Astrid & Irene: Idle time

Sometimes you can feel like you should be doing a million things at once. But we have found that, sometimes, being useless is the most useful thing of all. 

It must be some kind of illness: There we are, finally listening to a podcast (practicing what we preach!), when, right in the middle of listening to it, we think, ‘Hmm, maybe we’d rather finish reading that book now?’ And when we’re reading the book, we suddenly remember we’ve got some ironing to do. And while we’re ironing, we think, ‘Ironing, in this nice weather? We must be crazy. Shouldn’t we go somewhere? Maybe the beach?’

Because most of us have a really packed schedule much of the time, it feels increasingly difficult to think of what we should do in the few empty hours we sometimes have. And on top of that, we also tend to be extremely practical and encumbered by a nagging sense of guilt. Just lounging on the couch may be fine for our teenagers, but we don’t allow ourselves that luxury. Everything has to have a purpose. And, if possible, also earn us a pat on the back.

A while ago, we opened a jigsaw puzzle in the editorial office at Flow. Is there anything that has less purpose than putting a puzzle together? Because some time, some day, it will just have to be put back into the box. Our marketing colleague Jelka started the puzzle with some hesitation, but soon we were taking turns putting together a few pieces, between meetings or if we were struck with a touch of writers’ block. In turns, one of us would sit down at the puzzle table (which probably inspired us to include the ‘Puzzling Art’ feature of issue 35). Sometimes there were three of us, or five. And so we discovered that it is actually great to have a diversion handy. Doing nothing useful is useful, as we explore in our latest magazine. Because if we don’t plan our days full of practical activities from minute to minute, we find there is room for wonder and surprise, to give our brains a break. And that’s very much needed. Collecting shells on the beach or arranging our books by color in the bookcase… what we may perceive as wasting time isn’t a waste of time. For ourselves, we are going to give it some more practice.

  • Read more about idle time in issue 35.

Photography Danique van Kesteren