- By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 2:2-3
Resting when tired is a relatively new skill for me. So I am writing as a novice. I am writing as someone who really didn’t want to learn this skill. Almost always, I would rather keep going than rest.
What is resting?
Over the years, I have been told to rest by many: friends, family, therapists, coaches, spiritual directors, and even doctors. They would often phrase the resting as “self-care”, which allowed me to ignore the advice very easily, because self-care is actually a good skill of mine. I take time almost every day to have a devotion, to exercise, to spend time with friends, to read, to cook healthy food, and B.P. (before pandemic) to do fun things like go to a movie or a concert. I also get massage once a month. So for me, self-care is not resting. Resting is resting. I am learning.
Self-care is not resting. Resting is resting.
I could give you a dozen reasons in the history of my inability to rest. Whether they matter much I am not sure, but perhaps you have some of the same reasons.
I was not taught to rest. As the daughter of an immigrant and parents who remembered the Great Depression, I learned to keep pushing. I always felt shame if I rested, like there was something wrong with me. Being a 3 sport varsity athlete and a student of 3 instruments, an early graduate of high school, a magna cum laude graduate of undergraduate school, and just in general, a high achiever, did not leave much time for rest. I was always sought out for leadership positions at my high school, church, and college. And I loved it all. I still love to volunteer, and there is so much I want to offer and participate in. I have trouble not seizing every opportunity. Life is large. Carpe Diem!
I am a little remedial——ok, a lot.
In college, I had my first experience of my body telling—well—demanding— that I rest. My neck actually collapsed. Seriously. After a few all-nighters for an experimental psychology class and preparing for a theatre production, my neck literally would not hold my head up any longer. Nothing. Nada. I had to go to bed. It took a full 24 hours of rest before my neck decided I could go on with my life.
As a working mother whose husband traveled for business, I remember a morning when my daughter, then probably 10, told me that I was sighing. It concerned her. Sighing is a sign of tired. But I couldn’t rest.
In the spring of 2018, I had a long distance, on-line session with an energy worker. I was struggling with a particular issue and wanted some clarity on, so a friend had suggested this person who had been helpful to her. As we settled into our session, she opened with a prayer, and when she ended the prayer she very quickly said, “I don’t usually do this, but I want to start by asking you a question. Are you tired?”
I remember almost having a startle reflex. How could she feel this across the miles? How was she reading this in me? “Yes, I am exhausted,” I answered. She didn’t ask more questions immediately, but I offered a few reasons. My dad’s death, my husband’s unemployment, some work issues, a too full work-load, a friend in deep need. We went on with the session and it was, in fact, extremely helpful. At the very end of the session, she said, “Amy, I know you are not consulting me about this issue, but I want to encourage you to rest.”
Will I ever learn?
What happened next was that I started paying attention to my body’s signals that I needed to rest. Mostly I would catch myself feeling physically heavy, like I had to pull my-Self along with myself. Sometimes my eyes would feel heavy, but not sleepy. Occasionally my chest would feel full, or my stomach would feel tight, or I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things that needed to happen next.
One Saturday, a few months after my energy session, I was locking the door at my house on my way out to run errands. I noticed some of those symptoms I just mentioned. “Oh, this is tired,” I actually said to myself. I started to walk to my car and something stopped me. “All of these errands can wait,” is what I heard inside me. I went back inside, stretched out on the couch, and fell into a heavy and deep sleep. An hour later when I woke, I felt lighter and more open. More rested, I guessed. My body will tell me when to rest if I pay attention.
As the months and few years have gone on, I am learning to identify when I need to rest and not push. I am catching myself sooner, and being gentler with myself. When I want to lie down and do nothing, I am not shaming myself. I am looking for ways to take more time out of the office but still maintain my busy practice. My work is my passion, and I feel called to it perhaps more than ever. And on a practical note, I still need to work. It is a bit of a conundrum.
The opportunity CoVid19 affords us
The pandemic has had a silver-lining for me in this area. There is so much less to do, so few places to go. And so I am resting more and more. And yet, the call to action in this next phase of racial justice and LQBTQ+ justice is hearkening to me. I am pulled and called in many directions. Therefore, I am discerning more carefully where and how to spend my energy. Recently I saw a post on IG that said something like this: Dear White People. Are you tired? You are not used to thinking about race every hour of every day. You may need to rest. Amen and thank you to whoever posted that. I needed that permission.
As Rhea wrote so beautifully in last week’s blog, finding a balance is necessary. The trouble for me is that on the surface, I feel and look balanced. Like I said, I take care of myself in a multitude of ways. Just not resting. I have also learned over the years that in order for me to rest, I need to not have to be in relationship with almost anyone. Because I “do” relationships for a living, rest often involves being alone, or at the most with my husband and/or daughter. So sitting on the beach, alone, reading a book is resting. Going for a walk, by myself, can be resting. And a special “Amen” to Rhea for talking about the benefit of several weeks off in a row. It has been 6 years since I have given myself the benefit of resting for 2 full weeks back to back. I am the boss. I can fix this.
Rest often involves being alone
I am not quitting
Resting is not quitting. And as I have already said, resting does not necessarily translate to self-care. Resting is resting. ( I am repeating this for my own benefit.) It is Sabbath. On the 7th day, God rested, it says in Genesis 2:2-4. He worked hard and then he rested. A contemporary version of the 10-commandments might say, “Remember the Sabbath. The way to keep it holy is to turn off all your devices, schedule absolutely nothing, and rest.” I have also wondered often about the 23rd Psalm. Listen to this for the order of things.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
If there is a sequence to it, it appears that we must lie down and rest before we can be led to do just and righteous works. I am so remedial. No shame. Just naming it for what it is.
We must lie down and rest before we can be led to do just and righteous works.
Next Monday, dear Readers, MessyMarvelous is resting. Well, at least our blog is. We will have a big announcement for you soon. Maybe next Monday, maybe not. I also want to share a poem with you all, and next Monday may be the day I share that. But Rhea and I are resting from the blog for a week, because resting is resting. And we both need it.
Are you tired? The pandemic and the systemic shifts that need to happen for justice to reign are tugging at all of us. Most of us are trying to add to the cause. We are protesting, marching, reading, listening, thinking, donating, and debating. All good, All important. I will write about that soon enough.
But for today, how are you resting?
I have a private practice of individual psychotherapy and marriage counseling in Columbia, SC. A few years ago my book, Moment to Moment: The Transformative Power of Everyday Life, won Spirituality and Health’s top 100 books of the year. I am passionate about many things in life, but especially about psychology, spirituality, dancing, cooking, marriage, family, friends, writing, traveling, and learning. www.amysandermontanez.com
You can email me at [email protected]