Il dolce far niente

January 10, 2011

Even if we’re not Protestant, many of us still subscribe to
the Protestant work ethic.

We’ve simply got to be doing something. In motion. All the time.

{Ok, maybe my generation was the last. I’m not so sure younger generations have it. }

I stayed with someone I know once after she gave a dinner party. I wanted to go to bed but she stayed up washing dishes, cleaning up and mopping (yes, MOPPING) so that by 1 a.m. her pristine house looked like no one had ever been there. {It was remarkable to me. I think I’ve even blogged about this before.}

Although of Italian descent, she is clearly unfamiliar with the concept of carefree idleness. Italians call it dolce far niente: the sweetness of doing nothing, and it describes my life these past months.

It’s harder to do than it sounds.

“So what do you do?” people I’ve just met ask.
“So what do you do all day?” my friends ask.
“So what are you going to do?” my angels of mercy ask.

People want others to work. To be productive. To do something with their lives. To not squander their gifts.

I get that. People I know expect me to have a hard time with doing nothing. A harder time than I’m actually having.

I worked for decades.

I started working when I was 12, for my father, in his pediatric office. When I was old enough for a work permit, I held summer jobs. I worked full-time or almost through my second half of college and through grad school. Then, I went straight to full-time professional work, no breaks.

Two years ago, my husband suggested that I leave my consulting job. He saw that I should have quit several years before, and affirmed that we could manage fine without my salary. He suggested I continue to teach at a local university, for the love of it. So I did, until I left Florida a year ago.

Since then, I’ve done a little bit of consulting, but nothing else.Part of me feels a little guilty, I have to admit, that I’m not doing anything “productive.”

I should be writing a book like I planned.
I should go back to teaching writing. Or teaching something.
I should do some consulting.

But I’ve enjoyed il dolce far niente far more than even I thought.

The days go by quickly.
I cook fun meals.
I see friends.
I read. A lot.
I write. But mostly for the blog.
There’s Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, HBO and On Demand.
Facebook is a fun time-suck.
I see my friends.
I feed the homeless.
I spend time with my trainer.
We’ve moved, twice.
We travel.
And I’ll soon be doing mixed-media collage at a local art studio,
something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Sounds idyllic, no?

Still, though, there’s part of me that feels that something
is missing. That when days meld into each other without clear demarcation and a greater purpose, they have no meaning.

After a while, il dolce far niente wears a little thin.

I don’t feel forced to do something just to be doing it.
But since I am blessed to not have to do anything in particular,
I am actively thinking about what I’d really like to do.

And just as I wrote that, this came on the radio:

“If she knew what she wants….”

video below

2 comments on “Il dolce far niente
  1. Janice (Poray) Sullivan says:

    Well said…my feelings exactly!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.