Life & Style | People

Notes to self: The art of doing nothing

I am the opposite of relaxed. The reason most things take me so long is abject terror that I’ll do them poorly

  • By Gaby Doman
  • Published: 00:00 June 16, 2012
  • Tabloid on Saturday

I always thought I was really good at relaxing — like, the world’s best. It’s true that I am excellent at sleeping. I can sleep anywhere at any time and not move for a solid ten hours. I fall asleep in seconds when I’m lying down, like one of those dolls you have when you’re a kid, and the eyes close when it’s horizontal … that’s me.

Also, I am a brilliant procrastinator. I can mull something over for months. My mum is always reminding me to do things such as pay bills, go for health check-ups, etc. Last time she asked me, she said, “You’re not going to, are you?” I replied, “Yes, but I need to think about it for a few months first.”

I mistook this for being a relaxed, laid-back kind of person when, in fact, I am just sublimely lazy.

The reality is I am the opposite of relaxed. The reason most things take me so long is abject terror that I’ll do them poorly, or that I won’t like the result in some way. It’s not because I’m blasé about them.

I realised this yesterday. It took a holiday to Bali for me to realise that I cannot relax. I’m sitting in Ubud now, surrounded by stunning natural beauty and munching on French toast. Everyone is slowly going about their day, pottering from café to temple to café. There’s really not much to do. There’s so little to do that, when I arrived, I thought I’d missed something. I saw most of the city in half a day and then wondered how people spend days, weeks, or months here. I scanned the guidebooks to see what I’d missed. Turns out, the only thing I’d missed was remembering to unwind. In Bali, it’s perfectly normal to spend half the day drinking a mango lassi and staring out into a rice paddy before cycling back to your hotel. I love the idea, but in practice, I get antsy; bored, even. I’m alone, so I don’t even have anyone to talk to about how green the fields are. Instead, I’ve been tweeting about it.

My ex, The Greek, told me on our last holiday that I was driving him crazy looking at my watch all the time, creating itineraries and panicking about work and schedules.

So I woke up this morning and decided to get in the slow lane. Life doesn’t have to be in full throttle all the time. Maybe a week of sitting, riding a bike, doing yoga and sitting on a beach will help me calm down. In Bangkok, I fill every minute with work, the gym and partying. I love all those things, but there’s never any down time. Perhaps the fact that I never stop is the reason my knees still hurt from my Bangkok-to-Singapore bike ride, why I have bitten my fingernails down to stumps, why I get regular migraines and why I’ve had a cough for the past three months or more. I’m not relaxed; I’m as highly strung as any city girl.

I thought I’d relaxed last week at the beach, but when I look back, I partied every night and survived on beach naps, not full nights of sleep. I always get back from these beach breaks more exhausted than when I left.

So, as ridiculous as it sounds, today I am going to try and enjoy walking slowly. To ride a bike and not know where I’m going, to make a smoothie last three hours while I stare into space and wonder at the beauty of Asia, and to, for once, let my nails grow. And, get this, I’m not going to go out partying. Not once. In fact, my only plans for today are going to be to forget the time. Now if you’ll excuse me, Bali has an awful lot of rice paddies that need to be stared at.

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