We Have Permission to Rest
It was funny, really, being someone who writes about travel and the handiness of being in a line of work you can take anywhere. I arrived not quite two weeks ago in Florence, Italy to make my way for one of my favorite gatherings ever: the Tuscany Writers’ Retreat, hosted by my agent and friend Jenni.
I knew I was in desperate need of a break, but I didn’t really know how to take one properly. My work is our family’s primary source for bread on the table, and upcoming events on our calendar meant a pressing need to fit as much work into those calendar squares as possible. I’ve been working a ton.
And I’ve been tired for awhile, but I hadn’t find the wherewithal to give myself permission to rest.
There was a buzzing alarm in my brain, faint but there in the background, because I knew something was amiss if I felt too busy writing about a simpler way of life. That shouldn’t be, my brain said. But I felt like I couldn’t listen.
Mark Buchanan says, “Busyness makes us stop caring about the things we care about.” He also says a good measure for whether we’re rested enough is to ask ourselves this: How much do I care about the things I care about?
I knew I was so close to the cliff of overwhelm that my care-level for the things that mattered most to me—my family, friends, God—was lower than it should be. Nonetheless, I kept working.
Normally, my internet works fine in this pocket of the world; it always has. But for whatever reason, and even though most everyone in my group’s internet was working well, mine was kaput. I could only get online in a tiny, five foot-square corner of an office in the giant house where we were staying, nowhere near convenient for me.
No data, no internet, nothing. From the places where we spent most of our time, I had no way to get online.
Isn’t that something.
It was hard the first 48 hours. And then it was delicious.
It was as though God knew I needed a gentle, kind, forced reminder that the important things of life aren’t all dependent on me, and that taking a break isn’t only a lovely treat every now and then, it’s necessary for my wholeness.
The world won’t implode if I don’t get a contributor’s post up on social media, and my fellow humanity will be just fine waiting an extra week (or two) to get a reply from their email. Life goes on. And even better, it remains beautiful.
(In case you were wondering, my right-hand-gal/assistant, Caroline, was on the trip, too, so there was no one even manning the front here.)
Now that I’m back and easing in to my work routine here, writing the above feels silly. Of course resting is necessary and beautiful. I know this! I tell this to other people all the time. But I suppose, like many people, the things I give other people permission to embrace are the things that are often hardest for me. And when I’m in the thick of it, it’s hard to see the truth.
Buchanan also says, about his friend’s request to go swimming during his writing a book on rest, “I almost allowed my obligation to write about rest steal my experience of it. I almost allowed my compulsion to merely talk about rest and play take from me these things themselves.”
I could have written those two sentences of his.
I was already planning on taking my annual summer break from my work, but I’ll be honest—in the past, it’s been a rather faux-break: I might not post new stuff here on AoS, but I’m busy behind the scenes, catching up on email or still scrolling through social media.
There’s nothing wrong with those things, and heck, I still love my work to the point that those obligations are often fun—but only when I’m doing it from a place of well-restedness.
I need to further the richness of rest I experienced in Tuscany, and so, this summer, I’m going to really rest. It’s necessary. From mid-July to mid-August, I’ll hardly be online. I’ve already got friends on the docket who’ll share some thoughts on this space, as usual, and I’ve already recorded most of the podcast episodes that’ll go out.
But this time, I’m really going to rest and play. I’m going to be scarce on Facebook, slow to respond on email, and post on Instagram only when I feel like it. I’m going to road trip up to Oregon with my family, drink mojitos with friends, and read good books. I’m going to shrug my shoulders about keeping up with the online happenings. Because the things that matter are all around me, and I want to be well-rested enough to enjoy them.
Buchanan finally drops the mic with this:
“What’s missing [in our lives] is a theology of play. There are many things—eating ice cream, diving off cliffs, sleeping in Saturday mornings, learning birdcalls, watching movies—that can’t be shoehorned into a utilitarian scheme, try as you might. We do some things just for the simple sake of doing them. There’s no particular usefulness connected to them. They don’t need to be done: nobody insists, and the world’s left unchanged by our doing them or not. They enhance our intellect not one bit. …But they just might make us feel more alive, more ourselves, and that’s use enough.”
May we each embrace the permission we already have to play, and to play well—just for the sake of our alive-ness, and not for any usefulness. I know I need it. It’s a key ingredient to my rest right now.
Rest and play well, my friends.
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