I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief .. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. Wendell Berry
When I rest .. the weekly writing prompt said. Not one I would have chosen, but my friend Diane and I were meeting after a long hiatus, and our commitment is to write to whatever prompt Laura Davis sends that week. Write where the resistance is, Laura says.
When do I ever rest? Who has time for that? Too much to do, experience, procrastinate on. From the time I was little, I had FOMO. I wanted to be awake, not just for whatever fun there was to be had, but also for the conversations. At some point early on, I learned that the most fascinating exchanges adults have are when they assume you’re in bed asleep. Somehow, my parents, at least, believed it meant I wouldn’t get up, creep around the corner and start eavesdropping.
But I digress ..
I have always been both a night owl and a whirler. Someone whose thoughts are constantly swirling. I make to do lists in my head. I worry about the worst thing that could happen in a given situation. I map out new essays, new projects, new marketing opportunities. I think about what’s ahead and everything I have to do to be ready for it.
Although I rarely get enough sleep, I used to be able to count on falling asleep quickly once I got into bed and staying asleep until my alarm went off. Jimmy’s death changed that. I spend most nights working to fall asleep, struggling for the first time in my life with insomnia. No matter how “good” I was – no alcohol, no caffeine late in the day, no sugar or chocolate just before bed, etc., nothing helped.
Worse than that, I can no longer count on falling back asleep once I wake up in the middle of the night. My brain turns on instantly, fires up and springs into action. Processing, processing, processing. Planning, anticipating, creating, fretting.
But back to the topic at hand ..
Why am I fighting this prompt so hard? Dig a little deeper ..
When I hear the word “rest” I expect it to be coupled with the word “should.”
You should get more sleep, go to bed earlier, take a break, read more, take time off, schedule more down time, meditate ..
Another rabbit hole ..
But when I do rest …
- My thoughts are clearer and I often work both more effectively and more quickly
- My body feels better in some indescribable way. Looser, more fluid, easier.
- I come to my work and my writing fresh. As if it’s new. I see mistakes, opportunities for improvement, ways around my mental roadblocks that I couldn’t find before I rested.
- The words flow more easily. The thoughts come more readily. The projects get done faster.
So how to get the should out of rest?
Perhaps it’s all in the definition. Not hearing “sleep” but instead all the other ways I recharge. Walking, being outside in nature, laying on the couch playing a word game or binging a Netflix show with Dan. Reading a good book or some beautiful poetry. Leaving work in my home office and spending the evening cooking or baking, instead of answering emails. Feeling leisurely .. about when I get up, what I do, how quickly (or slowly) I get through my ‘to do’ list. The sweet pleasure of sneaking into the bedroom to read a mystery I can’t put down or taking a little snooze while Dan and Buster hang out in the other room. Spending time with friends like my dear Diane. Pausing to listen to the whispers and seeing where they take me.