A few years ago I had several different people nickname me ‘the energiser bunny’.
Once I’d got my brain around doing something with my life (around 22 years old, I would say), I don’t think anyone would have called me lazy. Sure, I still liked 10 hours sleep a night and I happily watched four (plus!) hours worth of extended Lord of the Rings DVDs. Overall, I look back and realise I was increasingly finding it hard to ‘stop’.
To the outside, achievement-focussed wold, this probably sounds like the best thing I could be doing: gaining life experiences; making lots of friends; finding a job within four weeks of settling in a place. I did the latter by working seven hours a day on job applications…PLUS cooking and cleaning a bit at my then-boyfriends flatshare, to show gratitude for being allowed to stay there until I found a place. I remember cleaning their bathroom at one point, its’ pristine white floor tiles having a centimetre carpet of man fuzz before I attacked it and made the tiles gleaming white again.
I thought my ex was lazy when he used to sit on the sofa, laptop on lap, phone in hand, and the TV blaring in front of him for most of a Sunday. I genuinely still don’t know how or why he managed that, or how or why I didn’t start smashing one or many of these devices in the way I had many, many fantasies about doing.
When people suggested I might slow down, and to quote a pure fried-gold phrase of a friend’s, ‘find my inner tortoise’, I thought this meant being like my ex.. I didn’t even own a TV, let alone have any interest in emulating him. Since becoming ill with chronic migraine, I’ve started to learn a bit more about a positive version of laziness, and that elusive inner tortoise. Mindfulness is the new favourite buzzword (other than the equally hard to define, Brexit…) and if by that we mean doing one task at a time and focussing our minds on that and not the 100 other things on our to-do list, then yes, I’m a big fan. But if you still have that list of 100 to come back to, for me that mindfulness will be all too fleeting.
Over time I have accumulated a few activities, such as colouring in and writing. Others I tried to do such as meditation and yoga that have either felt less needed, or just less practical since living on a narrow boat. Now, six months after I made this move, it feels like there were so many things I was trying to do as plasters to cover up the wounds of a still-busy life. Busy, despite being ill because I was clutching at the straws of the busy world, as the only one I knew. Coming home from busy-work, I often sat in tears on the sofa either from exhaustion or pain or both. After finishing busy-socialising I would be the same, hating myself for trying because it felt so counterintuitive to do this ‘optional’ activity that made me so happy, yet still brought me crashing down in neurological agony.
I feel I’ve acclimatised quite well to a lazy life on the boat, since my energizer bunny days. Tom still accuses me of not being able to stop but he never knew me with my ‘healthy’, busy-life. Getting to the point of boredom that I’m scrounging around for things to do, so resorting to picking up books from our small bookshelf feels so luxuriant, like fresh sheets on the bed or wandering around Waitrose (not done that one in a while!).
Slow motion may feel like you’re not getting anywhere, and our society teaches us to always push forward in the fast lane so it’s not easy. But looking back at my younger, healthier self, I wish I’d found an alternative to stagnating with multiple screens surrounding me. We might only have one life and feel we have to pack a lot into it, but a life that whizzes by feels as unreal and unfulfilling as slowing any motion down to a stop.