Thursday, May 30, 2013

Learning to Rest

The hubby is singing Phantom of the Opera and cooking dinner, and I get a little break. Ahhh.

It's been one of those days. The ones where you're just too tired and stressed to be very productive. I can be a pretty self-stressing person. I can put all this pressure on myself.

It's so hard to grab a break. I mean, I work for MYSELF and I say that. One of the reasons I like working for myself is that I put a lot of pressure on myself--too much pressure, really, demanding that I accomplish a week's worth of work in a day. When I have a boss, that pressure just gets compounded as I try to please myself AND the imaginary super-high standards of my boss. I work myself to death trying to be too excellent. When I work for myself, at least I have the option of forcing myself to take vacation time.

This is a recurring problem for me. I have simple loves. I love writing. I love making a house into a beautiful, calm, and comfy home. I love being with my husband. I love taking care of our guinea pig, Penny. I don't want to do much more than sit around and write, read, and keep the house clean.

But somehow all these other good things sneak in. Cleaning the house turns into ultra-cleaning the house. Laundry, cooking, and getting groceries always take more time than I estimate. And I get caught up doing little tasks that really don't matter but which keep me amused spending too much brain power on them. Or I start writing but can't stop for hours to hardly even eat. Dinner time roles around and I'm still typing.

It's so important to make work matter. Work needs to be worth it. You need to do what you love, or at least what'll help you spend time with who you love doing what you love. We have passions for a reason; to make work fun! Because we were made for work. So do your work, and do it well. Do it with passion and perseverance. Work hard. You feel so much happier when you work hard.

But working isn't the full divine purpose for humanity, is it? There's got to be Sabbath too. Taking a rest from your work.  I gave a talk on rest a year and half ago. They say that the best sermon is the one that stretches you: because if you're life was changed somehow, you'll be able to convey that to your audience. Man, did that talk change me. I knew the importance of rest, but researching it that much showed me how hugely we miss the picture.

Rest is about enjoying the fruit of our labors. The thing is, we are pretty bad at knowing how to enjoy, and that is primarily because we don't know how to work. Playing Farmville (my personal vice is sudoku) is not rest. It may be mindless, but it doesn't refresh. It's really another form of work: a useless, effortless form, in which all we obtain is the instant gratification of achieving something immediately instead of having to spend time and hard work accomplishing real-life goals. Not saying it has to be a bad thing. But it can't take away from work time or rest time. We must do real work; and then we must take real breaks. Rest is not distraction. Rest is not procrastination, nor is it meant to be guilt-ridden as you think of all the things you're not doing. Rest is enjoying your work--which means you have to work first.

So point number one: have a healthy relationship with your work, and your relationship with rest will get better.

After you work, you sit down and enjoy. You celebrate. This could look like so many things that I won't even bother breaking that down for you. I like to play games with family members; read books; go hiking and camping; and (one day) travel. When you sit down to rest, you need to actually rest. So often I sit down to rest and end up writing. Writing is great--I love to write! But writing is my work. Sometimes I need to stop writing and read. Stop talking and listen. It is so easy for rest to become work, for my rest times to actually be catch-up times for all the stuff I didn't do earlier. Rest is a remedy not only for being lazy, but also for over-working. This is my personal struggle, and it's why I need rest.

Point number two: don't let yourself work when you rest. Work time is for work. Rest time is for rest.

Rest comes down to this: balance. It's not merely about getting me-time or away-time, though that is important. Rest should be a daily rhythm, something built into us. We need to balance work and rest, which means actually doing both of them and doing them wholeheartedly. For me, this the defining point for having a healthy lifestyle. When I'm working well and resting enough, everything else falls into place. When either side is out of whack, the rest of my lifestyle slowly becomes unhealthy as well.

Right now, it's time for me to rest. The evening calls for a walk. I could write more about rest--I could post my whole talk manuscript from two years ago! But I won't right now. I'm going to stop my working and rest.


"This kind of retreat isn't so much about going into a nothingness or masking it with superficial forms of pampering. It’s more about a connection to meaning and purpose, the need to grow in our understanding and relationship to God, the need to have a view of ourselves that is accurate and sourced from God’s eyes instead of the world's message, the need to honor that still, small voice we all have and seek out ways to increase in wisdom and understanding so we can test what to bring into our lives and what to leave out."

~Lisa Byrne