The Wonderful World of Doing Nothing

Dot had done nothing all her life. All her life she had imagined she was doing things, rather than going through with the bother of actually doing them. All night long she had rocked herself to sleep with dreams of resounding success with endeavours she had imagined she was doing. All day she sleepwalked through her mundane life while imagining herself achieving brilliant great things to the constant applause of a rapturous audience.


In her mind, Dot was not just intelligent, she was a rare genius with one of the highest IQs in the world. She imagined herself being interviewed on television about what an amazing IQ scientists had discovered she had had after years of laboring under the impression she only had an average IQ. ‘Oh I just feel as dumb as I’ve always felt’ she imagined herself saying ‘But I don’t think intelligence is about what you’re given, but how you use what you’re given. The only stupid people are lazy ones’.


Dot did not have many friends. The truth is, people found her rather distant, flat and colourless. And indeed Dot was far more interested in the brilliant and vividly colourful people of her imagination rather than anyone real around her. Dot saw most people in the world as clods irrevocably chained in some way to an earth she did not feel she was a part of and did not want to be a part of.


Actually Dot never saw that she actually could make her own way in life by burrowing through the matter of the universe and changing things to suit herself. She didn’t think she could actually change anything. She couldn’t change people’s minds, she couldn’t alter the circumstances in her life. Everything that happened had to happen. Dot did not see herself as a free agent and she simply did what she had to do, went where she had to go and hated it. Only in her mind was she even freer than a bird because she dipped, swerved through air, sea and water and even matter and shape-shifted at will.


A long time ago when she was a child, Dot had had a series of bitter disappointments and had discovered that her imaginary life was so much more wonderful than shuffling, humdrum, ugly universe of reality. If she wanted to climb Mount Everest, bing! She was there, obligingly posing for a photographer on top of the world in a skimpy bikini. If she wanted to win first place in her exams for the year, bam! She took the prize. If she wanted to be a brilliant piano player, all she had to do was imagine a Mozart piano concerto in all its elegant, intricate moves and pretend to play along with it. That way she was even better than the girl who actually was coming first in her piano lessons.


As a teenager, she had drifted like a shadow through the world of her acquaintance. Her exams had come and gone.   Friends had proved elusive. So had boyfriends. She was always imagining that special somebody and those scintillating conversations in her mind that were so much more exciting than what was in front of her. She never imagined the world out there as something to explore or discover.


As an adult, she got a job in an office and for years she did exactly the same thing each day – showered, dressed, ate, commuted, worked, had lunch, worked again, went home, had dinner and then went to bed. That was the way she liked it, or thought she did.


Then when she was middle-aged, crisis hit. Her imaginary world was too heavy for the flimsy grey life she was living. She realised with a kind of horror, that she had become exactly the person she did not want to be: colourless, quiet, drab and uninterested in life. All she was brilliant at was doing nothing. She played doing nothing like a jazz musician and none of her exploits made the slightest difference to the life she was leading. She didn’t know how to change things.


Then one day, she took pen to paper and began to draw. Her first efforts were awkward, but out of wanting something to do she persisted. She drew plants, bowls of fruit, bottles, the streetscape. Sometimes she even doodled intriguing faces. She found a drawing class at night school and took lessons and became even better. She discovered colour and began to experiment with paint, taking herself outdoors although her forte seemed to be still-lifes.


She got praise for her work and was encouraged to put on an exhibition. She was retired by then, but found herself busier than ever creating her art. She was happier too, having found at last the perfect fusion of her real and her imaginary life. Through the lens of her art, she could explore the outside as well as her rich inner life and even bring the two together. But the funny thing was, the thing she was best at in her whole life was the thing she had never imagined she would do.