Seize the day. Live every day as though it’s your last. Get moving. Tick off those remaining experiences on your bucket list. Get out there and do something. Find a hobby. Climb a mountain. Drive a racing car. Jump out of a plane. Swim the English Channel. Life exists to be lived to the full!
This mantra is becoming the new normal. Urging us to get off our backsides to enjoy a more active and enjoyable life in our later years than we did when we were young.
That’s all very well and good, but what if your vision (okay, my vision) for the perfect last day of your life is to be lying in bed with a cup of tea and a blueberry muffin, watching TV? If I had wanted to risk my young life doing things that didn’t interest me, I would have done it years ago.
Life, apparently, now begins at 60. Or is that 70? Or 80? Why not round it up to 100? At this rate, life will begin when you die.
It’s all nonsense, of course. Part of the contemporary fad that tells kids they are special and that they can do what they want, be what they want and have exactly — down to the last thrill-seeking experience — the life that they want. This is all fine and dandy, but it ignores the fact that almost everyone who is young doesn’t know what they want and, even if they do, most will not be able to do it.
Older people have competing challenges, too. Ageing is often portrayed in media and particularly in advertising as the time when it’s ‘your turn’. The kids have moved on, at least until they need babysitters, you have time on your hands, renewed energy, money in the bank and finally you can do what you want. Everything that you have always wanted to do is there for the taking.
This is fantasy. You might gain some clarity and identify things you want to do as you age, but you are also equally occupied accumulating a long list of things you don’t want to do any more. Or refuse to do. Things like not maintaining friendships with negative people. Not going to a movie everyone raves about. Not racing between relatives on Christmas day and no longer pretending to enjoy something so that you don’t offend someone. You know, the stuff you hated doing all these years. Nothing gives me greater pleasure these days than saying, “nah, I’m not doing that”. My idea of living life to the full is my enduring quest to empty it of unnecessary obligation.
The problem is that most people actually do nothing for most of the time, but won’t admit it. This puts pressure on everyone else. They post on Facebook and Instagram whenever they step outside the door and the psychological ripple effect means that friends, family and the world assumes they are doing something all of the time. On the rare occasions you see photos of them lying on a sun bed, they are not — horror of horrors! — doing nothing. Instead, they say they are taking a break (as though that’s an activity), waiting for their water skiing lesson to start or working their way through the cocktail menu. They will not admit they have nothing to do and are criminally occupied not doing it.
Doing nothing is frowned upon and devalued in these days of over-activity and exhaustive exertion, and people are too embarrassed to confess their laziness. Frightened to be caught in an idle moment, they desperately claim they are meditating or engaged in quiet reflection. It used to be called daydreaming. When you see me sitting motionless, I am not daydreaming, meditating or reflecting anything except the sunlight off my bald head. My mind at such moments is completely empty — no surprise to anyone who knows me — and I am doing nothing. I highly recommend it. You don’t need qualifications, training, podcasts or self-help books. It’s free and as long as you can master the switch-off transition process, which consists entirely of stopping what you are doing, you are good to go.
There may be mental and physical benefits to doing nothing, but because I don’t care if there are or not, they are of no interest to me. All I do know is that doing nothing is as valid and useful a way of passing time as heli-skiing down the Matterhorn. And less dangerous. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, when my colleagues have finished listing their exhausting weekend activities and accomplishments on Monday morning, I inform them I did nothing and effect a smug and superior expression.
So, next time you want me to join you on a run, go with you to the movies, visit an Indian yoga retreat, climb the stairs to Machu Pichu, visit Paris in the springtime or go hot air ballooning, you know where to find me. I’ll be lying in bed with a cup of tea and a blueberry muffin, watching TV.
Oh, and to save you time, the answer is, “nah, I’m not doing that”.