October 3, 2002
Notify lists can be a very good thing; I joined the one for Random Acts of Journaling last week because I almost missed doing a September entry due to my haphazard checking of the site for new prompts. Yesterday, I got a nice e-mail that the new prompts are up, so I feel all on top of things (as least as far as Random Acts goes—the rest of my life, not so much) and can do an October entry when the month is still fresh and new. (You know that I have a notify list for this site, too, don’t you?)
There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is in having lots to do and not doing it.
Mary Wilson Little
Maybe I’m over thinking it, or maybe I just haven’t had enough sleep lately, but I’m having trouble making sense of this quote. Having nothing to do? What does that mean? Even if I completed all the things on my to do lists, I wouldn’t have nothing to do. I’d still have plenty of things to do: recline in the grass and watch the clouds, color on the patio with sidewalk chalk, eat ice cream out of a margarita glass—the possibilities, as they say, are endless. Rather than having nothing to do, I’d have nothing I have to do, and maybe that’s what she means: there is no pleasure in having nothing one has to do. Except that doesn’t make sense, either. I think there’s great pleasure in having no obligations or commitments, being free to choose just what to do next. I’m hoping that’s what heaven is like, day after day of doing whatever I want and not having to do anything in particular. Maybe when she says, “having nothing to do”, Ms. Little means “having no choice about what to do”. That I understand. That makes sense. I’m much happier when I have options. There is no pleasure in having no voice, no power to decide how to spend one’s time.
Now that I feel like I’ve gotten somewhere with the first part of the quote, I can move on to “the fun is in having lots to do and not doing it.” The fun is in the not doing? No, I don’t think so. For me, the fun is in doing lots of things, just not ones I have to do. I’m envisioning being on vacation with Ms. Little; we’re in the hotel room, and I want to visit the zoo, or eat at the Thai restaurant I spotted down the street, or shop at Sephora, and she takes great delight in saying no to each suggestion, telling me it would be more fun to not go, not eat, not shop. I’d need to find a new travel partner right quick. Now, maybe she means the fun is in not doing the things one has to do, in leaving one’s obligations aside. The fun is in having to clean the house and going to a movie instead. And yes, that is fun, if one’s developed the ability to ignore the cry of tasks left undone. For me, it all depends on the consequences. I can have fun doing things other than what I’m supposed to be doing per my to do lists and per my schedule if those other things aren’t urgent. Going to a movie instead of cleaning the house is fun unless there are guests coming, in which case going to a movie would increase my stress level rather than reduce it. Since I don’t ever expect to be caught up, to have nothing on my to do lists, I will always be making judgments about what’s okay to delay or blow off entirely in order to go have some fun. I’ve got to believe that most people do the same.
So, run through the Karen filter, the quote becomes, “There is no pleasure in having no choice about what to do; the fun is in having lots one has to do and doing something else instead.” Not as pithy as Ms. Little’s original statement, but one that makes more sense to me.