The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

il dolce far nienteThe Italians have a beautiful and evocative phrase for this: la dolce far niente.

In a time and a place where being busy to the point of ridiculousness has become some kind of masochistic status symbol, this beautiful concept asks nothing more of us than to allow our daily actions become influenced by our instincts and no longer by routines, shoulds, and musts.

“If we remove false needs, goals, expectations, and purposes, we strip away the need to do much of what we do. We can then be left with an emptiness that can be filled only with what’s necessary, with what’s natural, with what’s beautiful.” [The Effortless Life]

My mobile phone has been misbehaving for the last two weeks, choosing to actually display its functions only when it can be bothered. I can now state with 100% certainty that shouting and swearing at one’s telephonic device is ineffective in making it work again.

Initially, I completely freaked out. Two weeks later, I now know just how much time I used / wasted checking and re-checking messages and social media – way too much.

My family and I have busy lives. You know how it goes. There is always something on. Every weekday. Every weekend. Which is not a bad thing, except … sometimes I just want to stay home. With my family. Hanging around doing sweet nothing … la dolce far niente.

And, miraculously, it happened this past weekend. There was nothing in anyone’s family planner column. Niente. We just … hung around. Water balloon fights. Pancakes. Home-made hamburgers. Gardening. A DVD. Hot pink toenails for Mademoiselle Headstrong. Constructing a 3D cardboard shark’s head with Captain Chatterbox (admittedly, this almost gave me a nervous breakdown and The Husband thankfully took over). Roast chicken. Stock made from chicken carcass for the freezer (I hate food waste!) Slippery dip races at the park. An impromptu visit from two dear friends who have decided to be a couple (I am SO HAPPY about this!)

Incidentally, one of these friends, The Fabulous Fellow Suede Fan, (previously mentioned in my birthday blog), had just returned from a brief break in northern Queensland. After describing her five days there, The Husband said, “Yeah, that’s probably enough time there. What else is there to do?”

The Fabulous Fellow Suede Fan replied, “I could have happily done a whole lot of nothing.” I hear ya, sister.

I also love the French concept of the “flâneur”, one definition of which is “the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothing, including his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savouring the multiple flavours of his city.” [Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals]

sacre coeur

Moi. Paris.

Whilst you do not have to reside in Paris to be a flâneur, I know that both times I have been so very fortunate to visit this beautiful city my favourite thing to do was just wander around. I spent a whole day alone walking from one side of the city to the other, largely without referring to a map, wandering along the Canal St Martin, then hopping on le metro and emerging on the other side of the Seine to visit the Musée Rodin. Another golden evening I took my diary, cigarettes and a little bottle of wine and sat by the river, gazing across at Île Saint-Louis. Heaven.

“The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the technique of life.” [The Metropolis and Mental Life]

Carve out some time for yourself. Switch devices off. Read an actual book. Write with an actual pen (I always begin my blog drafts with pen and paper). Walk barefoot on grass (I cannot believe how therapeutic this is. Apparently there is some science behind it …) Be bold. Just occasionally, do what you want, not what you “should”.



I. Am. OVER. Busy.


Home: Part 2 – Where is it? What is it?


5 responses to “The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

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