The busyness of doing more is used as a badge of honor; the message is: If you do more, you ARE more. This is the sickness of our day and I know it intimately.
Just because you are able to juggle more without breaking, doesn’t mean you should. And just because you seem to do it flawlessly, doesn’t mean there isn’t a price to pay physically, mentally, spiritually, and relationally.
Most of us suck at “being.” We value and celebrate “doing” so deeply that many of us rest our identity and self-worth in our productivity. We all pretend that WE don’t do it, but I will admit it. In my quiet moments, I will accept that my identity and self-worth are deeply entrenched in what I am “doing.”
Because I feel like I am more if I do more, I also feel the pull to always be doing – at work, at home, in my marriage, as a person…and I believe this is both the sickness of our day and the sickness that precedes all others.
At some point it has to be enough.
At some point we have to rest.
This is the allure of “dolce far niente” for me.
Dolce far niente is what the Italians describe as “the sweetness of doing nothing” or the ability to completely enjoy and savor doing absolutely nothing. It is sometimes called “delicious idleness.” What a beautiful concept! I melt just hearing it.
The irony is I have to work really hard to achieve it – and that is a sobering realization. I suspect most of us are in the same boat. I can sum up how I have done in my quest to master this delicious idleness this way: I suck at it. I don’t know how to do nothing, let alone how to find it delicious.
Doing “nothing” means something different for all of us. I imagine for most of us, it means the stuff that doesn’t appear on our to-do list, the stuff that doesn’t make our minds race, the stuff that allows us to feel joy and rest in a way that fills us back up again.
Most of us have caught glimpses of our own version of delicious idleness, sometimes for longer periods of time (on vacation, for example). And while relaxing on vacation is a healthy, wonderful thing, it is not dolce far niente.
Dolce far niente is a state of mind, a conscious refilling of ourselves, joy-filled experiences, and a daily habit to cultivate.
Do you know what it means for you?
Just look around! We are a stressed, depressed, overweight, frustrated, self-medicated, and lost nation. And often we are consciously choosing this. Until our bodies or minds or families break down in some way, we believe we are handling it all, but don’t fool yourself – there will be impact. The weight of evidence behind the impact stress has on our bodies, minds, hearts, and loved ones (and a dozen other things) is staggering – and so is our capacity for self-deception around this entire topic.
And I include myself; it is not a criticism of everyone else. If we are being honest, we will admit we all suffer to some degree and we all point fingers. We compare ourselves to people who are busier and more out of control so we feel better.
It is difficult to look in the mirror and admit we choose this path. I have done it for years, and I suspect I will always struggle with my dolce far niente. I accept this reality for myself, but I also desperately want to know deep joy and peace throughout my day and not just on vacation. So I will practice until delicious idleness becomes a healthy, life-giving habit for me.
Of course, we will find ourselves in seasons of life where being busy is our reality and not something we have much control over. But, more often, we get caught up in doing because we haven’t defined how much is enough. We have made the choice to value doing above being, and the truth is we need both.
There is honor in building ourselves a good life, working hard, and providing for the people we love…but most of us crave permission to just stop and accept that we do enough, have enough, and are enough.
We are starving for a taste of delicious idleness. How will you get some?