When Nothing = Something

“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“It’s called relaxing,” she replied, with a smiley face and clapping hands.

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.”

©2016, Jen Payne

So Close I Almost Missed It [smile]

I was going to pull together a blog post today about the message the Universe was sending my way. Something that connected a meditation on our innate talent, making connections on my mid-day walk in the woods, and witnessing the red shouldered hawk in my back yard. But then I tripped on these…a happy accident? […]

Wanna Play?

Do you remember playing? Recess and running around: Red Light, Green Light and Mother May I, and Red Rover Red Rover? I don’t know what I’m playing in the picture above…it sort of looks like a yoga pose to me. But I assure you, when I was that age? I didn’t have to take a […]

Compassion in the Face of Slings and Arrows

There were a lot of people in the small space that is the popular local pizza joint. It’s the best pizza in town (which is saying something, given our close proximity to the legendary Wooster Street in New Haven). Great pizza and a July heat wave had folks lining up in the small entryway—hot, hungry […]

Me, A Name I Call Myself

“What’s your word?” Giulio asks Liz in the book Eat, Pray, Love. They’ve been talking about words associated with cities… Giulio said, “Maybe you and Rome just have different words.” “What do you mean?” …“Don’t you know that the secret to understanding a city and its people is to learn – what is the word […]

A Meditation on Bugs

A wicked storm blew through Connecticut today. While there was tornado-like damage to the west, we survived with a brief but torrential downpour and some hardy wind gusts. As it passed, the August-like heat of the day subsided just enough that it seemed like a good time for a walk. But I forgot about the […]

Dog-eared

I confess, I was not completely in love with the premise of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love—rich, has-everything woman falls apart and runs away to exotic locations for a year. But I’ll own it; it was my own stuff that got in my way at first. I had no empathy for this kindred woman—just […]