Not long ago, I was dropping my daughter off at swim practice and found myself with an hour to kill. As I drove away, I was going through the mental checklist of errands I had to run and calls I needed to make and emails and the list went on in a way that I'm sure you are all familiar with. With one hand clutching my phone and my brain spinning with ways to get it all done, I wondered what I would tackle first. In my head, the list grew and the hour I had took on some mythical proportions as if... as if I could really do it all.
And then I realized there was no "done," so instead, I decided to do nothing.
I drove a few blocks to a nearby deserted park with a big, grassy hill and an incredible view of the city. I parked, got out, turned off my phone and left it sitting there on the front seat. For 45 minutes, I sat in the grass alone. Quiet. With just my thoughts and the sound of the nearby highway, which I pretended was the sound of waves crashing. For 30 whole minutes I sat still, thinking, meditating, plotting, dreaming. And fighting the little piece of me that wanted to produce, perform, consume and connect, call, write, text, run, work, do.
It dawned on me how often I fill those chunks of time with things. I run to the post office. Or the bank. I check messages and emails and respond to things mostly not really urgent, but because of my approach, they become so in my head -- urgent, that is. I reach out to answer questions, schedule things, hear voices, feel crucial. And fill my head and hands and time with all the doing of life. And I realize it's easy in a way; this endless doing, doing, doing. It's easy to sit in the constant process of connecting, responding, replying and reaching in, because in a way, it makes us feel that if we're not here, things would crumble without us. And who doesn't want to feel that their part in it all is absolutely critical and irreplaceable?
What's not so easy is being still.
Of course as a working mother of four, there is always a lot that needs to be done. The list is ever-present, never-ending. But at the same time, there is no "done." And whether we work for ourselves or for a company or work at home, that is true and is made more true by our incessant ability to connect. But I realize too, for both my work and my parenting, it's necessary to also not do. It's necessary to stop my buzzing body, mind, hands and fill my proverbial cup with quiet, calm, breath after breath after breath, new ideas, solutions that only come from stillness and answers that arrive only when they are granted space.
From this lesson I am calling myself a revelationist. I am trying more and more to create these moments of stillness so that I can have more revelations about the ways, whys and hows of everything I do -- whether it's parenting or writing or creating or any of it. It's hard, sometimes, to convince myself of the merits of not "doing" all the time. But when I do? It fills me, which in turn fills my family and my work and my head and my total overall well-being.
I urge you, if just once in your busy day, where there is so much to do and there are so many people to see and endless tasks on your list, I urge you to look for that tiny window of time that can be filled with nothing at all.
And you can be a revelationist too.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.
Follow Bernadette Noll on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Slowfamilymama