"What are you going to do today?" Ian asks.
"Nuffin" I reply. "Except something will probably sneak in and derail it."
Ian goes out to look at the brakes of the Subaru and I sit in bed with my cup of tea, musing. We rarely do nothing. I was joking. At the best of times our lives are full of lists and jobs. Living with two acres of garden and a house and a holiday cottage to run there are always things waiting to be done, both inside and outside. Just now with my father and my father in law both struggling with their health, life is dominated by visiting, and by the driving up and down the country that is necessary to make some of that visiting possible so the garden lies neglected while we keep our heads above water. Last week we also made a flying visit to Oxford to older daughter and her family who are moving to Wales, providing a bit of help with childcare (me) and taking down shelves and moving things from the allotment (Ian). There is the cottage changeover, other adult children and grandchildren to see and to support and tiny bits of gardening to do so that the whole garden does not completely disappear under a welter of nettles and bindweed. I have so much to do all the time that I run blindly from one thing to another, starting things without finishing them, or I find I cannot bring myself to engage with things because I know I have not got time to do them properly.
So doing "nuffin" was not a serious suggestion for a moment. But I sit there musing about the idea of nothing and suddenly I wonder if it can be done. I come downstairs, deliberately putting aside the list of "what next" in my head and make scrambled eggs for breakfast. I read a bit of the weekend paper while I eat my eggs. Going back upstairs to get dressed I resist the urge to throw my gardening clothes on and get out of the bedroom in less than a minute. I shower (yes, of course I shower normally but I shower in less time than it takes most people to turn the shower on) and shave my legs and stay in long enough (all of five minutes) for the mirror to steam up.
Out of the shower I decide to put my yoga clothes on. In the last few months I have committed silently to getting back to yoga. Physically I feel better for making demands on my body that it stretch and move. Mentally a session calms me and lifts me and puts me in touch with myself. Sometimes yoga opens me up in a way that is almost painful. I stopped for a while after my mother died because it made me cry unexpectedly and publicly. Sometimes I do not go when a part of me knows that I most need to because it is easier and less challenging to sit in the chair and watch the TV and potter about the internet. In fact the more I need to go the less likely I am to make it happen. But I have recognised that and have been trying in the last two or three months to turn up, week after week, whether I feel like it or not.
We still have not sorted out the room that was my father in law's. His bed has gone to someone else who will use it. Many of his things have gone with him and even more remain. This is not a big house. We know that it would be a good thing to find a use for the room that works for us and in theory we have agreed: a crafts room, a sewing room, a music room. But this kind of change takes time and energy and both are squeezed just now. But without doing anything which takes time or organisation or the blurry edged decision making which resonates emotionally and uncomfortably and feels too soon, too harsh, here is a space, with a red rug, open and empty, without much furniture and with light coming in through the deeply recessed window. We don't have a lot of space here inside. Here is a space where you can lie and stretch without bumping into furniture. When you sit back on your heels and then stretch forward, hands on the ground, folding yourself in two, the only thing which prevents your movement is your own stiffness, not bumping into an armchair or a sofa.
So I sit cross legged and move and stretch and try and inevitably fail to touch my toes. I am not flexible. My ham strings are as tight as a bow. But the trying and the sitting and the focussing on my body and how it works slows me right down and shuts out for a brief moment the incessant chatter of what needs to be done.
Afterwards I change my yoga pants for my jeans and make a cup of tea. I wash up and put clothes away and take Ian a cup of coffee as he finishes mending the car brakes. Weirdly, perhaps as a result of deciding to do nothing, I feel focussed and energetic. I sort out clothes and toiletries of my own and bits of detritus in my father in law's room: tissues and old newspapers which somehow I have not noticed before as if I had not been allowing myself to look. I read for a few minutes, only a few pages but I never read in the day and it feels oddly like being on holiday. Then I make some pastry, put it in the fridge to chill and go out into the garden to pick gooseberries.
And by the end of the day have I done nothing? Of course not. Perhaps the day started more slowly but it picked up speed and between us Ian and I have picked and topped and tailed six kilos of gooseberries and have the scratched and battered hands to prove it. We have visited his father and collected a bed to be delivered to older daughter from younger daughter. I have made a quiche and a gooseberry tart and done all the small domestic things that you need to do to make the day go. But somehow that quieter start, that stepping back and looking at the idea, however askance, of "nuffin" has slowed me down and stilled the incessant rumbling demands of what has to be done. It has made things go quiet for a brief time. Maybe I will try it again.