Thursday, May 17, 2018

Finding the Dolce in My Far Niente

By Patricia Beal | @bealpat

The sweetness of doing nothing? I can't figure this out, folks.

I can make the far niente part happen, but it isn’t dolce at all. It's rather uncomfortable.

What exactly is dolce far niente anyway? What is it supposed to feel like and look like? And how in the world do we make it happen in our jam-packed modern lives?

This is so hard for me that I tried to write a different post. I was going to avoid this whole dolce far niente business by writing about Saturday’s royal wedding instead. But then the latest developments involving the bride’s dad broke my heart and took some of the magic out of the anticipation. Best to search for the dolce in my far niente after all…

So what is dolce far niente?

Merriam-Webster says it’s “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness.”

I can make myself be still, but it’s just not pleasant (or relaxing or carefree). Why? The mind is going at a million miles an hour. Can I make it stop? Yes and no. If I practice it often, I can probably get my thoughts to slow and worries to fade. But…

My brain is trained to be online.

I love it. I’m on Twitter a lot, and on Facebook a lot, and on Instagram, and on Pinterest, and reading emails, and answering emails. To fit all that online interaction in my daily routine (homeschooling mom), I have to think fast, read fast, type fast. There’s some agitation involved. The result of the interaction is sweet, but the process is fast-paced. Can I go from that to “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness” whenever I want? Can my social media life and dolce far niente co-exist? I’m not sure.

My Dolce Far Niente Pinterest Board

Why should I care about dolce far niente anyway?

What’s the big deal? It’s a big deal because I believe it walks hand in hand with God's rhythm of grace. If I can get dolce far niente right, my time with God will improve—quantity and quality. My prayer life will be sweeter.

So what have I tried and want to try?

Here’s what I see as dolce far niente “activities” – watching the rain, watching snow fall, floating in the ocean, looking at clouds, hammock time, watching water when it’s sparkly, sitting on a bench in the woods, watching the sun rise on the beach (cool sand), sitting on a tree, looking up at trees, watching candles burn, listening to soft music, looking out the window, a slow cafĂ© or restaurant on a slow street…

What do you think? How are you doing on this? Can you help me find the sweetness of doing nothing? Are smartphones the enemy? What do you do that you consider dolce far niente? And, curious minds need to know, are you watching the royal wedding? :)

About Patricia

Patricia Beal has danced ballet her whole life. She is from Brazil and fell in love with the English language while washing dishes at a McDonald's in Indianapolis. She put herself through college working at a BP gas station and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati with a B.A. in English Literature. She then worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army for seven years.

She now writes contemporary fiction and is represented by Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency. Her debut novel, A Season to Dance, came out in May of 2017 (Bling! / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). A Portuguese translation will be out in her native Brazil in August of 2018 (Editora Pandorga). Patricia is a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. She and her husband live in North Carolina with their two children.

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  1. Patricia, you've touched on an important issue in this post. And well done sharing your struggle. Life is full of appealing (and some unappealing) distractions. And we need to build intentional habits to combat them.

    I do a few things: I meditate. Meditation often gets a bad rap in Christian circles because of its connection with Eastern religions but it was a practice started by the church many moons ago. It's all about intentionally stopping and focusing on your breathing. No chanting ... well often I quote a bible verse ... but it's really about building muscle to be able to control our tendency to be distracted. But one of the great benefits meditation provides is the sense of being present. So when you see a beautiful sunset, you're able to stop and be present to appreciate it's wonder and how clever its Creator is.

    I practice Lectio Divina, a method of taking time to meditate on the Bible.

    And I end my day sitting in a comfy chair reading a novel. I don't have little kiddies and appreciate all of these practices are easier for me to attempt because I'm not caring for little ones (our 2 are adults now).

    Patricia, I hope you are able to find some time to just be present. But you'll have to be intentional about it. And also exercise grace towards yourself. It's okay to miss a day or not appreciate a sunset ... it's okay. The sun will rise again tomorrow.


    1. Thank you, Ian. I like this - all of this. There's merit to meditation. I used to enjoy it a great deal as a teen. I will try it now. Lectio Divina? Hmm. I'll look into that. Grace toward self? Working on it. I began a new novel this week and I'm so thrilled. It's an Asperger story, a love story. Once the trunk of the story is established, cloudy self-concept will be one of three branches of this adventure. One could easily plug in lack of grace toward self in place of cloudy self-concept. It's one thing. I need to go there. Dig deeper. Find truth and healing. Talk about jumping into the deep end! This one is way above my head. Good :)

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing these words of encouragement and these ideas!

  2. Thanks for sharing such an important post, Patricia. I was recently challenged at bible study about taking a sabbath rest, which I’m trying to do through being off social media (& my phone!) & my kids off technology so we can rest, be refreshed, and can focus more on God and His awesomeness.

    1. Thanks, Carolyn! Technology and social media has to be part of this puzzle for me too. A Sabbath. I have to look into that. I try to stay off of social media/tech on Sundays, but I also do a lot at church on Sundays (add it all up and I'm there for seven hours). So Sunday off tech is not enough for me to feel rested. I'll consider an alternate off day for social media and technology. I'm glad I'm not alone thinking online presence is not a friend of the dolce far niente... Thanks!

  3. As a sister compulsive (I prefer to say focused), Patricia, I can't imagine trying to make myself do nothing, but reading escape fiction comes close enough to me--try Georgette Heyer.

    1. Ooh! I will check out her books. Since you mentioned fiction escapes, I use audio books to help me slow down. It's nice to listen to the story while sitting out back drinking iced tea and looking at the lake. I just try to hard to do one million things before rewarding myself with that long break. Sometimes the reading/audio time never comes. Compulsive. Focused. Can't stop working :o... Grace toward self, grace toward self, grace toward self... :)

      Thanks for stopping by, Donna :)