July 22, 2021

Redefining Rest (Hint: it’s not Failure).

“I am so f*cking tired,” I thought to myself after a brutal migraine left my brain in a fog for days in that yucky post-headache hangover haze.

After struggling with two migraines in the last three weeks, my heart sincerely goes out to folks who suffer with this sh*t. It is miserable.

Yet, despite my body feeling like rusting, warped metal, resting seemed somehow out of the question.

This is not unfamiliar to me. When I feel collapsed, sick, and exhausted, here’s my go-to thinking: I can push through. I can keep going.

I mean, how many times in my life have I felt oh-so-proud of myself for those very things?

And yes, there are absolutely times in life where we must warrior through with pure grit and determination. Times when we don’t have a choice.

But sometimes…we do have a choice. So, can we not? Can we honor the weariness in our bones and restore ourselves instead?

If I’m really, really honest — somewhere in my brain and nervous system, rest means failure. Rest feels scary. Vulnerable. Like I’m falling behind.

Now, it’s not a giant mystery how I got these messages — just look around at our American society.

We use caffeine to keep us going, going, going, schedule our calendars to overflowing, and as Brené Brown says, we use exhaustion as a badge of honor.

Look at me, I’m busy! Look at me, I’m so productive!

It stings a little as I see how much this stuff seeps into my body and brain.

Often, I have to remind myself  that  this is not a sustainable way to live. As the world opens up again and I am lucky enough to be vaccinated, I am having some reentry shock. Resting was way easier when everything was closed and I felt less pressure to do so much, to accomplish at breakneck speeds. Maybe it sounds selfish, but that slower pace is one thing I deeply appreciated this last year.

Because normally, like many of us, I feel like I have to do a million things to be worthy. I forget that we are are all born worthy. Worthy of love, joy, sweetness, magic, and care. Yes, we can learn skills, advance in our careers, and deep dive into cool ideas, but worthiness is not ever something we have to earn.

So easy to say. So hard to remember.

Cause I just know that this whole worthiness thing is deeply tied into the tension I feel when I try to rest. My nervous system ping-pongs to life in a mild fight-or-flight state and offers me a large buffet—all the things I could be doing. If only I weren’t being unproductive and lazy. How selfish! What a waste of time! What will people think of me!?

Reality check: what a painful way to exist. Yet, so many of us exist exactly this way — on fumes, filling our bodies with coffee to keep moving forward, as though we are meant to be Energizer bunnies instead of human beings who require rest and balance and play.

What are we even moving forward toward? 

More money. More success. More house. More achievements. More likes on Facebook. More, more, more.

We live for more without stopping to appreciate what we have.

We get so caught up in moving frantically forward that we forget we can slow the f*ck down, look around, and feel a moment whisper to us through tall pine trees and warm, humid air.

We forget the absolute wonder in a hug, a cup of tea, an awkward chuckle, a snuggle with our cat.

In these slow-motion moments, we can feel gratitude with our entire beings.

Recently, each evening, I’ve been naming two things I’m grateful for. This is not a glamorous practice by any means; sometimes I just recall a few sweet moments from the day when I am peeing or brushing my teeth before bed. But I like how this practice soothes my nervous system and allows me to relive and viscerally remember the little moments that made me smile, savoring them as snapshots and extracting joy from them even after they’re over.

It anchors my system into a more relaxed place. Sometimes…it even—gasp!—helps me get to a place of allowing rest.

I have always cringed at gratitude practices; they seemed shallow or silly or fake.

But so far, I really like how it’s helping me look less into the future—you know, like we all often do—for that magic moment when everything suddenly becomes perfect and we’ve got it all figured out.

Well, we’re gonna be waiting a long ass time for that!

Because we are messy. Life is messy, often beautiful, and sometimes so hard. Gratitude doesn’t mean we gloss over the tough stuff, but that we also don’t forget to notice the sweetness of life pulsing around us.

I want to notice this more. I want to soak it in.

I like how gratitude is helping me make peace with life. With my messy, imperfect self. I’m excited to expand on this practice and more than anything, just sink into it. For me, this seems inextricably linked with untangling some of those tough messages around rest and productivity.

I will probably always be a striver. I like to push myself, clarify goals, meet challenges, help others, and work hard.

That is all well and good…but it’s gotta be balanced with equal parts rest and gratitude. Otherwise, burnout looms around the corner like a thunderstorm prickling in the air. Otherwise, I am constantly looking for more—more self-improvement, more accomplishments—having long forgotten that I’ve already worked for nine hours and really, I could just chill out.

Now, repeat after me : rest is not a waste of time. Rest is not failure. Rest is not lazy.

It is just balance.

Let’s redefine rest.

Rest is necessary. Rest is gratitude. Rest is powerful. Rest is loving. Rest is productive, in an entirely different way. Rest is nourishing. Rest is compassionate. Rest is sensual. Rest is sweet. Rest is a foundation for our wellness.

And just to tuck a little something extra into our pockets because damn, I know I always need to hear it—we are enough. Exactly as we are.


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