I was in hospital last week. My daughter was ill. Thankfully, it was easily treatable and she started to recover almost the moment we arrived. Now, watching her dance around the room, it’s hard to believe she was ever poorly at all.
Being in hospital is like being in a little bubble from the rest of the world. It’s really warm, often with little natural light or fresh air. You are bound by the routine of meals, ward rounds and medication. There are machines everywhere, with alarms that sound if something is too low, too high, or not working at all. Nine weeks of the neo-natal unit six years ago taught me what many of them do, which I’m sure is why although this experience was worrying and something of a shock, I was pretty calm and confident that everything would be fine.
Because of this confidence, I allowed myself to drift off into thought quite a lot. As she recovered well, there were many times when she was off in the playroom with her new hospital buddies and although I was watching over her, I was still able to read a book. I gazed out of the window at the clouds going by as she watched a bit of television on her bed. The enforced idleness felt like something of a revelation. Often I’m rushing around, talking of having ‘so much to do’ and being ‘so busy’, as though those things are badges of honour. And I am busy, but much of the time it is doing things I choose to do. A few days of colouring-in, reading stories and stroking my daughter’s hair as she tried to sleep with an oxygen mask on, actually did me a lot of good. It gave me a little chance to check with myself what is really important to me. And as much as my ‘busyness’ is important to me because a lot of it is generated by things I choose to do, there needs to be room in my life for colouring-in, reading books and gazing out of windows.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the book of my choice was ‘How to Be Free’ by Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler and The Idler Academy.
Here’s to idleness.