Aug 25, 2021–There is one lesson that battling a medical challenge teaches you.

Sometimes the better part of valor is to do nothing.

Forced inactivity is a foreign sensation for those of us who think productivity is life. If we aren’t canning tomatoes, balancing the checkbook, or creating billable hours, have we really lived that day?

Yes, I’ve learned. When you are unable to produce anything tangible, that is OK. Some days, your only job is to exist.

No phone.

No TV.

No music.

No streaming.

No devices.

No chores.

No cleaning, no cutting, no mowing.

So what is left to do on a nothing day?


Sitting is an art form in many parts of the world. I remember in South America old men and children would just sit on their doorsteps all day. They sat with arms and feet arranged to fit the door frame, bare toes in the dirt. Totally content. Part of the earth. Part of the world. Embracing gravity.

We don’t have that patience. One day of non-doing is an eternity for the western mindset.

I experienced it first when I wound up in the hospital overseas.

I was leveled with a bout of typhoid, and literally carried into a small hospital. The first day I was so out of it, doing nothing didn’t matter. But after the staff pulled me back from the brink, I was forced to stay in bed for another four days.

There was no TV, no radio, no internet, nothing to read in English, no crossword puzzles. No roommate, no family, no visitors. I was literally lying in a white room with white furniture and white sheets staring at white walls, living on a diet of white gruel and sweet tea. When the occasional staff person stopped by, it was to put something in me or take something out of me. Even then, I begged them to stay.

It got so bad, I broke out. I timed the staff visits, and when the last nurse made her rounds, I opened the window and crawled out. It was stupid thing to do. I could have suffered permanent damage. But the forced isolation was so traumatizing, I risked my life because I was so terrified of idleness.

Yet recently I have had to pass another 5-day stint of forced inactivity. This time, I felt a need not to fight it. While dealing with healing, a part of me was aware things were happening in day-to-day life that should have been addressed–clients, critters, maintenance, business demands. But some wiser part of me whispered, “let it go.” Those things didn’t matter. You can’t control everything. Nor should you. Someone else will step up. Or no one will. Either way, it won’t matter.

Sometimes one’s highest purpose is to just exist.