On Making Friends With Failure To Achieve

Do you ever have days when you positively absolutely do not get a single thing done? I do, all the time. Well, I achieve such things as getting up. Today I walked into town and performed one, no, two errands, then I came home and did two loads of laundry. I sat in the sun and read a book. I drank tea. I sat in the sun. I remembered that I have to snatch Rosy's latest magazine to read before she cuts it up and sticks bits of it in her art journal (she always sticks in pictures from the other side of the interesting article I am trying to read). So I sat in the sun and read Rosy's magazine. I have literally a thousand useful activities I could be doing, or you know, achieving something or attempting to make a living. I am writing a novel which at current productivity levels will be finished in ten years. I have two lines of thought which follow me through days like today:

My first thought is, "This is so lovely, ooh, look at the sun on the chestnut leaves. Sun on my back, mmm, may just close my eyes now." Then my second thought creeps sneakily in, "You are wasting your life, you are achieving nothing, you are failing again at being a useful human being." Today, as thought No 2 crept in, I happened to be reading this passage:

I go to the park and watch the ducks in the pond as they fluff their feathers. I see how relaxed they look - when all they're doing is fluffing their feathers. They aren't filled with tension trying to become something else. They aren't frantically attempting to build their careers, and they aren't sucking up to the other ducks. All they seem to be doing is enjoying the water, fluffing their feathers, and living their lives. When it comes down to it, isn't that all we really need in our lives, too?
Fumio Sasaki, goodbye, things: on minimalist living, Part 4, I enjoy life more

So, today, I will be like the duck.


Anonymous said…
If we spend more time "being" instead of doing, our world would be a much more peaceful, and kind place. Enjoy your day!!! Patricia
simplelife said…
I knew I was going to love this post when I read the title. You haven't failed to deliver, see what I did there? I could have been an awesome dad, dad jokes are my favourite. Oops off track.
I'm terrible at failing to achieve, don't get me wrong I fail a lot, but golly I beat myself up if I don't achieve too many things each day. It's like my worth as a person is directly related to my daily to do list. I agree with Patricia. I often think it would be good to be an animal, right now only needing to enjoy the sun and fluff my feathers sounds like bliss. It's been one of those days.
Cheers Kate
Jo said…
Patricia, I have often thought that it is the over-achievers in history who do the most damage. Those of us who nap may not achieve much, but at least we don't do much harm..

Kate, you have just reminded me that there are many, many days where I do not have the opportunity to sit in the sun and fluff my feathers, so that I will seize on the days that I can do that and fluff the heck out of them! Carpe diem!
Beznarf27 said…
Michael Leunig has a thing about ducks and I guess he knows the value of a good feather fluffing moment. Its a sad state of affairs when we can't relax without feeling guilty. Do you actually have a chestnut tree in your garden?! If so, do you get chestnuts or is it a horse chestnut? We should be spending more time enjoying our gardens and less time stressing about "the other things". When you are as highly organised as you are, I think a bit of garden R&R should be mandatory :)
Anonymous said…
Oh, yes. In spite of my best efforts, I don't seem to be able to nap in the daytime, but I can't think of anything more restorative than at least half an hour alone on a seat in the garden, watching the sun on the leaves, with a magazine and a cup of coffee. As often as possible, weather permitting.

Linda in NZ
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Well as a contrast, I did recall having the flu last month and then a head cold straight afterwards and I so seem to remember having one or two days (or maybe it was three) where I did not much at all. I think I slept, yeah, maybe that was what happened. It was a bit of a blur to be honest. Mind you, I am probably at the other end of the continuum which was perhaps why I got run down and flu and then cold riddled at the end of all of the summer harvesting activities...

Reading a book or magazine in the sun sounds delightful! Your pace clearly seems remarkably better for ones health, don't you reckon?

Jo said…
Fran, I like that Leunig's duck is a metaphor for all that is splendidly mad and mystical and silly about the human condition.
I hope nothing I have written in these pages has prompted you to imagine that I am organised. I am very not organised. When it comes to organisation I am just hanging on by the skin of my teeth..
Horse chestnut. I am going to experiment with making horse chestnut washing detergent.

Linda, yes, I like your approach - as often as possible, weather permitting.

Chris, I have to say that I am continually amazed at the pace you set. Just reading your blog posts makes me tired. Tired but impressed.
My whole extended family rarely if ever gets anything done, but we are all pretty chilled out and live very long, uneventful lives:)
Meg said…
I read this, Jo, and it reminded me of Wendell Berry's poem, "The Peace of Wild Things". That, while we are running around madly chasing all manner of things or avoiding all manner of things, wild things (ducks among them) are just living their lives (fluffing their feathers) and doing so without behaving like headless chooks!
Jo said…
Meg, I found that poem, and it is lovely, thank you. I think we get so very caught up with our concerns, don't we, and making a space and a time just to be creates such stillness and gives us perspective.

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