I have a lot of energy. Some might call it restlessness. Or ants in the pants. There's a Yiddish word for that: it's spelled "spilkes"—pronounced "shpil-kis."
As I get older, I don't seem to lose that so-called restlessness. If I think about when it is at its all-time peak, there are a couple of things that come to mind: When the weather is warm. I stay holed up all winter, so who wants to be inside during the warm months? When I don't want to think about something. Staying busy is a good way to run away from bad or unpleasant thoughts.
But the world contributes to that busy-ness, don't you think? Let's face it, modern society tends to keep us running.
There's work, home, friends, entertaining, classes to take, exercise to do, movies and television shows to watch, places to go and things to see. The hours rush by, and there never seems to be enough time to get it all in. How many times has someone used the terms "crazy busy," "overloaded," "stressed-out busy," "in high gear," "burned out"? Feel free to add you own.
So what's so bad about all that busy-ness? Well, for one thing, it gives us no down time. And without down time, how will our minds ever rest and reflect? It seems that the only time mine gets to do that is when I'm sleeping—but with the super-crazy, psychedelic-type, detailed and colorful dreams I tend to have most nights, it doesn't really feel like it's really resting. (But I sure have entertaining stories to tell the next morning.)
When we do have time to think, what do we do? In the car, we listen to the radio or catch up on calls (hopefully not text). While exercising, we watch TV or read or listen to music. On a flight, we watch a movie or TV or read. While waiting for a friend or an appointment, we read a magazine or newspaper or play with our electronic gadgets. While waiting on hold for customer service, we put the phone on speaker, rest it on the counter and cook. We even read while we're sitting on the toilet. OK, that one is permissible, I guess. It's a time-honored tradition. Besides, what else is there to do? Some people I know do get their best reading done in the loo.
I'm not sure what the answer is. Or even what the questions are. Are we running away from our thoughts by doing these things? Afraid to get inside our own heads—if we can even recognize or locate them anymore? Or is the pull of these things just so irresistible that we do them for fear of missing out?
I always say that inspiration, creativity and solutions to the world's most vexing problems hit when you least expect it—and when I think about it, those times are when your mind is totally free for thoughts to find their way in and around. But I can only think of a measly few of those times. Like when you're in the shower—tough to multitask here. Or on a bike ride outdoors. Same.
Maybe what we all need to do is find those times where we can sit and indulge ourselves in nothingness. Take a breath and wait to see all the great things that can happen. I'll try if you will.
This post originally appeared on mysocalledmidlife.net.