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Is Sitting Still Becoming a Lost Art?

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I don’t know if this is a product of age or motherhood…but I have become a stranger to the fine art of sitting still and doing nothing.

It’s been years since I’ve been able to sit through a movie without stopping for some reason.  The dog needs to go out, the dog needs to come in, a child is up for one-last-goodnight-kiss, a child is up for a second one-last-goodnight-kiss, changing out the laundry so that it will be done before I finally settle down to sleep, putting in another load because if I don’t I’ll have to wear my bathing suit the next day since I’m down to my last pair of clean underwear….

I burn more calories during a movie than most people do in a Zumba class.

The “to-do” list seems endless for work.  I used to write a few last minute things on my bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker every night before I went to bed so that I would remember what I needed to do first thing the next morning:  Don’t forget to email these 10 people, this deadline was today (but if you send it early tomorrow maybe no one will notice), your light is blinking on your voicemail so check it first thing (probably you leaving yourself another “to do” list), what didn’t get signed, what you forgot to mail, what didn’t get mailed because you forgot to sign it….

I realized I was in trouble when I couldn’t see enough of myself in the mirror to tweeze my eyebrows in the morning.

My days of sitting still by the pool with nothing to pay attention to but a trashy magazine are long behind me.  Someone needs their floaties on, someone is hungry, someone’s floaties are chafing so they need to come off, someone went to the bathroom with a wet bathing suit and can’t get it back on, someone needs to go to the bathroom right now or they might “leave a floaty” so stop trying to put her bathing suit on and help me get mine off!!

And we all know, technology has made this even worse.  The high level of “reachability” that, in the past, has only been available to the President of the United States is now not only available to everyone…it’s required.  It is now impossible to sit down to dinner at a nice restaurant without excusing yourself to answer important questions like “can I have a snack?” or “can I hit my brother because he hit me first?” or “did you see that picture that I sent you?  Isn’t it amazing that I could stick that penny all the way in my ear?”

Not being able to settle down has become very unsettling.

In my rookie parenting years, I would wish for a vacation to “get away from it all.”  But once I realized the level of preparation necessary to take a vacation, as I packed three kids to go to a grandparent’s house, packed myself, dropped the dog off at the kennel, did the laundry I needed to go, did enough laundry so that I’d have something to wear when I got back, threw stuff away that would go bad while we were gone, went to the grocery store so that we’d have the bare essentials when we got home….

I realized I didn’t really want a whole vacation.  I just wanted to sit.

My dream of going to the Bahamas for a week turned into a fantasy of getting a room at a Motel 6 for the afternoon and just sitting.  Sitting on a bed I didn’t have to make.  Sitting and drinking water from a cup I wouldn’t have to wash.  Sitting on a toilet I wouldn’t have to clean.

Just blissfully…sitting.

I’ve decided we busy moms have become woefully inadequate in the art of sitting.  I came to this conclusion because I dared to sit the other day and my 5-year-old looked at me like, “What in the heck are you doing?”

Like tennis or the piano, we need to start practicing how to sit and just be. So I am going to start us off with a few helpful exercises to get the ball rolling.  Or to get the rear-end sitting, as the case may be.

Step 1 is sitting on the couch and holding up your hand while you calmly say, “No.  I’m sitting.”  For the beginners, this must be done after the kids are in bed.  I don’t trust you to try it in the light of day when there are so many temptations to stand running around.

I suggest 5 sets of 20.

Step 2 should be sitting on your bed, finding a hole in the wall (glossing over the fact that you need to fix it) and just staring at it.  Really studying it.  A practice in meditation, you must ignore the runny noses and tattling that run into the room for at least 5 minutes (this exercise should only be interrupted by the threat of blood or flood.  They rhyme so you should remember them).

Moving on to Step 3 is not for the faint of heart:  Sitting through an entire meal without getting up.  No refills, seconds or getting up to blow on something that’s too hot or reheating something that’s too cold.  This must last for at least 7 minutes as you do your best to actually chew your food and fully digest it for the first time in years.  Conversation is optional, but sitting is mandatory.

Now, after you have completed these 3 steps toward successfully sitting (which may take a few months), you may move on to the next level.

That’s when you get to put your feet up.

Catherine Tidd is a writer, widow and mother of three. She is the founder of, a free peer support website dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other and has a Facebook peer support page under the name Widow Chick. Along with being published in several books on grief and renewal, Catherine is also a humorous motivational speaker who focuses on ” finding joy in a life you weren’t expecting.” She is also a volunteer speaker with the Donor Alliance of Colorado.

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  • comment avatar Jaime Swartzendruber August 1, 2011

    Funny the things we can appreciate (like a long wait in the doctor’s office) once we become moms. Burning the extra calories isn’t so bad, but I don’t think I’ve watched an entire movie in one sitting in almost eight years!

  • comment avatar Lori Lavender Luz August 1, 2011

    That sounds too hard. I’m gonna do P90X instead, combined with the 30-day shred. I stand (hehe) a better chance of completing THAT than I do YOUR exercises.

    Fabulous post.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 1, 2011

    LOL–I LIVE this. I can’t watch television unless I’m folding laundry or working on my laptop. I was on vacation last summer with my in-laws who just like to kick back and the lack of activity nearly killed me. 🙂

  • comment avatar Julie August 1, 2011

    I agree! Hard to relax. Always multitasking. I try and go to bed at 10 and read until 11

  • comment avatar Bryany August 1, 2011

    i have an autistic child and am a single mom there is no down time.

    • comment avatar Catherine August 1, 2011

      I’m a single parent as well. Every once in awhile, I’ll hold my hands up to my kids and say, “How many hands does Mommy have??? Two! How many hands do you all have total????? SIX!!” That usually buys me about 90 seconds. :>)

  • comment avatar Laughing Yoga Mama August 5, 2011

    Love your post and humor, Catherine. I teach a meditation class once a week and actually get to sit silently for about 15 minutes of it. It’s unbelievable bliss!
    Now successfully achieving this at home is a whole other ballgame. I practice yoga in the morning with the boys walking around me, crawling under me, asking questions, and arguing (of course). Trying to get a smidge of shavasana in – just two minutes of lovely stillness, I ask – is a near impossibility.
    Thanks for reminding us to take those moments for ourselves and encouraging us to practice stillness, even if it’s just for 90 seconds at a time.