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In Praise of Rest
The world we want demands our strength. Not just our struggle.
We are living through crisis and catastrophe. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of livelihoods lost in a season. The scourge and violence of white supremacy. Profound inequity that grows starker and clearer, it seems, with each day. We are living through a pandemic and a long-needed reckoning. And we show up every day and try to work through it.
We are asked to make beautiful, useful things — to be, in a word, creative. To imagine what doesn’t quite yet exist and color it into the world. It is, as far as these things go, not a bad gig. We tell ourselves that we get to design the future.
But what do we design for when the future’s so hard to see?
Tough Times for Dreamers
If you are tired, if it’s hard to focus, if some days you find your cup is empty and you fear your best work is behind you, it is not a character flaw or failure. You are not broken. You are exhausted, because the world is exhausting. It’s been this way for a very long time.
And yet how many of us have bought into the hype of hustle? The need to go, go, go at a thousand percent, to never do nothing, to work long hours as a mark of honor, to define who we are by what we’re working on, to sleep when we’re dead, to grind… Aren’t you tired yet? I am.
We need to rest.
Rest as Resistance
We need, sometimes, to slow all the way down. To not speak, to not listen, to not solve a new problem. To do nothing but lay in the dark and breathe. To close your eyes and let the sun shine on your skin. To do only what the body cries out for. To sink into water and stay there, still, until the ache melts from your bones. To nap in the afternoon, why not? To banish screens post-8pm. To write freely, easefully, for ten minutes straight. To squiggle. To play. To goof. To make your bed a heavenly place, a place you want to go to by a decent hour every night. To sleep in Sunday mornings.
To move without purpose, just intuition. To take a full hour away from your desk. To drink so much water and whisper to plants. To eat without thought or care of anything else but what you’re eating, to savor each bite and really taste it. To laugh loudly, without shame or self-consciousness. To gaze at your animal’s lovely face and listen to your animal snoring. To snore. To stop, dammit, just for a minute, stop, and rest. Restore.
My brilliant friend says this, “We have to have time to metabolize chaos. When we rest, our bodies digest.”
Like I said, she is brilliant. And she is right.
Rest to Progress
We rest to process the weight of the world we were born into, the world we’ve been called to change. These days demand no less from us than our fortitude and imagination. The world we want demands our strength, not just our struggle. So we rest. Sometimes, not always! As with everything on earth, balance is key. We rest as a way to move toward balance, to give ourselves what we need to march forward.
Whatever it looks like for you, whatever it needs to look like, rest. Lie down for a minute and quiet your mind. Put the bad news box on the other side of the room; the news can wait a little while. Produce nothing but breath. Let your mind wander. Follow where it goes if you like, but don’t force it. Rest, beloveds, rest, and rest, and rest, so you can dream.
And when you’re good and fed with rest,
you will do what needs to be done.
Recommended Reading + Resources
Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown