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

10 thoughts on “When Nothing = Something

  1. Another good one, as they all are… This one especially appeals to me! I’m beginning to understand that we only “do” all this stuff, the way we do it, because we aren’t yet quite comfortable with “being”…

    When we’re primarily being, things still get “done,” but they get done from a different place. And, working from that place, they get done more simply, and “better,” because the tasks aren’t all cluttered up with extraneous Ego stuff that we feel compelled to add – usually to reassure ourselves that we are Very Important. Without any of that junk piled on, a task is just a task, and probably won’t take more than ten minutes.

    Love the falling snowflakes, BTW…

    Happy New Year to you!




    1. Ah, the lovely madam C…how are you? And Happy New Year! It does seem that our busy-ness keeps us from simply “being” – perhaps that is the reason. Perhaps we are too afraid to just be?


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