This post appeared first in The Finger Lakes Times (NY), part of the weekly column, “Denim Spirit.”
I enjoyed a long weekend in Detroit, gorging on NCAA Round One basketball games. Of the six games we watched all but one of my teams won. Then, even as I was driving back late Sunday night there were hints that something was amiss – nose running a little, sneezing now and again.
On Monday the deep and abiding tiredness I felt was tossed off as too many late nights over the weekend, including pulling into Geneva after midnight. By the end of the day Monday I knew for certain it was more. “Just a cold,” I told myself. Waking up Tuesday morning was as if I had not slept at all, my body twice its normal weight and my joints ablaze. Then came the deep, painful chest cough and headache. Waves of chills followed by sweats finally convinced me that someone(s) in the Detroit Piston’s arena had shared their flu with me.
A flu sufferer is contagious the day before symptoms appear, and for five to seven days afterward. No church on Palm Sunday for me, the first time since I was ordained. I was down for the count but harbored an ambition to make the time “productive.” Nonetheless, there was little I could do little other than sit or sleep. I read a little and if I caught a small wave of energy, any productivity was measured in ten-minute intervals.
My head began to clear before my body so doing nothing felt awful. Being stuck inside the house, inside a body that didn’t even want to get out of the chair to go to the bathroom, caused me to think about how we spend time.
Some years ago, when I moved from the urban intensity of Buffalo to rural town life in Northern Vermont, I was immediately struck by the change of pace. Many stores and service companies were closed on Saturdays and Sundays because that was family time. When someone came by to do work at your house, it often began with a long conversation about nothing in particular. If something didn’t happen today, that was okay because there was always next week. Everyone made sure they were ready in time for winter, but most other things could wait a bit.
Perhaps being productive is not the only, and maybe not even the best use of time. Taking a deep breath and doing nothing is sometimes better.
The great thing about a big fat snowfall is that everything stops. If you’re not one of the ones clearing roads or responding to emergencies, you can just stay home and light a fire. No guilt, no shame, just a snow day. It seems like we ought to be able to do that without lake effect, when the sky is full of sun and the world all around is green.
So, I am making an Easter resolution to take some snow days this spring and summer, and as I do, to remember when I was too sick to enjoy doing nothing. Maybe it will inspire me to aggressively enjoy doing nothing while feeling great.