Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com
This morning was my first morning in over a month that I woke up alone. My children are with their father and I really needed a night of uninterrupted sleep after visiting Disneyland with our 5 children last week (great fun and also hectic). Last night, I had already planned to make sure to start cleaning my home first thing, since it’s quite a mess, and to make sure I wouldn’t start procrastinating on it. First the bathroom, that’s the easy part, and then when you get in the groove, tackle the rest of the house. This was pretty much my final thought before falling asleep.
But then I woke up and looked outside. The sun is shining for the first time in weeks. There’s a soft breeze and the birds are chirping. While the south and east of Belgium, parts of the Netherlands and Germany are currently dealing with horrible flooding due to global climate change, I am reminded of what got us to this situation in the first place: the incessant need of our culture for more, for continuous growth. The inability to just stop when we need to stop.
I find myself reflecting that culture in my life just the same. I injured my toe really badly two weeks ago, and have been limping since. But have I stopped? No, not really, I limped around the zoo and two days around Disneyland, each time with increasing pain toward the end. We’re in the middle of the summer holidays, a time to recharge before the coming school year starts again, and yet, somehow, I’ve filled my calender with a whole bunch of work, courses and social events and can’t seem to plan a single day on which I can just do nothing and rest.
I was talking a friend and fellow coach yesterday, and we discussed this difficulty we seem to have with resting. Not just us two, but the culture in which we’ve grown up. There used to be a day of rest, for us it was Sunday. On Sunday you didn’t work, or clean the house. The only thing you did was visit family and sit together. My grandparents were the last people I saw who actually held this tradition in honour. In Judaism, doing any work on the Sabbath is prohibited. Sabbath actually comes from the Hebrew word shabat which means ‘to cease’, or stop (source).
Although I’m not a big fan of religous dogma in any form, one of the things religion did well was create time for rest, without any guilt, because that’s where the difficulty now seems to lie. Somehow, we are equating ‘rest’ with laziness. I have an inner voice that tells me that all the time. We have somehow created the idea that we only deserve to rest when all the work is done. But we all know, that time is never going to come. The chores are never all going to be done. We’ll never have all our affairs in order perfectly. The to-do-list is just never going to be completely empty, mostly because we suffer from that same ‘more, more, more’-virus that has long ago infected pretty much the entire Western world (and has spread far beyond, too).
If we look at our inability to rest, we can easily see where our epidemic of burn-outs comes from. We keep expecting more from our lives, more from other people and more from ourselves. We dare to forget we live in a finite world.
Instead of taking time to stop, we start drinking energy drinks, or optimizing our diet, or take courses in efficient time management. How to do more in less time, so you’ll have time to relax. Except, we forget that we’re an animal, biologically pretty much identical to other mammals. And do you know any animals that don’t take time to rest? Not just sleep, but also just sitting around/lying around resting?
So what will it take for us to actually take time to rest? Do we have to believe it makes us more productive (because, obviously, it does, though that’s kind of a problematic motivation, right?). Or do we have to find reasons we deserve it? I actually used to fantasize about getting so ill I would need to be hospitalized, because the idea of spending all day in a bed while, maybe, reading a bit sounded like heaven. I was so desperate for rest, and couldn’t see a way of taking it without being forced to. Isn’t that insane?
At this moment, I’m getting the message, loud and clear, that I need rest: my injured toe, the fact that I’m quite tense, my jaws are often clenched and my own behaviour which points to how little I think about my need to rest (I plan too much in too little time).
However, I want to be an example. I can’t teach my children that rest is important, if I never rest when I’m around them. I want to build in times in which I can sit with them and read a book, watch a movie, look at the clouds. And I want to plan my work around what matters most to me: my own wellbeing and that of the people around me.
So I’m making a couple of decisions: The course I had planned to take in September will be moved to January. The exam for my current course will be postponed, and I’m going to plan in time to rest. Not just because I want to, but also because I have to. It’s the only way I can properly take care of myself, and those around me. Resting in this culture, is an act of rebellion, of going against the socially acceptable current. And I, for one, am deciding to hop off the boat.
Do you find it easy to rest? How often do you take time to rest? And what does that word really mean to you? I’m curious to hear in how far this is an issue that plays on a larger scale, and hoping you will share with me!