Busy doing nothing

I used to ascribe my almost legendary ability to sit still, to a simple – or perhaps, not so simple – realisation of the physical effort of getting a life.

If, as I do believe, it takes me a lot of energy to do a thing, that tends to mitigate against doing it. Thus, I have spent a lot of my time doing little except either reading about other peoples’ exciting lives, or worse, watching other people doing things.

Perhaps there is another factor at play.  

My family, and especially my parents, were and are opinionated. That is, generally, a good thing; and nothing new. My mother however, has also been and remains, incredibly contrary. So, I share a family joke that goes,

Fran: Mum, you realise you contradict everything I say.

Mum: No I don’t! That’s’ just not true…

And I notice afresh how often what I say will be met with contradiction. For example, if Mum has had a good night’s rest, she will say she doesn’t need or want night-time carers. Conversely, if there were no night-time carers in place she will just as easily complain of having had a bad time of it, and that the long watches of the night are dreadful to endure alone… It may well be that the progress of her illness exacerbates an existing underlying trend, so that what was previously accepted as the sometimes-amusing quirk of a contrary nature now becomes glaringly obvious.

But in the particular context of what this means for my own behaviour, I have to conclude firstly, that – well, yes! – if one grows up knowing that whatever one says or does will meet with criticism or contradiction, one learns it is best to do and say as little as possible; and secondly, if I don’t wish to replicate that pattern of learned uselessness in anyone else, I must never criticise anyone, nor comment too forcefully on what they choose to do.

After all, I do know, intimately, how hard it is to do anything when one is watched with eagle-eyed interest, and one’s every action and utterance is subjected to pointed comment. It’s only recently that I have realised that (a) it wouldn’t matter what I chose to do, the response would be the same; (b) it’s a habit so ingrained that it’s totally not personal; therefore (c) not only may I follow my own path, but I must do so.

Thanks so much for reading.  

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