Columnist Loretta LaRoche laments that chilling out seems to get more and more difficult. She says idle time isn’t necessarily wasted time.

Whatever happened to staring, musing, dreaming or just hanging out?


Oh, I’m sure there are individuals who still embrace the art of “just being,” but the world we live in has made it more and more difficult to just chill out. If someone asks you what you’re doing, and you respond “nothing,” they will probably reply, “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you sick?”


Today’s society is predicated on being busy. It’s as if some alien has installed a device in our heads that makes us feel we need to end the day by filing a report that says how many tasks were accomplished.


I often have to smack my inner taskmaster in order to feel OK about just sitting. I can hear it mocking me, saying, “Why are you sitting there? Don’t you know you have lots to do? What if someone finds out that you didn’t get everything done?”


The bottom line is that you’re never done until you’re dead.


It took my grandmother all week to do what most people do in a day. Obviously, modern conveniences were not available, so it took a lot longer to get things done, but life was also more spontaneous.


No one had an organizer that dictated every activity for months in advance. Neighbors often dropped in for a cup of espresso and a homemade biscotti. As a child, I sat at the kitchen table and listened intently to the adult conversation. I would nod occasionally as if I knew what they were talking about.


Sometimes they would ask for my opinion and then act as if I had said something brilliant. I don’t know if kids get that kind of opportunity anymore.


I was lucky to have a mother who thought that hanging out with a bunch of elders was part of a great life experience. I often saw my grandmother sitting in a chair looking out into space after a bout of cooking one of her famous dishes. I would ask her what she was looking at and she would say, “Nothing.”


Most people, when they have a few minutes to themselves, end up texting or checking to see if anyone has called them. After all, being with just yourself and your thoughts is not considered worthwhile, unless you’re listening to a tape that helps you understand them.


Time that has no need for an outcome is essential for the mind/body and spirit. The ultimate irony is that it actually might make you more productive.


Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Mass. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360, send email to in quiry@lorettalaroche.com, visit the website at www.stressed.com or call toll-free 800-99-TADAH (82324).