The Sweetness and Guilt of Doing Nothing

I am a regimented person. I like waking up and going to sleep at the same time everyday. I like writing my goals on my work planner and fully utilizing my Outlook (work) and Google (personal) calendars. In short, I just like being organized and always knowing what the next step is. It allows me to plan. But after a while, the constant repetition of routines gets me really bored and sucks out the creativity in me. I needed a break from it all.

I decided that I was going to do absolutely nothing during this holiday season apart from relaxing and spoiling myself as a form of self-care. I watched the following shows and movies in the last week: Knives Out, Get Out, The Ritual, HBO’s Succession (Season 1), Nocturnal Animals, What Men Want, and my all-time favourite movies, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (I love LOTR so much!). I also need to finish watching The Crown (Season 3) and Stranger Things (Season 3) and get started on The Witcher and You (Season 2).

I even read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar in one day, which was a huge achievement for me since I only read non-fiction these days. And, as it is Boxing Day season, I also went shopping. As mentioned in my previous post, I gained quite a bit of weight in the last few months, so I decided to buy myself several pairs of pants instead of trying to lose the weight and desperately and unsuccessfully trying to get into my size 0 pants. It’s just not happening. I’m embracing my new body and will attempt to change my negative thinking patterns about weight gain.

It’s been a week since my break started, and I must admit that I kind of feel guilty? I’m not used to relaxing so much. I always feel the need to hustle and accomplish something. If I’m not doing something productive, anxiety and guilt kick in. As I pondered on this, a scene from the book-turned-movie, Eat Pray Love, came to mind.


The Italian man explains the concept of Dolce Far Niente to Liz, played by Julia Robert, which roughly translates to: the sweetness of doing nothing. What a beautiful saying, I thought. I need to always remember it.


Like Liz (Elizabeth Gilbert) in the movie, I don’t quite know how to unwind for long periods of time. I know how to relax on weekends, but if I don’t do anything productive for more than a couple of days, the guilt settles in. I feel as though I should be doing something and that I don’t deserve to rest because I haven’t earned it. I feel useless. Maybe it’s a personality trait; maybe it’s a cultural trait? I’m not sure, but as far as I know, I’ve always been like this. I just don’t know how to relax without feeling guilty.

However, I don’t believe my inability to relax is entirely negative, as it’s propelled me to various forms of success in school and at work. For the most part, being driven and ambitious are aspects of myself in which I take pride. I guess I’m just worried I might die from a heart attack someday, as most Type A personalities often do. I say this jokingly of course, but search up “Type A personality heart attack” on Google; it’s a real thing!

What is too much work and too much play for you? One of my goals in the coming year is to figure out the balance between the two in my own life. I’d like to embrace the idea of Dolce Far Niente, but never to the point of feeling guilty.

3 thoughts on “The Sweetness and Guilt of Doing Nothing

  1. Your first paragraph resonated with me, Loren. I used to work in startups and the ethos there is work harder than your peers, and then work harder still. It’s taken a long time to unwind this, and to be comfortable with doing “nothing.” But, there’s definitely a point of diminishing returns, and I’ve found that stepping back, unwinding, creating space, has allowed me to better understand what really matters (the tasks to do, aims in life, etc.). Hope you find a balance that works for you!

    Liked by 1 person

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