Hello, girls! It’s Monday, and not just any Monday – it’s Challenge Monday.
So, Carlyn’s challenge was to spend four hours in a public place doing something we wouldn’t normally do. I went back and forth on what to do and how to fulfill it, but eventually, I hit on a plan.
But rather than me blather on about it, I’m going to let Cassie from a week ago do the talking. Cassie from a week ago?
The Challenge of Nothing
1:22pm - It has begun. My challenge. I begin at 1:22pm, and I will conclude at 5:22pm. My public location? BG City Park. My four-hour objective? To do nothing.
Now, before you raise a fuss and call me a cop-out, let me explain. When I say nothing, I mean nothing. As close to inactivity as I can come without falling asleep. Four hours of forced idleness. I am not an idle person. I am never not doing something, and I’m usually doing multiple things. So I’m actually pretty anxious about this. Here are my rules:
1. I may not read.
2. I may not write, except to take notes on the experience.
3. I may not spend my four hours taking notes.
4. I may not listen to music.
5. I may not play games on my phone or iPod.
6. I may not seek out company. If it comes to me, that’s something else, but I cannot seek it out.
7. I may respond to text messages, emails, and phone calls, but I may not be the originator.
8. I may violate the above rule if an Alice crisis arises.
9. I may stretch my legs once every hour or if my shade disappears (because I didn’t wear sunscreen, dummy that I am).
10. I must tell anyone who asks exactly what I am doing.
I can already hear my inner voice going “But – but – but – what am I supposed to do??” And I answer: “Nothing. You are going to sit quietly for four hours and enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air. You are going to exist for four hours without a plan and let life happen to you.”
My inner voice is not silenced, nor is it convinced. Twelve minutes down, it says. Enjoy the bugs, it says. But I have made my choice. So let’s see what happens now.
1:51pm - I’ve already broken a rule, but with good reason, and really, I think it falls under the parameters of Rule Nine. I’ve moved – away from the stagnant water that is the sand pit after all the rain we’ve had. Hopefully that will help with the bugs, which are far worse than I was anticiapting. Thirty minutes in and I already have a handful of bug bites. But yes, Mom. I know. Without bug spray, I have no right to complain.
2:21pm - Coming up on the end of hour one. It’s not going quite as badly as I feared it might be. The park is busy – both because it’s Memorial Day and because it’s the first really nice day we’ve had in a whole. But the amount of people around means I haven’t had a lack of things to watch.
Deep thought of the hour: I miss being a kid. I miss seeing a pool of muddy water as an adventure instead of a mosquito breeding ground. I miss thinking nothing of sitting on a sun-warmed swing or running barefoot across dry mulch. I’ve spent my first hour by the playground, and it’s filled me with nostalgia, like in no small part because this is the playground I came to as a kid spending my summers in BG.
I was going to be more poetic, but that’s the crux of it, really. I miss the untroubled innocence of childhood summers, and I wish I could tell these kids how precious what they have is. But I know they’d look at me like I was crazy before running barefoot off across the grass to wrestle with a sibling or scrape up their knees on the playground.
2:33 - Oh, and in case you were wondering, the bugs are far less ubiquitous over here.
2:37 - The breeze has stopped and the number of kids has drastically decreased. The ones left are fast getting on my nerves. How have only four minutes gone by?
2:43 - Alice, Alice, Alice. When I have nothing to think about, my mind defaults to worrying about Alice. I’m surprised it took me an hour and twenty minutes, actually. How does an hour pass so quickly and the last ten minutes so slowly?
2:46 - Okay, I need to move. I didn’t at the hour, so I’m doing it now.
3:00 - Okay, I’m better now. I was by the playground for too long, I think. All of a sudden, the kids were grating and the atmosphere was cloying. I’m in a quieter part of the park now, one that feels more secluded even though it isn’t really. I’m lying on a stone bench in a little copse of trees, and it’s amazing how much the overlapping tree branches look like the veining on the leaves from below. I almost fell asleep, which I’d like to avoid, as I don’t think it accomplishes the goal of deliberate inactivity. Although falling asleep on a park bench would certainly qualify as something I don’t normally do in public!
3:27 - Missed the hour two mark because I didn’t feel like reaching down for my paper. Even now I don’t have much to add. It’s very calming on my stone bench. I’ve taken off my shoes, and barefoot in the park seems like a pretty good place to be right now. Deep thought for hour two.
3:33 - Since pulling myself out of my trance to write the previous, my hands have been itching to do something – pick up a book, write an Alice to-do list, talk about paint with my TD, anything. It’s like as long as I’m not thinking about the fact that I’m doing nothing, I’m fine, but as soon as I remember, I get fidgety. I think it’s because that is when I start thinking about all the things I could be doing, even if it’s just reading a book.
3:49 - I am fast losing shade. Time to move. There’s a second stone bench a little ways away that I’ve been avoiding because it’s in full view of a picnic pavilion with quite a large group of people, but that’s the whole point, right?
4:09 - Sun’s chasing me from my second stone bench, too. Back to the playground. I think I’ll see if there are any open shady swings.
4:23 - Taking a break from my swinging to herald in hour four, my last hour of inactivity. I love swinging. I’ve already had three encounters of note on the swingset, the most interaction I’ve had today. I’ll tell you about them in a little. Right now, I’m going to keep swinging.
4:51 - So, I was going to keep swinging until my thighs started complaining about being put into a seat designed for people much smaller, but then the kid swinging next to me fell off and broke his arm, and I decided I was done swinging. And now I really need to get the image out of my head, so I’m not going to write down my musings about swinging.
This last half hour is going to be the hardest and most tempting because right in the middle of City Park is Needle Hall, and Needle Hall is where Shakespeare in the Park rehearses, and all my friends are in Shakespeare in the Park and are currently arriving for rehearsal. I was originally supposed to be in the show, too, which doesn’t help. Also, I can’t move out of view. It’s the biggest thing in the park.
4:59 - My boyfriend saw me and came over. I didn’t tell him I was doing this today, and because he came to me, I could talk to him. But he’s being stubbornly helpful now, and refusing to stick around to talk to me now that he knows what I’m doing. Grrr . . .
5:02 - And now all my friends are standing there, watching me. Chase told them all why I’m here, and so they won’t come talk to me. My resolve is being sorely tested . . . 20 more minutes.
5:15 - Well, their rehearsal has started, and I have at least been able to move out of line of sight of the actors. With seven minutes left to my time, the afternoon seems surreal. It is hard to account for the passage of time. It seems simultaneously to have flown by impossibly fast and dragged on interminably. I was able to do nothing all afternoon easier than I thought I’d be. For four hours, I just existed, which is both a blessing and a curse. When I was able to give in to it, it was very peaceful, very relaxing. But the rest of the time, it was maddening, and I hate that I lost four hours. All and all, an interesting experience, and an interesting challenge. I’m glad I did it, but I think I’m ready to go accomplish something.
5:23 - My four hours are done! I’m turning on my music, washing my hands, and going shopping! I’ve never been so excited to do such mundane things before. Happy challenge week to you all! I hope yours will be as insightful as mine has been.