Hello, old friends! I’ve been quiet for a few months. First it was the byproduct of a busy schedule, then it was by choice. The opposite of most people, my schedule slowed down between July fourth and Labor Day. And I was so ready to receive the slowdown. Leave it to me to finally Winter in the summertime. 🙃
Unable to Rest
After all that hullabaloo about Wintering in the actual wintertime, I couldn’t do it. Partially, I couldn’t do it due to external demands, but even when I had the opportunity, I physically couldn’t do it. Learning this truth about myself was jarring: I do not know how to rest as a subject; I only know how to experience rest as an object. Rest is not something I do; it is something that happens to me after I’ve run out of steam. I run myself ragged, overcommit, squeeze too much activity into too little time–and STILL feel like I am failing everyone around me, but that’s a post for another time–and then I collapse. The next day I wake up rested-ish, and assume that must mean I have rested. And if I have rested, I must surely know how to rest, right? WRONG.
I spent the winter season navigating these new understandings about what rest means and how to do it better, but I still stank at it. Our springtime cruise gave me a blank slate to try my hand at rest again, and I felt like I nailed it. But then real life resumed and I realized the cruise was like going to “Rest Camp” and it was up to me to incorporate my newly-practiced skill into my daily life.
Our schedule was pegged with back-to-back-to-back travel and interruptions to normalcy, but I had July fourth in my sights. That was my finish line. If I could make it to the first week of July, I could finally slow down for a bit. And I did!
Finally Finding Rest
I had about seven weeks of a lighter schedule. And it was glorious! I felt my mind clear up. I felt my soul settle. I felt my bandwidth expand. And most exciting to me, I felt inspiration return.
I spruced up two rooms of my house with some fresh paint. I worked on puzzles while listening to my favorite records. My husband and I started working out together. I read on the hammock. We went on more family walks. I mapped out creative projects I want to tackle. I took my daughter on regular trips to the library. We started our days snuggling and reading stacks of library books. I even got half of my Christmas shopping done. It was delightful.
That may not sound like rest to some folks. I recognize that I just rattled off a list of activities, but those kinds of doing are my ideal ways of being. Being with my loved ones. Being in my body. Being present. Being focused. Being connected. Being at peace. To me, rest is not only stillness–though it is certainly that, too. Rest is what occurs when I have room to breathe. Room to choose how to spend my day based on what I need or want in that moment, not based on what I’ve already committed to weeks or months ago. And that can only happen when I have a buffer.
Merriam-Webster defines rest as “to get rest by lying down, especially: sleep” and “to cease from action or motion.” But their third definition is “to be free from anxiety or disturbance.” THAT is the kind of rest I experienced this summer. After half a year of stressful hustling and anxious mind-swirling, I finally found myself free from anxiety or disturbance. It felt beautiful to lean into that peace.
Keeping The Peace
My natural tendency in life is to be the peacekeeper. As an empath, I notice the slightest energy shifts in those around me and task myself with making sure everyone is comfortable. If someone feels misunderstood I do my best to better understand. (Because I know how scary it feels to be misunderstood.) When I encounter conflict, I search for the quickest path to resolution. All of this comes naturally to me. All of this also typically comes at a cost: While I’m busy keeping the peace among others, I neglect my own inner peace.
While it feels natural to keep the peace around me, it feels much more difficult to keep the peace within me. But now that I’ve been reminded of how lovely it is to experience the peace of an undisturbed soul and an unanxious mind, I want to protect that peace. I want to keep it.
Making Space for My Best Self
The busiest time of year is upon us. The last three months of the year always seem to fill up and fly by the quickest. That means it’s also the time of year when my inner peace is easiest to neglect. Add to that the fact that I just got some good rest recently, it would be even easier to fail to prioritize my own wellbeing out of guilt that I am being too selfish with my energy.
Here’s the thing… when my pace slowed down this summer, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t living a full enough life. In fact, life felt richer and even more beautiful than when I was bouncing around my calendar events like a pinball earlier in the year. So I shouldn’t be afraid of paring down my schedule to create buffers for rest. And I shouldn’t apologize for protecting my energy, because when I spend my time more consciously my best self emerges. When I feel frantic, hurried, and short on time, my absolute worst self shows up, uninvited and unable to find the exit.
It’s an embarrassment of riches, I know, to have so many things to do and places to go with people I care about. It’s hard to say “no” to people I love, and things I know I would enjoy. (see my peacekeeper tendency above) However, if there’s one thing this year taught me it is that too much of a good thing, is still a good thing… and it’s still too much.
If I really want to love the people in my life well, I owe them my best self. And my best self needs time and space and rest. Besides, I owe myself my best self, too.