the gift of nothing

The moment I walked out of my therapist’s office and felt the sun glistening on my face, I knew I was in trouble. My needs are simple, yet they often feel complicated. A day spent meandering, somewhat aimlessly, with the sun’s glow warming me, is my idea of a perfect one. It’s also akin to mental quicksand, distracting me from the planned goals at hand. Such is the quandary I found myself in this morning. I wandered into Washington Square Park, intending to just cut through on my way to Soho. The stillness of the park, combined with a clear, blue day were too potent. I found myself gravitating to a park bench, and settled into a phone call with a friend.

Fifteen minutes later, I hung up, and decided to hang in the park while I waited for a call from a journalist to talk about the book. I glanced at my iPad, checked some emails and was about to dive back into The Forgotten Gift (an incredible novel). Then temptation struck. I closed my eyes and tilted my face towards the sky, all the while feeling guilty for enjoying the simplicity of lounging in the sun. It’s not the lazy days of summer after all. Quite the opposite—winter isn’t giving up without a fight here in NYC. I was curled up on the bench bundled in my winter coat, scarf and gloves. There’s also this little matter of a book that came out recently and the million things on my To Do list to prepare for my Chicago trip in two days.

All I could think in that moment as I shut my eyes to savor some sunshine was “I should be doing something”. And then it occurred to me that doing nothing was actually something in disguise. I spend every waking minute of my days connected, whether it’s to people or devices. It’s so easy to become disconnected from myself in the everyday chaos.

Eventually, the hum of my phone for my interview shuttled me back to reality, but my day had been irrevocably altered. I came to an important realization later that afternoon. My scar, the big W of widowhood, will always be with me. No amount of emotional plastic surgery can remove it. The perceived pain of opening still tender wounds as I begin publicity for the book, is just that…perceived. I’m forever a changed person, but that doesn’t have to mean I’m permanently damaged. The sum of who I am is made of many parts. My emotional scars are tattoos visible only to myself, and like my tattoos, I can use them to draw inspiration and hope. Sometimes doing nothing makes everything a little more clear.

Music Pairing: Paths That Cross by Patti Smith


  • Mark

    What a great reminder to stop and consider our lives as they are. We hurry through life, through work, through family moments to get to the next place, the next meeting, the next event. Take the time now to savor what you have, to miss what you’ve lost, to smile about happy memories and yes, to recognize the anger and disappointment that still remains. As a father to 4 kids who are growing faster everyday, I’m reluctant to admit how much I’ve missed of their lives because I was on my way to something “newer.” Thanks for your inspiring thoughts.

  • Christine

    So true – it’s important to disconnect oneself in order to perhaps reconnect to self and those who matter. Thanks for sharing, Jennie and all the best with the Chicago trip.

  • Amy

    Sometimes the the gift of nothing is the biggest something you have.
    There is a children’s book called “The Gift of Nothing” by Patrick Macdonnell, the writing of the comic strip Mutts and it is wonderful.

  • Erin

    Thank you for your blog and recipes. I think the children’s book Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile will make you laugh. I read it to my little special Ed class whenever we need a moment of doing nothing! Funny that two of us comment on children’s books on doing nothing, we adults need nothing books too!

  • Tracey

    Morning Jennie,
    What a meaningful message, in so many ways. The scars DO stick around, do come back to haunt you, do give you a memory, a lesson of sorts. As the clock ticks by, sometimes in a unrecognizable moment, you ebb and flow, learn and grow. The constant memory of all that you have done, seen and gone through is enough to bring tears or joy to your eyes. My “scar” sometimes haunts me too, amazingly so, after almost 9 years. Why nine years later? Well I imagine the love still lives on. Yes, I am happy with Rich, I am blessed. But Tom is still missed.
    Wishing you beautiful rays of sunshine, a happy time of smiles and warmth and a hug thrown in for good measure.

  • Jennifer Perillo

    Yes, I know. I love that book, and the title of my post was an homage to it.

  • Alexa

    Thank you for sharing this thoughtful, vulnerable post. I wish you all the luck with the book publicity – I can’t wait to get my hands on it! Your “doing nothing is something in disguise” is a great mantra – I’m going to keep it in mind. Thanks.

  • Rose D. Frenchtown, NJ

    I’m a huge fan of disconnecting and just being…Wishing you strength while you promote your book this weekend.

  • Tammy


    Was ironically listening to the lyrics in a song “every day I’m shufflin'” as I read your post. The music and muse got the message loud and clear. Stop. Breath. Soak it all in.

    Thanks friend.

  • Maria in NJ

    stop.look.listen.breath…have a wonderful time in Birdland…walk by the “madhouse on Madison” and give my beloved Blackhawks a howdy do…(sorry NYC girl our family are diehard Chgo hockey fans!) and PLEASE go by Giordano’s and have a slice of pizza for me…love ya, have a wonderful time…m

  • Sally

    I’m a huge fan of doing nothing. I find it to be not only therapeutic, but creative. I also find that is when answers to questions or solutions to problems come.

  • Rocky Mountain Woman

    I live fairly close to the Weber River here in UT and sometimes on my way home from work I just stop for a few minutes and walk along the river, especially if I need to work something out in my mind. It can be magic!

    You sound so healthy! keep up the good work!

  • sherry k

    things I have used for cover that are something while actually nothing…
    reading news
    you’re welcome.

  • Melissa

    I just came across this story of a woman who lost her husband in the last year and thought of you. Maybe you’ve already seen it? She’s a jewelry designer and sells her work on Etsy. Of course I don’t know you, but I’ve been reading your blog over the last couple of years and enjoy it a lot. This woman, Laura Treloar, strikes me as a really strong person, and so seems very similar to you….

    And, do “nothing” allows us to think about things and figure out where we are in our heads. It’s an absolute necessity.

  • Cristie

    I love this post. I have been so consumed lately worried about you. Weird, I know but I just couldn’t help thinking that you have so much going on that-no matter how great it all is-you might be overwhelmed. Of course, I should have known you’d not only do exactly what your body needed by slowing down, but that you’ll use that moment to steel yourself emotionally for all that’s coming ahead. You are incredible. I should stop being surprised by you. I am very happy to read that you had a few minutes to quietly soak up the sun. You deserve all the rays you can get.

  • Kawatake

    I love the way you said about your invisible tattoo, that was emotional scar that couldn’t be remove by anyone or maybe you also couldn’t remove it, but this isn’t the matter I commenting your blog. We still get a thing from nothing that was invisible just like emotion scar.

  • Dee

    What a glorious-sounding moment! I think we all spend far too much time rushing through our days to get things done, missing out on moments like the one you describe, totally unaware of how much better things could be with time spent on a few minutes of quiet enjoyment. Your post is a reminder to enjoy more and rush less.

  • Angie @ Big Bear's Wife

    This was probably one of the best posts I could have read today. Just last night I saw down to read a book, I would read a little and then remember I need to so something… dishes, lay out clothes for the morning, towels, put dishes away, ooo I need to do this and I need to do that. I for the life of myself could not get myself to just sit down and read. I told thomas that I was driving myself crazy because all I wanted to do was read this book but I couldn’t stop thinking of stuff I needed to do. I took everything I had to just lay on the couch and read, even after reading (the book is fantastic by the way) I still felt guilty for spending my evening “doing nothing”

  • Lorette Lavine

    Hi Jennie, I hope you enjoyed your visit to Chicago as much as we enjoyed having you here.
    I am enjoying your book, your love of your family and Mikey permeates your lovely work.
    Happy travels and enjoy meeting all the new people that will be enjoying life a little more because of you!