I recently watched Eat Pray Love for the second time. While the book was better (aren't they always) I really loved watching Julia Roberts travel across three countries on a mission to get over her divorce and find herself. When Elizabeth Gilbert's book first hit the shelves almost 10 years ago I couldn't put it down. It was insightful, profound and captivating. And the best bit, her memoir involved three trips; Italy: to eat. India: to pray. Indonesia: to love.
When I randomly watched the movie again a few weeks ago one thing really stuck, something that definitely didn't register properly with me when I read the book the first time: The sweetness of doing nothing... While in Italy Elizabeth is introduced to the culture of "Dolce Far Niente" by her Italian friends. Italians are masters at it and to her, an American with a busy career and an often hectic life, it became a habit she relished. Dolce Far Niente doesn't mean being lazy, but it is an occasion to appreciate doing not very much at all. It's not looking at your phone, its not watching Netflix. It's cycling along curling roads past pea green vineyards towards the sea. Or walking in dappled evening light next to boats docked in the port, it's dining in restaurants and ordering café gourmand. It's the pleasure one gets from being idle, and that was me last weekend, fully committed to doing nothing. I'll explain...
I think the reason I didn't really understand "The Sweetness of Doing Nothing" the first time was because back then life for me was cruising along nicely. It still is now but it's very different. When I read the book I was expecting my first son, I worked in a job I loved that was relatively stress free. I'm sure I had a lot of quiet moments daily, but did I really appreciate them? I don't think I did. These days I'm a Mum of three, and I think most people would agree, raising children is hard. Swell, but hard. I have three boys who sometimes test my nerves. I'm often grouchy, impatient and feel more drained than I ever have. I can get angry at things, and shout - sometimes really loudly. But I've also never laughed as much. I've never had so many hugs and kisses in a day. And when everyone is happy and content (and calm!) I'm walking on air. The 15 hour days I spend 'on the go' are totally worth it. But still, it's tough at times. Seeing the film again a couple of weeks ago was perfect timing, I think it was a sign! I was heading off on a trip for a few days without the kids and I had every intention of becoming a master at being idle.
As soon as we picked up the car, with sun forecast for the next four days we headed to the beach and I knew right then I was off to a good start.
It began with an ice cold glass of rosé...
And for the next few days I revelled in Dolce Far Niente.
Another glass that evening in Cavalaire port.
A cycle through vineyards at Gigaro.
Taking in the fluidity of the stunning scenery.
Not from the car, as I usually would, but up-close, as close as you can get.
I'd never done that before.
Scrumptious Petit dejunier.
A ramble in St Tropez.
Cocktails that light up!
Afternoons at the beach.
I loved every second.
After all of that I fully understood The Sweetness of Doing Nothing.
And then, on the second last day, as I was walking alone beside the shore barefoot on the wet sand thoroughly enjoying doing nothing, I had a moment. One of those 'Aha' moments when something dawns on you and you think, oh wow, now I totally get it. Right at that instant I realised that I always want to be kept on my toes. I want to always do something that forces me to direct every bit of my attention and energy on that one thing. Maybe I thought life was pretty perfect when everything just ticked along fairly nicely, but it's only now that I know how much better it can be. How much more incredible it is with three loving, energetic boys who certainly force me to direct all my focus, attention and energy on them! I always want to be busy, weather it's with a career, being a Mum, both! Because then I'll always relish my time for dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing.
*Afterthought... As sweet as they are, some of us would love a few days away, a break from 'little ones' to enjoy "Dolce Far Niente" but it's not always possible. It takes lots of planning, it can be expensive and you need people you completely trust to mind your little treasures. I was fortunate to be in a beautiful place when I realised the importance of dolce far niente, but incorporating it into your daily to do list is a good substitute. I plan to sit down with a pen a paper and jot down all the things I'd love to do - or I should say not do! - when they're taking a nap or in the evenings when they're tucked up in bed. I plan to take pleasure every day at being idle. I just have to make sure I remember to do it!