I'm borrowing a copy of a friend's book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I haven't made it very far in yet. What I have read, as of now, has been magical. She has an incredible ability to make you laugh in the midst of words that make you feel the depth of her emotions, dark or light as her life may be at that moment in time. If you have no idea what the book is about, it's her journey in life to the three I's: Italy, India, and Indonesia, where she seems to master the 3 components of the title of the book. (Sidenote: keep in mind, she is not necessarily a "Christian" so don't take her views on prayer or God as my point of view, or the right point of view, for that matter...just take what you can from it. She's slightly New-Age-y...but I enjoy reading her perspective.)
I'm in the first section of the book in which she's writing about life in Italy. Her love for the Italian language and for gelato is fascinating. (Sidenote: I'll state that if I could simply travel and eat food, I would have an awful lot to write about too. Any takers? Reading this book is dangerous for me...makes me want to pick up and move to a faraway place, eat pastries and gelato and sit in cafes and write and learn a new language in a place where you're totally anonymous. But that's besides the point...)
One thing that I particularly loved in what I read last night was her writing about her friend, Luca Spaghetti, who taught her about the beauty of doing nothing. Italians have mastered this skill. We, Americans, seem to have botched the whole idea. We pay for so many kinds of entertainment, but in being entertained, are we even enjoying it? Is it possible to find pleasure in doing nothing?
This is something I've struggled with for a long time, and I'm learning this about myself daily. I get bored very easily. I get bored at work if I'm not constantly doing something. I get bored at home if I don't have something to do. I get bored while running, while driving, while doing 3000 things at once...I'm not sure how my parents kept me entertained when I was younger, but I probably complained and whined the words, "I'm bored!" an awful lot. Living by myself tends to get boring after awhile, so I fill the empty space and time with plenty of shows on the Food Network, many episodes of Tori & Dean on Oxygen, and of course my weekly obsession of So You Think You Can Dance. Even watching TV isn't enough for me, but in the midst of that I can often be found doing sudoku puzzles, reading a book during commercials, playing spider solitaire, doing crunches, folding laundry, putting dishes away, and so on. Of course there are times when I'm completely lazy and I do nothing at all, but it's typically not my state. And when it is, I'm bored.
I have to fill my time with something. If I'm not traveling somewhere on a weekend, I'm bored. If I have a weekend or some time without a single plan, I'll go somewhere and find something to do, even if it's by myself. I just don't enjoy sitting around my apartment and doing the same things over and over again. I get bored.
So this art of finding pleasure in doing nothing is something I need to learn from Elizabeth Gilbert and her friend Luca Spaghetti and the rest of Italian culture. It's a difficult thing to sit in silence and practice doing nothing and actually enjoy it. I have my days, or moments, when I can simply sit and listen to the rainfall from my windowsill or watch the sun set on the horizon or sit on a porch and enjoy the peace of a summer evening. I just want to learn to have more.
Tonight, I think I'll make it my goal to go sit. And just sit. I think I'll go for a run, which then turns into walking, and then stop in the park and just sit. I'll turn my music off on my earphones and just listen to the silence. There is much to be said about moments of silence and how prayerful they can actually be. I so often think that prayer is me doing all the talking, and that's all wrong. God probably has shouted at me time and again, "Turn off the TV! Take off your headphones! Turn off your iTunes! Stop doing laundry, dishes, sudoku, or whatever you're doing! Stop doing! Just listen..." (hm...flashback to the scene of Mary & Martha...)
Take a moment yourself, or an hour, or however much time you have, to enjoy doing nothing. I'm going to try...