I’ve been thinking about laziness this morning. Not too hard, of course, I need to pace myself – I’ve got a busy day planned: I aim to read the Times cover to cover before an early lunch, a gentle walk around the village and then I’m booked in for a head massage two-ish.
I’ve been thinking about that as well, as I’m not entirely sure I know what to make of having my head prodded about, even by a semi-professional. It seems quite a small area to cover in a whole hour and I’ve been wondering whether it includes the ‘non-tactile’ areas such as nose (which seems weird) and eyes (painful).
Head massages, lolling about with broadsheets and morning constitutionals basically means I’m going through a reflective period of late or, to put it another way, I’m feeling bone idle.
We all do, once in a while, but it used to bother me a great deal whenever I got like this and I’d work very hard to try and hoist myself out of whatever pit of sluggishness I’d slithered into. Partly, it is because I’m naturally active as an adult – as a child, borderline hyperactive; not so much as to warrant the administration of a cocktail of 1970’s drugs with a host of side-effects but enough to get me smacked for no apparent reason by my grandmother who, in all other respects, was a saint. At the time it had seemed completely out of character for her (like suddenly being torn to pieces by a dolphin) and unfair (I really hadn’t done anything).
Anything specific, mind.
In hindsight, a week of my company on a seaside holiday in Westbay had finally taken its toll and the cumulative effect of a 6 year old who would not shut up or stop running about proved too much, even for her angelic nature.
I am pleased to say my hyperactivity has taken a more reasonable form in later life and I’m merely on the upper end of the scale for energy and I need very little sleep but it took me a long time to realize that sloth; like liking cider, teenage socialism, fancying the blond one in Abba … is just a phase and that there’s not much you can do but sit it out.
Or lie down, if that’s more comfortable. It never lasts that long anyway but it still made me feel guilty until I started to notice some of the benefits:
First of all was the obvious one, namely when I did start to feel like doing some work again, I was feeling noticeably chirpier, energy levels predictably restored: a short, unscheduled mini-break without the extortionate recommended B&B near a gastro-pub.
Secondly, I noticed that turning off my mobile, not answering emails and just zoning out is such an unusual thing these days unless you’ve just had a baby or you’ve gone on holiday in Malawi, that it engendered a certain air of insouciance, a rare cachet these days. In short, it upped my stock, particularly amongst people at the other end of the scale who feel the burning need to be contactable morning, noon and night.
Finally, and most importantly in my view, it dawned on me (and this was after nearly 20 years, so I am hardly a prodigy in the revelation department) that whilst pottering about, I was processing things, important things; delaying decisions, gaining perspective and I often returned, a few days later with the correct (and nearly always wholly different) solution to any number of problems or assessments of situations.
What I had basically discovered is that there are large parts of my decision-making process that go on behind my back, so to speak – that is, without any reference to my conscious self. Probably a similar, quietly industrious but essential back office to the one that tells my heart to beat and my lungs to pump air. This was the more sensible part of my brain telling me to switch off whilst it could get on with processing data and I can get on with head massages. Every couple of months, when I wake up and simply don’t feel like doing much, I generally don’t try and fight it.
It is also partly why I went into business for myself.
Frankly it’s not at all cool to be writing emails at 8pm on a Sunday when you should be watching Antiques Roadshow or sleeping off the effects on Sunday lunch (or Saturday night). But it is a liberating experience and essential (I would now say) to be able to switch off the phone, wallow about on the sofa and, should the mood strike, go in for alternative therapies on a Tuesday afternoon.
Robin Bennett is the author of the self-starter’s guide to entrepreneurship: How to Make a Good Living Running Your Own Business, and the hilarious debunking of the housing market: Kicking the Property Ladder.