Monday, March 22, 2010

A Whole Lot of Nothing

Sometimes I just have those days that are so busy and so exhausting, full of errands and chores backed up against each other. There is so much to do that the entire day goes by so quickly, and everything is a blur. So much activity and yet at the end of the day a sinking feeling comes unbidden and when I ask myself what I did that day I find myself saying, "A whole lot of nothing."

How can so many things add up to nothing? A long list of things to do, all accomplished in time and yet so mundane and ordinary, you can't remember any of it at the end of the day. I guess it's like that as we get older, the more we do things the less remarkable they become. Often there are no great accomplishments, just the expected results. To usher my family out into the day and walk them through it pretty much sums up the daily job description, and  to bring them all back in one piece at day's end is pretty much the highlight of it. Maybe that's what makes a day so unremarkable; when everything goes on so smoothly there is nothing to remember it by.

When there is nothing that catches, and everything goes without a hitch, that day hardly makes an impression. You do not look back at it years after and say, "Ah that was a great day." The days I clearly remember are those punctuated with little mishaps. When I was a kid I once stuck a red ballpoint pen in my school uniform pocket, it leaked and I had to spend the rest of the day with a huge red stain on the front of my dress. For some reason the memory of that day is burned into my memory, as indelible as that red ink.

Often the answer to the question is the one we least expect. When  my son was in third grade, their class had to write a paragraph about their Christmas vacation. After jotting down the awesome toys from Santa, the Disneyland parade and a weekend spent sledding, he wrote that the best thing he did was being allowed to spend a whole day in his pajamas. Boy, he could have just come straight to us and saved his father and I a whole lot of money.

I was glad his teacher made him write that journal, now I know that my children do not expect us to bring in the circus each time; sometimes what they really want is just a long day to not have to do the expected things, a long day to simply just be. I will always treasure that little nugget of wisdom, and remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with "a whole lot of nothin'." My son sure knew better, and I can only hope that he wouldn't change, that he will always remember that there was a time when he knew that sometimes a day spent doing a whole lot nothing is not boring nor unsatisfying. Sometimes, it's just the thing.

When nothing is better: Some practical applications:
--A bare wall is better than a wall painted the wrong color, or filled with unattractive "art."
--Know the value of "negative space," on walls, on shelves, or just rooms in general. These places need spaces with nothing in them, so that our eyes can appreciate those with something in them.
--Sometimes a vase can stand on its own beauty, even without flowers in them.
--In a working family room, a coffee table will have more purpose when not piled with unnecessary accessories. With nothing on it,  it can be a surface for putting puzzles together or simply putting your feet up.
--The wrong accessory can ruin an entire outfit, or an entire room. As Jackie O would say, "When in doubt, take it off."

Above, right: It would be wrong to further mess with the inherent beauty of a vase like this. Zanzibar vase, $44.95, Left: Ottomans are great for family rooms--leave it bare to provide additional seating, impromptu Scrabble sessions or putting your feet up. Sullivan Leather Rectangular Ottoman, $899,

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