Dolce Far Niente - The Sweetness of Doing Nothing
Yesterday, I spent the day at Eldora Mountain with my husband. We jokingly call our Tuesday ski days our "weekly business meetings" because he is my business partner, but this is really just to make us feel less guilty about spending the day negotiating moguls in the sunshine while our daughter is at school. About midday, while stopped for a snack at the top of the mountain, we both took a minute to check our email and I noticed a familiar sensation in the pit of my stomach - guilt, regret, anxiety...
The pace of my work is very dynamic. In the fall, I tend not to have a free minute as I am facilitating school-based trainings, in addition to maintaining my private practice. I see clients four days a week which leaves me two weekdays and one weekend day to work with. Ideally, I will "play" on two of those days and work the other. Sometimes, as was the case in January, every one of those three open days is filled with trainings, speaking engagements, or other work-related obligations. Other times, such as right now, I have much more space and can offer myself the gift of play...but very rarely without that feeling in my stomach. I found myself counseling myself through that feeling by reminding myself of how busy I was last month, as though it was solely because of this, that I had "earned" the right to play.
There is a beautiful phrase that comes from Italian culture - "Dolce far niente" or "The sweetness of doing nothing." On the mountain yesterday, I felt that sweetness. I felt the sun on my face, the air in my lungs, I laughed with my husband, and had nothing more on my mind than how to navigate the runs ahead of me. But in that moment at the top of the mountain, the joy was suddenly swallowed up by "obligation."
We are not obligated to live an unmanageable life. We are not obligated to be exhausted and stressed out all the time. But many, if not most of us, feel as though we are. We feel guilt about doing things that feed our soul. Play is a vitamin and the definition of play is simply engaging in an activity for no other reason than enjoyment...not achievement, but enjoyment. This is critical to our health and well-being and we yearn for more of it. Yet, we deny ourselves this and out of envy, we will judge others for it.
Imagine how your life might change were you to shift from feeling guilty for not being productive, to allowing yourself to access "Dolce far niente?" There might be big shifts...or they might be almost imperceptible. But there is no doubt they would come. In spite of that moment of guilt yesterday, I left the mountain refueled, my heart and soul filled with light and joy. My to do list was definitely there waiting for me, but it always is and always will be...and today, because I gave myself the gift of yesterday, I have far more energy to focus on it.