Il Dolce Far Niente: The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

May 06, 2023

Discovering that worthiness is not measured by productivity

Want to know the question that triggers me most? You might be surprised...

So, what did you do on your day off?  

I know. It seems like the most basic and well-intended of questions...and yet, it sets my mind spinning like I need to justify and qualify my time ‘off’. Nothing? That’s for slackers! And clearly, this is my ‘thing’ — which, I’m happy to report that I recently shifted once and for all. Phew.

Want to know how? By simply declaring the truth. Now when I’m asked, “what did you do on your day off?” I answer...nothing, sweet, sweet nothing! (With a big ear-to-ear grin and enthusiasm). Btw, I highly recommend it. And I’m sharing this because you may do a similar number on yourself.

It all finally clicked for me recently on a rare day I had to myself. Well, let’s be clear — as I’m sure you can relate, there is never a day when there is ‘nothing’ to do. However, we need to choose it and make it happen. On this particular afternoon, I was in my bedroom which is my favorite space in my home with its beautiful ‘Woodstock windows’ and bright light illuminating the room and my soul. 

Sitting on my bed with the sunshine pouring in, glancing up at Overlook Mountain in the distance, being serenaded and calmed by the lullaby of the creek’s bubbling melody behind my cottage — I breathed in the stillness as a cat or two joined me lounging by my side.

To be clear, Baby Meow (pictured here) is the king of our humble castle. Admit it...that picture made you smile. You can just feel his sweet idleness. He’s a master — stretched out watching the birds, being warmed by the sunlight and just being. 

No, he’s not guilting himself, worrying about to-do lists or judgment from others. What a luxury!

Of course, it’s not exactly reality. I do get that he’s a cat and he can lounge about 24 hours a day, meowing for food with no responsibilities. But we could all take a page from his playbook.   

In the past, I’ve actually been embarrassed when asked what I have done with my days off — and when my only answer was ‘nothing’. Instead of that response, I would scramble my brain to come up with some answer relating to productivity — ordering for the café, running errands, cleaning my house, laundry, shopping, attending to the agendas of others, etc. I think you get the point. I held this deeply ingrained belief that my worthiness was tied to my busyness and what I achieved in a given day.

Of course, I know better and would give much better advice to someone else. Running yourself ragged doesn’t make you a better person or earn your place on the planet. It eventually catches up to you and makes you a worn-out, frazzled, resentful mess. 

So, with the help of my sweet felines, I’ve found the courage to identify the guilty (or not guilty) pleasure of the sweetness of doing nothing. Without excuses. Can you breathe in the essence of this? Imagine what it would look and feel like to you. We need these breaks — downtime from the world, the noise, the responsibilities, the push and pull.

Our souls clamor for stillness, respite, daydreaming, restoration — and yet, we save it up for vacation (or at least we tell ourselves that’s what we are doing).

For me, living and breathing the hospitality business, I need to turn off and go within. I usually grab a cup of tea and cuddle back up into bed on my day off, and listen to the bird’s messages of hope, gaze at how my kitties sink into the comfort of the love of this life. Within this space my senses come alive. I witness and feel things I normally rush by. I watch my cats closely as they sleep, stretch, cuddle and get sparked by the breeze, the sounds, the light of the world happening around them. It draws me in and fills me with a secret gift of just being.

I am deliciously and decadently writing this in the middle of the day in my bed with a cat on each side of me. It is chilly, the wind is blowing, the clouds threatening a deluge of rain. I ignore my phone — no calls, no texts, no Tik Tok (OK, maybe a cat video or two). And by doing so, my insides smile and I am telling myself that I am worthy of this.

Here’s the deal. When we restore, we have more to give and can show up more fully enjoying each part of it.

We’re approaching our ‘busy’ season at the café, so my head could be spinning with tasks...when are we opening the garden, what should we plant, are we ready, do we have enough staff, etc.

Every year there is a little anxiety that mounts and then I remind myself that every year we manage to get it all done. Part of this journey is also learning to trust my own gut and timing. Could I have opened the garden in April when we had the random 90-degree day? Of course, but it also would’ve frazzled myself and my staff. Besides, the freezing temps and weeks of rain that followed made it all a moot point.

I’m sharing this all because I want you to lean into your wisdom. Ask yourself what you need, what feels aligned with your life and would feel best to your nervous system and spirit. And that may not be about doing MORE, in fact, it may be the complete opposite as it is in my case — and mean doing LESS...or nothing! [wink]

I am rewriting my old worn-out scripts that I have adhered too and that have kept me in the belief systems of measuring my worthiness. I’m making a promise to myself that I will try to stop measuring my value by how many burns I get in the kitchen, how many hours I work in a day, how many times I say YES when I need to say NO — and I will sink into enjoying, taking time to smell the roses.

This is an invitation to do the same. How does that resonate with you?

Here’s to nothingness...sweet, sweet nothingness. Try it, you’ll like it...I promise. 

For now dear souls, I wish you all dolce far niente!

—Lea Haas, Owner, The Garden Cafe Woodstock


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