THE ART OF DOING NOTHING
One of my favorite televison shows currently is “The Big C”. If you have Showtime, and you haven’t watched it yet, you really should. Laura Linney, Oliver Platt, and the rest of the cast have created such believable, likeable, yet real characters, all of whom are dealing with not only Laura Linney’s character’s cancer, but the troubles in their own lives as well. It’s well-written, funny, heartbreaking and entertaining all at once.
But this is not about “The Big C,” it’s about something Alan Alda’s character said on Monday night’s show that really stuck with me and made me think about aspects of the empty nest that are the most difficult to figure out. Alda’s character is Linney’s doctor, and during a dinner at his house, he tells her and her husband about what he loves about Italy, including the Italian philosophy of l’arte di non fare niente, which translated means the art of doing nothing. As any mother will tell you, this is a nearly impossible task while raising children. Even when it seems like you’re doing nothing, you’re still thinking about something, whether it’s a task to be done, an emotion to be felt, or a plan to be made. It literally never ends. I always felt, while I was raising my kids, as though each of them were sitting on one of my shoulders all the time – and I say that with all the love in my heart. Once you become a mother, you are never really alone, even when your children aren’t nearby – they dwell in your mind, whether through memories or current moments or future imaginings. So to learn the art of doing nothing, to empty your mind and just be quiet, is a daunting task for anyone, but especially parents.
I love the idea of it – to sit, idly, sip a cup of coffee, stare out the window, maybe doze off – but even when I do those things, my mind continues to be doing something, always. The closest I can come to the art of doing nothing is to get completely absorbed in a book, which is the best way for me to exit the present and empty my mind of all thoughts – in effect, doing nothing.
How do others do it? I know many people who find that nothing place in their minds by exercising, and others who have hobbies they are passionate about. But to sit, and do nothing…this is a foreign concept to most Americans. Maybe it’s something we should all take the time to try and do, a few minutes each day – maybe nothing is the something we all need.