Monday, July 28, 2008

The Absolute Beauty Of It

I recently read Eat, Pray, Love which I have to say, I didn't really love. It took me forever to get through and although I considered putting it aside to start another book, there were just enough things in the book I liked and some humor that made me chuckle, that I had to stick with it to the end. That said, I still wouldn't recommend it.

I did find one thing in the “Eat” portion, which took place in Italy, that I really liked. The passage stated that Americans don’t really know how to do nothing. The author said, “This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype – the overstressed executive who goes on vacation and cannot relax.” She asked her Italian friend if Italians on vacation had the same problem. She said he laughed so hard he almost drove his motorbike into a fountain.

He told her that Italians are the masters of il bel far niente. I'll have to ask Michelle at Bleeding Espresso if the translation is correct, but the author said il bel far niente means “the beauty of doing nothing.” After I read this, I realized that I found the words that exactly describe the philosophy by which I lead my life. I am the Queen of doing niente.

Apparently, learning how to relax is very hard for some people. I have a friend who goes like the Energizer Bunny from the minute she wakes up in the morning until the minute her head hits the pillow, often after eleven in the evening. I know of another person who can't sit long enough to take in a movie or read a book and I have a third friend who poorly manages her free time and then wonders why she doesn't have any time to do niente.

I remember when I used to live at home and my mother would clack her tongue, telling me I should be doing something "productive" with my time off, which is code for cleaning the shed, doing yardwork or organizing my junk drawer. I would always come back with, "But it's my time off. I worked all week and on my day off, I don't want to clean the shed. THAT'S why they call it a day off." She really never understood that, as in her mind, doing nothing meant being lazy. I don't see it that way at all.

For years people have been saying that it
's essential to your mental health to rest your mind and rejuvinate your soul and all that woo-woo crap, by taking time for yourself. Parenting magazines talk about things you can occupy your children with while you take much needed down time, relationship experts advise how to maximize time off with your mate so you both enjoy each other's company instead of fighting over who took the garbage out last and corporations even provide their employees with areas in the building to take quiet time to ease the pressure of their workloads. I never needed any of these options to be imposed on me. I just always knew how to do it; for me, it's intrinsic.

I'd be lying if I said I understood people who don't know how to relax. I don't. I don't get how they are okay with never having a moment of rest. It's not about having money to go on vacation or to get out of town. It's not about turning your life upside down to make drastic changes. It's about knowing how to lie on the couch in your house and watch a movie in the middle of the day. How to drink a latte and read a book. How to take time from the day of organizing your filing cabinet to sit and flip through the magazine you came across while sorting. How to JUST. DO. NOTHING.

It's about il bel far niente.


Anonymous said...

I am all for doing NOTHING, but when you put off that organizing for just one day they label you a procrastinator! Hmphhh ;)

Anonymous said...

Well put. I am guilty of both extremes. I can totally relax, sleep in and do niente (which, btw your translation was great!). But, I also often myself feeling guilty for doing nothing too many off days in a row.

What can you do?? Nothing! ha

~**Dawn**~ said...

I am applauding! I *need* my "nothing" time. It's how I recharge and makes me more productive & less stressed when I have things to do! And "doing nothing" doesn't have to mean literally nothing. It is whatever brings you joy, purely for the sake of the joy it brings. Reading. Watching a movie. Sifting through photos. Talking to a friend. Flipping through a magazine. Catching a baseball game on tv.

Anonymous said...

I'm all about the nothing! Today, I read, and took a nap. And read somemore. It was glorious.

Janet said...

Hear, hear! This reminds me of someone no longer in my life who didn't like movies, or vacations, and actually used the term, "vacationed out". Foreign language, it's like forgetting to eat!