may find they enjoy their own company once the dust settles.

  5. Yes!

    Relaxing and quiet time is very important to me, especially as I have a naturally introverted personality. That doesn’t mean that I’m shy or that I don’t enjoy social occasions, but it does mean that I need time to rest and recharge. Movies, books and walking are my three preferred ways for doing that…oh, and sleep of course!

  6. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Friday links | A Bit More Detail

  7. Yep. I’m learning to relax and listen when my body tells me to take it easy. I fought the notion of idle time for too many years. I know why (don’t most of us?). Articulating it seems silly. I read somewhere (probably a Wayne Dyer book) that we are “human beings” not “human doings.” That stuck with me. The hardest part is living with people who haven’t “gotten it” yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s