“The truth is the only time I’m happy is when I’m doing absolutely nothing.” Ava Gardner
Ms Gardner then went on to express her confusion over people who like to work and talk about it as if it was some “..sort of goddamn duty.” That for her doing nothing was like “floating on warm water.Delightful. Perfect.” Few people are as honest as Ms Gardner because admitting to liking doing nothing is seen by most of us as a sign of laziness, or a lack of ambition or even an indication of low intelligence. All of which of course is nonsense but the accepted norm is that you must always be super busy; that your life must be hectic and that you must absolutely never have a moment to yourself to do nothing. Conversing with my peers is exhausting as each person feels morally obligated to expound at length on all that they and their family are doing. I find myself picturing a scene from a Monty Python or Black Adder film where the royal messenger is delivering the latest royal decree by unraveling a scroll and it goes on and on and on and on. As I suppress a smile I can’t help but wonder why we feel such activity is not only necessary, but something to boast about? You have to wonder if it masks a deep seated unhappiness that can only be dealt with by leaving not one second of the day unaccounted for. As if we fear our own thoughts or do we simply lack the ability to sit, to lounge, and do nothing.
Is it because at some point over the past one hundred years, the idea of sitting and doing nothing got such a bad rap that we now dread such an activity and instead ensure by all means necessary that inactivity is something we will never be accused of. But I think Ms Gardner might have a point, that whilst many of us spend our lives occupied, that isn’t the same as saying we are happy. That to equate being busy with being happy is fundamentally flawed and deprives us of the opportunity to take more time for ourselves; time to do nothing but just enjoy being. I know I personally struggle with allowing myself time to just be and feel guilty if I don’t have a million and one things to do on any given day. A fear of seeming lazy or being labeled a loser with no ambition, keeps me engaged and yet Ms Gardner, it can only be said, was no slouch. A woman once described as the most irresistible woman in Hollywood hers was not a life lacking in spirit or aspiration. She starred in most of the high-profile films of the 1950s to 1970s and was still working on the small screen until shortly before her untimely death. She romanced most of the famous names of the twentieth century and was married three times, first to Mickey Rooney, then to Artie Shaw and finally and most famously of all, to Frank Sinatra. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Mogambo ( she lost to Audrey in Roman Holiday), and was also nominated for both a BAFTA and Golden Globe for her hearty performance in The Night of the Iguana. She epitomized Hollywood’s golden years and led a life that was anything but dull or indolent. In fact I think her life sounds pretty exciting and it was definitely a busy one, so her happiness when doing nothing stems not from an ignoble place but one that is admirable. Ms Gardner could be accused of many things, but laziness is most definitely not one of them.
So perhaps it is time for us to reconsider what makes us happy, time for us to stop and just allows ourselves time to float on warm water, to delight in the art of doing nothing and to be perfectly at ease with sight of a blank calendar.