“Il bel far niente…‘the beauty of doing nothing’…has always been a cherished Italian ideal,” writes Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love. If you’ve seen the movie version, surely you remember the scene when Liz finally embraces the idea of doing nothing — morning sun streaming through the window, a breakfast plate of eggs and asparagus, the folded newspaper, her Mona Lisa smile. Beauty!
My moment arrived on Tuesday, five days into my holiday break, when I realized not only was I not going to get things done this week, but I really, quite frankly, in all honesty, didn’t want to.
There were, of course, plenty of things to get done. A whole list of them — a cleaning up of the mess leftover from 2015, the Not Done To Dos from the past 12 months breathing fire down my neck. (Just ask my physical therapist.)
At first, there was no Mona Lisa smile to be seen. It was more like a grimace. A painful “oh well, best laid plans” shruggy surrender. But the smile crept in, slowly, as the days unfolded. There were leisurely walks, a couple of good books, naps, movies, nice meals. I wrote in my journal, managed consecutive days of yoga and meditation, some writing, some thinking.
“What are you up to?” a friend texted on Wednesday.
“I’m curled up on the couch reading a book. Fire in the fireplace. I slept until 8. There’s something wrong with me.” I replied, with a winking emoji.
Clapping hands, indeed. As Gilbert explains, “The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all of your work, the final accomplishment for which you are most highly congratulated.”