Thursday, March 27, 2014

La Dolce Vita

A few Sundays ago, as I rose in a sun-filled room, I noticed a familiar shadow of doubt.

Then I watched it float away.

I observed an internal readiness. I made a plea for evolution.

Am I ready to embrace my antagonist? To tenderly befriend the adversary of my perfectionism?

Not necessarily. But I need for us to meet. Enter:
La dolce far niente. 
The art or sweetness of doing nothing.

Admittedly extracted from the novel Eat, Pray, Love... but don't give up on reading just yet.

Many years ago, my father immigrated to Canada from Italy. He had fallen in love with my mother while she visited Europe. Only twenty years old, he turned his back on the handsome mountains of the North. He walked away, in heartache and in confidence, from an ancestral farmhouse within which he had grown. But what he did pack with him, in preparation for his journey, was an inspiring way of life. A mindset that has shaped his peace.

Similar to myself, my father is productive by nature (and fittingly, a successful entrepreneur). But he has never hesitated to remind me:
I do not need all that much. I am a simple man.
And he is a good man.

He holds within his heart a love of God. And he stores within his mind a provoking philosophy. It is one that our entire nation seems to have neglected to learn.

He pours a glass of red wine during lunch only to savour the flavour of each sip. He visits a neighbour (or stranger, or friend) only to voice a happy hello. He rests peacefully and without guilt, fully aware - and proud of - his labour endured. He forgives himself and others for all that cannot be altered, not a single apology required. He finds joy in nature, in stillness, and in the soft melody of a piano. He does not live in fear of the potential (personal shortcomings, external failures, fortune, or sickness). His truth will forever keep him safe.

He manifests the profound ability to enjoy the simplicity of life.

The appetite to redefine my identity and independence was inspired by a recent struggle. I am sad - but not ashamed - to admit that I recently arrived in a place where I feel overwhelmed.

If I wake naturally at 8 o'clock on Sunday morning, I am already behind schedule:
Sweat once a day. Walk outside. Read a book. Apply for a job. Create, create, create! Volunteer. Research that new company, important cause, upcoming event, or self-induced symptom. Visit friends and family. Learn a language. Plan a trip. Catch up on television shows. Read the news during commercials. Go back to school. Respond to a never-ending chain of text messages and e-mails. Practice yoga. Meditate. Blog, tweet, pin! Cook each meal from scratch. Eat clean. Indulge! Photo document it all. Find time for yourself and for God. 
All-consumed by what I believe I should do, but all the while losing sight of what I love to do. What is going on with me?!

My mom enjoys telling the story of a 3-year old Kristina, wobbling into her bedroom each and every Saturday morning only to ask:
"What are we going to do today?!"
Graham enjoys sharing a similar story, but a modern tale: 23-year old Kristina peeling open his eyelids each and every Saturday morning only to ask:
"What are we going to do today?!"
These accounts do indeed shed light on my undeniable enthusiasm and (at times) irritating efficiency. The notion of pleasant idleness is rather unknown to me. I enjoy "getting in over my head," and friends often poke fun at just how much I attempt to accomplish before breakfast. And in honesty, I love this about myself!

I cannot however claim that I am presently enjoying my current state of mind. I grow tense and timid at the prospect of starting my day. I live in fear of an approaching darkness. What if by sunset, I have not accomplished "enough"?

So when my parents visited me on a Sunday afternoon, looked at me and said:
Kris. You are a reed in the wind. When the wind blows, you shift with it (for better or for worse). Your identity is directly linked to external forces, and you are subsequently vulnerable to fluctuations within them. You need to rediscover your identity - your truth - outside of these forces. That way, no matter which way the wind blows, you will always be alright. (My mom actually forced me to google a picture of a reed in the wind during this speech.)
Was it true? Let's see:

If my identity is linked to my profession (for example) which is an external force, and I happen to lose my job...

I would crumble.

Point proven. I'm a reed. Damn it.

I finally grasped, beyond a shadow of doubt, the reason for why I feel so overpowered.  Crystal clear was the necessity for an immediate self-evaluation and purposeful solution.

This blog post is not dedicated to doing nothing. It does not owe itself to a planned vacation or an escape from responsibility. I do not wish to boycott social media, priorities, or goals.

We live in an age where information and technologies are admirably managing to meet the ever-burgeoning expectations of society. We demand greater access, higher standards, and easy usability! At once, all is granted. Or more impressively, there are times in which when we do not ask for anything at all. Yet we seem to find a world of opportunities at our doorstep. Naturally and instinctively, I wish to be a part of it all. I behold growth of this magnitude and recognize the potential for good, true good (in the form of helping others, sharing wealth, and spreading impactful knowledge).

But in trying to keep up with the information that surrounds me, have I lost sight of who I am? Why do I labour to stay grounded when something happens that is outside of my control?

I think that more of us, encircled (and at times, enclosed) by similar pressures and opportunities, ought to ask ourselves this question.

What good am I to any partner, friend, blog reader, or employer if I grow detached from my core truths (my optimism, my joy, and my intense, unwavering yearning to make a difference) the moment something goes wrong? Outside of perpetual connectivity, external pressures, seemingly critical opinions, and contingent-upon-blank (appearance, success, marketability) opportunities, who am I?

I am a faithful optimist. I am a happy person. I have an energetic learning spirit. I am on a mission to live a life of impact and fight my insecurity. I am an oak tree, strong and resilient to any storm. And I am certainly not a reed!

I have learned that there are times in life when we are called to do not nothing, but to do something for nothing more than the love of it. No ulterior motives. No multi-tasking. No planning. No producing (...no intentional producing). It will make us better. 

With all of the time in the world at my disposal, should I choose to rest for an evening, sitting in stillness, listening to a forever favorite song and daydreaming while Graham reads this book (which is completely changing our lives), I will do so in gratitude and in absence of hesitation or doubt.

To find calm. To rest without guilt. To quiet harsh internal criticism. To purposefully forget a preconceived notion of the way I should be and what I should be doing. To stop launching a reinvention of Kristina bi-weekly. To do something kind for myself for the sole purpose of my own well-being. To grant myself permission for a natural growth based on my core beliefs. To stop caring about what I don't care about. To separate myself from external forces that are not a part of who I am. To continue striving for all that is good.

To find (and taste) for the first time the true sweetness of life:
 Trovare la dolce vita. 
Tasting sweetness.
Never give up your search.

Kristina

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