This is a truth I don’t like to share, but I can’t stand it when people who get a lot of down time regularly claim the need to ‘rest’ — and then take it! I find it selfish and I perceive them as lacking motivation or not contributing to the world in meaningful ways. I feel deep shame for sharing that as my judgements are harsh and unfounded, but there they are friends — out there and exposed.
I’ve never been able to sleep for 10-plus hours. The concept of going to bed with an intention to recover from overdoing it is foreign to me; My body doesn’t function like that. Sleeping all day when I’m overwhelmed or sick is an abstract idea; even when I’m sick, I can barely nap, even when I’m truly ill.
I’m a ‘hard worker’ and I love the feeling of accomplishment. There’s nothing better than working a full day and feeling like I’ve been productive, and what’s even more exciting is feeling like I’ve been able to make a positive impact on someone or a system or in my workplace. I don’t need to be recognized or seen for the work I do, I prefer if it is unknown as the reward comes from within. I also love movement: I like moving my body either in the studio or on the trails, and I feel good when I do that. Even when I take a rest day from life, I stay active.
Yet my generation was taught that rest is for the weak and hard work is rewarded. Sacrificing one’s well-being to tend to the needs of others was celebrated. Disassociating from personal needs was the norm and heavily encouraged. Emotions were thought of as girly, and no one wanted to be called that. To be seen as strong and capable you needed to abandon caring for yourself and do what others wanted of you. I’m sure many of you had similar experiences.
I’ve believed that to make a difference in the world I had to sacrifice my own well-being (this has not been a conscious belief, just the way I’ve lived). I’m embarrassed to say that I rush a lot and often I feel like I can’t keep up with the number of things I have or want to do. Having a child is a huge part of that; trying to manage myself and another human requires organization and a hope that things flow smoothly. My business also takes up a lot of time, and there are many people depending on me to be reliable and consistent. But I’m not alone; I know many of you can relate.
The last few years have meant a constant upheaval of calm and clarity for many, myself included. Coming out of 2022, I realized my life needs a reset, a big one. As a single parent and woman that works a lot, finding space is an act of defiance. It’s relinquishing belief systems and other people’s wants and desires of me and allowing myself to disappoint others as I reclaim myself.
I’m calling those of us that don’t have an intimate relationship with rest or only know it as a place to go when we’re in complete burnout. But I need to be honest; this is hard work for me. Rest is only something I’ve been able to do well on vacation; however, I’ve experienced the downside of using vacation as a way to recover — it is not healthy nor sustainable. If we’re lucky, life is long, and it requires a depth of self-care that most of us don’t practice. When we do take time, we often feel guilty for carving the space into our lives.
I know that rest is medicine. If there’s anything we gained from the pandemic it is the creation of space. Even if it was hard, things slowed down. We couldn’t fill our lives with commitments other than work (for most of us). Silence became a companion (even if my stress was constantly whispering in my ear). I personally had to relent and slow down.
My new ambition is rest. I know that if I care for myself I’ll be more creative, have more energy, and be able to be a better friend, parent, and partner. I’ll be equipped with gentleness and able to let go of my judgments of others who are able to rest.
There’s a difference between someone who isolates themselves and doesn’t engage in the world and someone who is consciously taking time to tend to themselves. Rest is a form of self-love, it’s a soulful practice, and we learn so much from quiet and silence — quiet and solitude are teachers of the highest order. That’s where we reconvene with our longings, with our pains, with our joy, and with our nervous system.
I know this will take time. No one can do it for me, and I would be irritated if someone was judging the amount of rest I was getting in the same way I’ve judged others. My ambition is fierce and soft — who else is ready to make rest a mission?