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Health And Family

What do you do when there’s nothing to do?

HEART AND MIND - Paulynn Sicam - The Philippine Star
What do you do when thereâs nothing to do?
I remembered that book because I am in that state at this time, when my work load is done and I have no deadlines to meet.
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The great thing about having nothing to do is, for the first time in a long while, I am watching Netflix without guilt, and with no pressure of work in the morning.

What do you do when there’s nothing to do? That’s the question that Douglas Wood asks in his children’s book, Nothing To Do, that I bought for my daughters when they were children. From what I remember, it listed activities where children could make creative use of their time when “there is nothing to do.”

There is never nothing to do, as the book showed the kids how to spend lazy days when there’s no school or homework or chores. Among the things he suggests are cloud watching, walking barefoot in the mud, crafting toy ships and paper airplanes or reading one’s favorite book. 

I remembered that book because I am in that state at this time, when my work load is done and I have no deadlines to meet. While awaiting my next editing job, I get up in the morning with nothing of consequence — meaning no income-generating activity — to pursue. 

Usually, my days are spent in front of my laptop fixing other people’s prose, ensuring that their storytelling makes sense and their grammar and spelling are correct. But these days, I am in a hiatus. Two book editing deadlines have been met and a third project hasn’t quite materialized.

When I am home and not otherwise occupied, I see dust and dirt, disheveled closets and book shelves, stray shoes and socks and clothes hanging in my closet that I haven’t worn in years and probably no longer fit me. I notice dog hair all over the floor, empty bottles in the ref, window screens that need changing, bags that need mending, aphids on my favorite plant, etc., etc. 

Needless to say, the things that I don’t notice when I am busy, assume priority, and with rags, broom, vacuum cleaner, and all sorts of cleansing sprays, I whirl around the house wiping, sweeping, discarding, polishing. It drives my kasambahay up the wall.

But the upside of having nothing to do is — when I’m not obsessing about cleaning ­— having the leisure to do things for myself.  I have had the time to go to the parlor for a haircut, and have my nails cleaned. I have gone shopping for black sandals I thought I needed, and ended up with gold ones. I have actually finished reading a book and starting a new one. And I finally baked a batch of Food for the Gods that I’ve been meaning to for months. 

I have also attended plays, concerts, the ballet, watched movies, caught up with friends and sources over coffee, and other pleasures that I have missed all the years of being a slave to my work. It used to be that I would pass up shows because I was busy and besides, the venues were too far away. Without a car and driver, going to the Ayala Museum in Makati, the Maybank Theater in BGC, or the Cultural Center complex in Roxas Boulevard to catch plays and concerts, was such an inconvenience, a major operation.

To watch the opera Noli Me Tangere at the CCP, my friends and I had to rent a car and driver, have dinner out and endure bad traffic even at midnight. 

Not anymore.

Living near enough to the Arete in the Ateneo campus, and with Cubao just a short Grab ride away, I am in the midst of a hub of culture and arts that finally exists in the Quezon City area. In the past few weeks, I have watched the stars of the Bolshoi Ballet do Swan Lake at the Kia Theater in Cubao, and a concert of Spanish songs and zarzuela and the Manila Symphony Orchestra perform “Soundtracks and Symphonies” in Arete’s Hyundai Theater. Next weekend, I will attend a concert of 50 years of Jesuit Music at the Irwin Theater in the Ateneo Campus. 

Besides a 900-seat world-class theater, the Arete creative hub has a 250-seater Black Box theater setting named after the late Doreen Gamboa Fernandez, where I have watched intense local productions in an intimate setting. Arete also houses the fabulous Ateneo Art Gallery, and the Ateneo-Le Cordon Bleu Institute in its Innovation Wing, among other exciting features. 

The Kia Theater is the old New Frontier Theater where I watched movies like Barbarella and Ice Palace over 50 years ago.  Like the rest of Cubao, it had gone to seed but, along with Cubao, I was delighted to see it resurrected as a venue for live performances. 

A jeepney ride away is the University of the Philippines where the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater never fails to excite theater goers with its excellent productions. And PETA isn’t that far away.

I feel like I died and went to heaven. 

The great thing about having nothing to do is, for the first time in a long while, I am watching Netflix without guilt, and with no pressure of work in the morning, I have actually been sleeping well.  

Such a luxury! As the Spanish saying goes, how sweet it is to rest after having done nothing. Until the next editing job comes.

NOTHING TO DO

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