I wrote about rest a few weeks ago (Rest) and the more I think about it the more I just get confirmation that I really, really stink at resting. Do you know the article that most motivated me to try to rest the weekend after I wrote my post? It was Dignity, Freedom and Rest by Kirk Winslow for The High Calling blog, which framed rest as an obligation to others. Mr. Winslow wrote that we defend rest because the ability to choose to rest is a mark of human freedom and dignity. The ability to choose rest says we are not slaves. Therefore it is good to protect rest for all people, most particularly for the sake of those who can't protect rest for themselves.
I agree with that, and it definitely encourages me to rest. But do you see the tricky little thing that happened there? Rest became something "productive" when it became something that could benefit other people. The reason I stink at resting is that I feel an intense need to be productive, in some way shape or form, pretty much all the time. I put a lot of my sense of my own value in my ability to get things done. So at work I go, go, go from the time I hit the door until I leave for the day. At home I have a tendency to parent by doing, engaging my three and a half year old in conversation, crafts, books, games. When I'm not parenting I'm knitting, writing, practicing languages on a free language app on my phone, emailing, walking, helping clean or cook or fold laundry or finding some other way to be productive. On the weekends we rush around to religious services, family and social events, and fun activities like museums, zoos, parks, festivals and travel.
Or, I totally crash. I get grumpy, I get a headache, and I withdraw. I parent by television. I lay on the couch and retreat into a novel and sweet talk my husband into ordering pizza because it is easy and doesn't require much cleanup. I hide out from email and phone calls and I try not to move much. This is what happens when I've worn myself out with all my incessant activity, but it doesn't really feel restful either. It just leaves me feeling down and bad, because I'm not doing the productive things that leave me feeling positive about myself. I'm not even having fun, really. I'm just numbed out for a while.
So perhaps the central problem I'm having with rest is really a problem with self-worth. In my head, I know that I am a child of G-D, infinitely precious and worthy. I know that I am loved beyond all understanding. I know that none of my doing or trying is earning my any more love than I have right at this moment; not from G-D and not even from my family and friends. My head knows that my family would probably appreciate it if I would slow down and chill out; I suspect living with me is challenging in a number of ways (and I am grateful for my husband's patience and grace towards me!). The problem is, my head knows this and my heart continues to operate out of this paradigm of needing to prove my worth by being busy and productive.
I suspect this sounds familiar to other people. It's a pretty widespread cultural phenomenon, this needing to be busy to feel ok. This addiction to doing, doing, doing. I have found over the past few weeks as I am trying to fight the constant need to do that pressure comes both internally and externally to get up and get going again. My work has taught me that the way you move knowledge from your head to your heart is through experience; more specifically through practice, practice, practice until a new way of doing things becomes your habit. I wonder if I can catch the habit of rest? I wonder still what that would even look like?