I’m from a generation of women who grew up believing their worth was in what they produced. I remember a writer friend saying she felt judged by her family if they came in and found her lying on the couch. “I’m writing in my head,” she explained. But why did she need to justify the appearance of lolling about?

When I did the interviews for Smart Women and my book Chronic Challenge, I noticed a recurring pattern. The women entrepreneurs put everything ahead of their wellbeing. The people with invisible diseases did as well. The only way they could justify taking the down time they needed to re-create and rest was under a physicians order to do so. They literally made themselves sick so they could justify what they considered lolling about.

There is a school of thought that women’s menses is nature’s way of giving them downtime. I haven’t quite bought into the theory, as my parents never allowed me to test it. They expected me to perform at 100 % no matter what ailed me. Suck it up and get the job done was my Dad’s motto.

My lolling about began as lying about when illness made functioning normally impossible. My hospital bed formed my world, and when I returned home, lying about was all I could handle. Nobody expected me to leap up and produce. I got a pass.

Living with a chronic disease, I learned the life-saving skill of listening to my body. Until I mastered letting my inner voice dictate my needs, I pushed past my limits many times and paid for not listening with a major setback. Being productive proved greater motivation than good health. I jumped back on the treadmill and ran until I slid off backward and landed on my butt — that being my payback for not listening.

More frequently, I recognized the damage incurred when I forgot the script lines. I heard the whispered cues reminding me, “back off and rest.” Once I started remembering my lines, I found a balance between meeting my need for productivity against harnessing my energy, so I didn’t run out. Taking an afternoon nap became acceptable — to me. I was the only one judging.

Occasionally, in a low energy period I took a day off, did whatever I wanted. I occupied myself with what felt right in that moment and moved from making a puzzle, to reading, or watching TV, maybe going for a walk. Over time spending a day this way became acceptable, even preferable as I felt the benefit in improved health of body, mind and spirit.

As I am just energy within this mortal form, of course my energy level ebbs and flows depending on how much I put out. A battery used long enough must be re-charged. The sensible thing, then, is topping up my battery before it runs dry. Lolling about is the way I power up.

I am now at the point where I take the day without justifying it is good for my health. I loll about because it gives me pleasure. There is a freedom in enjoying whatever occupation I choose in that moment. I do have one rule when I give myself the gift of a day or a few free hours. If I take it, I must relish it fully. I can’t fall back on feeling guilty, chide myself for being lazy, judge myself as wasting time. Incapacitating illness taught me time is precious. Use it well. Fill it with joy.

My friend called the other day and expressed guilt that she’d given herself the morning off, when a huge project glared in unfinished rancour from her desk. She used the time to nurture herself, but received no enjoyment from doing light housework, taking a walk, having a meal, because her inner judge kept telling her she should be working. “I’m really good at lolling about,” I told her. “It comes with practice and it feels great!  I have an advanced degree.” I hope she signs up for an online course.


  1. Barbara Lynn Thrasher
    Mar 26, 2021

    I really appreciated the reflection this caused me to do. Your line, “I take the day without justifying….” That will be a big switch for me. My worth is tied to my work too. I am slowly beginning to see it is an adiction and as long as I am relying on it to fill me, I will always have an insatiable hole to fill.

  2. Laurie Hutchinson
    Mar 27, 2021

    Dear Madelon — It has taken me a long time to get my degree in lolling about and finding absolute pleasure in everything I do while lolling. For the first year after retiring, people asked me, “What did you do today.” And I would answer, “Nothing.” For a whole year, I walked, read, did suduko, wrote a bit, told stories, watched TV and slept. I now knit and design sweaters. I learned to sew once again and am back to writing stories. Every morning my husband says, “What is my retiree doing today.” We laugh together. Every day he gets a different answer. Thank you for reminding me how precious life truly is.

  3. Tina-Marie Letwiniuk
    Mar 28, 2021

    Excellent post! about a topic that many people, men included, take too long to figure out. I watch my adult children rush around with their youthful energy, pushing themselves to get things done, meet deadlines, tend to everything going on around them while neglecting everything going on inside them. I am grateful we are all in good health, however, I firmly believe that our stressors in the outside world directly affect our inner world – emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. All I can do is point out to them, “when was the last time you did nothing?”, and hope that a mother’s ‘nagging’ will eventually sink in;)

  4. Gail Beuhler
    Mar 28, 2021

    I have almost perfected the art of doing nothing — and with no guilt!

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