This post is the second of a three-part series on Wintering.
Two weeks ago I experienced an embarrassingly overdue a-ha moment. After 38 years, I just realized there is a difference between time to rest and time to catch up. My brain literally never saw the difference until now. Mind. Blown.
I always view a break in my schedule or potential downtime as a chance to catch up, so I fill that time with myriad life logistics, and then wonder why I never feel rested. Catching up is still a component of productivity. How on earth have I never connected these dots before now?
The Pace of Nature
I have been told I’m good at a lot of things; resting is not one of them. A few weeks ago when I first learned about this notion of Wintering, I felt instantly excited to welcome a season of rest into my life. But that excitement quickly morphed into familiar ambition. When I considered what it might feel like to withdraw from the world and hunker down at home, I suddenly envisioned all of the things I might accomplish during this time. I started planning my Winter of Rest. In fact, I started over-planning my Winter of Rest.
Then came my a-ha moment. I realized how many of my plans were catch-up tasks cleverly disguised as rest. I thought more carefully about what this season would look like in practice, and concluded that I would feel no more rested if I wintered in that way than if I hadn’t wintered at all. I took to my journal and made a list of actions I qualify as rest, as well as catch-up tasks that I may accomplish ONLY if I have already rested. Historically, I operate in the reverse order, only resting once I feel caught up. I commit to changing that this winter.
Emerson said, “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” Animals preparing for a winter hibernation don’t craft elaborate schemes of productivity to pass the time. Trees don’t spend this season dreaming up ways to get their leaves to sprout sooner than the year before. They trust that spring will come, as it always does, and their only job is to wait patiently. They recognize that this is not a time for doing, but for being.
At this point in drafting my blog around 10:00 p.m. I mentioned to my husband that I was hitting a wall and the words weren’t coming as easily. He wisely suggested that I put away my computer to rest and stop trying to catch up on my blog. Ah, the irony.
What is Rest?
If catching up falls under the productivity umbrella, what exactly is rest? What qualifies as each may differ for you, but here are some examples of the difference for me.
- Anything that requires multitasking
- Something calling to me from my to-do list
- Responding to the expectations of others
- Taking a sick day from work
- A task that distracts me and pulls me out of my body
- Collapsing from exhaustion
- A non-stressful task that allows me to be fully focused
- Something I choose to do just because
- Responding to the needs of my mind, body, or soul
- Taking a mental health day from work
- Something that centers me and feeds my senses
- Choosing stillness
Generally, catching up makes me feel more in control, while rest helps me let go. Catching up restores order to my world, while rest restores order to my Self–mind, body, or soul.
Catch-up activities are typically things we need to do or ought to do, and the world around us sees to it that we do them. Rest is also something we need to do and ought to do, but no one is demanding that of us. The trick about catching up being obligatory and rest being optional is that we must choose rest. Otherwise, rest will keep cascading down our bottomless to-do lists until we can no longer reach it.
Resisting the Urge to Multitask
I would argue one of my largest obstacles on the path to rest is my relentless urge to multitask–trying to do too much too often and not doing any of it as well as I’d like. I’m a productivity junkie who needs to slow down and rewire her brain for rest.
Multitasking saps the mindfulness right out of a moment. In order to draw my focus toward mindful rest in the coming weeks, I will ask myself, “What is the most important thing this moment needs from me?” Determining what that means is the hard part.
If you’re anything like me, when you need to figure out what to let go of, you wind up stumped. It’s hard to decide what you want to give up. Instead, flip the script, and decide what you most want to give your attention and that will automatically make the other end of the decision for you. From that perspective, when something’s got to give, it’s not about what you’re sacrificing; it’s about what you’re choosing.
And for the foreseeable future, I am patiently and purposefully choosing Rest.