Journal of a Solitude: #A-Z Challenge
“I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. I am still pursued by a neurosis about work inherited from my father. A day where one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged, damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything whatever.”
Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton
Sarton wrote these words in her sixtieth year. They communicate a reality that is true for so many of us, whether we are retired or in the workforce.
Benefits of Empty Days
Sadly, it doesn’t seem that resting one’s psyche is enough justification for an empty day.
Five minutes of research into the importance of empty days results in a shopping list of ways to fill up that time with: “learning, creativity, and doing things at a higher quality”; engaging in deliberate practice and testing new ideas, and solving problems or having creative breakthroughs.
If you’re in the workforce and need to justify some breathing space in your day, all of the above are legitimate outcomes of empty time. But if it’s the weekend, or if you’re retired, how about doing nothing for the pure joy of doing nothing?
Dolce Far Niente
If you don’t speak Italian, but remember this phrase, it’s probably from reading or watching either Eat, Pray, Love or Under the Tuscan Sun. It means “the sweetness of doing nothing.”
Every time I hear the phrase, I swoon. Empty days would be great. Far, far better, however, would be feeling genuinely okay with those empty days.
It’s unfortunate, I think, that my culture and family background makes it so difficult to embrace even empty minutes.
I do know that my productive, driven way of being has afforded me a life that I love. But now that I’m retired, I’d like to be start asking myself the question “What would feel good right now?” And I hope that if the answer is, “to live in the changing light of the room,” I’ll do just that.
Do you have trouble giving yourself empty days, or even empty minutes? Why? What might you do to embrace dolce far niente?