The Train Is Moving Fast, But My Mind Isn’t Keeping Up

June 3, 2010

For Thursday, June 3, 2010

A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours. • John B. Priestly

I laughed when Steve Carell, the boobish boss on The Office said recently, “I don’t know what to do. My mind is going a mile an hour.” That was probably fast for Michael Scott, Carell’s character, who often thinks he’s thinking when he’s really just stirring up big clouds of mental obfuscation.

I thought about his words on the train. I brought along, as I always do everywhere I go, a bag of work. I seldom leave home without it. Work. But everything I bring isn’t really work. There are always books to be read—trash, of course, and this time, even a bit of treasure I don’t mind carrying thousands of miles back and forth across the country. There are projects I want to think about. There is art to be made. Poetry to be written. It comforts me to imagine that I might be able to bitpiece these things into my time.

These other pursuits sometimes crowd out the work that has to be done, stretching deadlines to their limit, but once again on the train, I find myself content doing nothing. Time on the train is strange.

It seems as though there is lots of it. I’m riding for days, one coast to the other. During workdays at home, I get plenty done. But on the train, the days move quickly by as I procrastinate, putting off what needs to be done in the luxury of lots of time in which to do it. Molasses minutes slide by and I look out the window. The hours accumulate and nothing much happens.

I can’t explain why I don’t feel motivated to do anything because I don’t understand these suspended moments. I am comforted by having something to do if I want to do it, but I don’t feel compelled to actually do anything. My mind is going less than a mile an hour. It’s scarcely moving at all. And it feels pretty darned good.

How and when and why do you do nothing?

All of us, from time to time, need a plunge into freedom and novelty, after which routine and discipline will seem delightful by contrast. • Andre Maurois (one can only hope)

A hobby is only fun if you do not have time to do it. • Leo Beenhakker



  1. I’ve been doing a lot of nothing lately. For the first time in possibly 27 years, I don’t feel guilty for lounging around and being unproductive. Of course there are things that need to be done. There’s a bed that needs to be made. A kitchen floor that could use a good mopping. A pile of clothes on the floor, begging to be put away.
    I’ve spent the last year of my life neglecting these things. I’ve put my life, my friends, aside, to pursue a career doing something I love. In turn, I’ve created a new life, I’ve met new friends, and I’m truly happy. I’ve spent the past year being challenged, which is something I’d been craving for a long time, but hadn’t been able to find.
    I’m okay with lazy days every once in a while because they’re like the eclectic tourist attraction on the side of the road, the one that many people pass by but seldom stop to appreciate. On the highway of life (cheesy metaphor, I know), today is a pit stop, not the final destination. I’m not going to stay here forever, lounging in my pajamas, soaking up the sun. I’m going to enjoy this day, this moment, for what it is. I’m going to enjoy my entire life for what it is, whether that means getting hired to teach English next year or substitute teaching until I can find a full-time job.

  2. Amen to this! If you read much of my stuff, you’ll know that I appreciate cheese, so I like the metaphor quite a bit. This fits perfectly with my procrastination Collectory since I believe strongly that we need these moments when we get off the road and stop in somewhere interesting or even insignificant. Although I often fill these rest stops with artmaking or poeticizing, I also have many times when I just pull in and sit and think about nothing much. W-OZ

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