On Sunday, in a quiet elementary school cafetorium, Travis nudged us to think about this summer. To question what rest, actual rest, looks like for us. Not unwinding, but real rest, the kind that recharges and restores.
Since I’m a person who needs to unpack things one step at a time, a big part of figuring out what rest is for me is figuring out what rest is not. Surprisingly, in a way that’s not actually surprising at all, most of the things that I know are NOT rest for me are things I do constantly and try to pass them off as rest.
Rest is not marathoning TV shows or movies. I get into this habit all the time, because it is just so very easy and mindless. It always feels good while it’s happening, but afterward, I don’t feel recharged or better. I either feel exactly the same or worse, as though I’m wasting large chunks of my life on something that has literally no value to me, which I am. Let’s call it what it is.
Rest is not consistent screen-time. And I don’t ever really feel that until I feel it, and by the time I feel it, I feel it heavy. There is little to no transition time between “I’m fine” and “I am FREAKING OUT” on this one. I’m trying to learn my internal cues on this one, the small reactions that lead up to the big meltdown, because I know they exist. Sometimes it just feels as though over time, staring at a screen numbs me down until I’m not even aware of my own thoughts or feelings until they’re huge. Until the very sound of my text message tone makes me cringe and consider throwing my iPhone out the nearest two-story window.
Rest is not going and going and going. It is not constant doing, constant plans, constant activity. Rest is not chaos. I remember days when that worked, when that felt right, when it didn’t feel exhausting. But these days are not those, this much I know. I am a girl who used to seek the chaos, but has come to love the quiet, and to find herself there.
Rest also is not full days without people and interction. I need short stretches of alone time often, but too long and I get fidgety and weird. And not in a good way. I thrive on community and conversation and laughter and stories and shared memories.
Rest isn’t any of those extremes for me. The older I get, the more I understand that rest, for me, often doesn’t feel like “rest” in the moment. Especially at first. Most often, the things that recharge me actually feels like work in the beginning. I have to talk myself into them, to remind myself that life and breath are found in them.
Rest, for me, requires the space and quiet to think my thoughts without throwing any more of them into the mix. It hinges next on the output of information, spoken or written. I sometimes feel as though I’m always taking in information. Input, input, input. Although input isn’t a bad thing, my brain isn’t one that naturally releases information. It’s like it just hangs out in my brain until I consciously drag it out. I remember conversations, books, blogs, quotes, moments. It all sticks around, it all feels valuable. And sometimes my head is just so very full. Like lungs that only ever breathe in, only ever expand, only every fill up.
I am only just learning how to exhale, or even that I need to. I am only just learning that breathing out comes in seasons, like the rest of life. Seasons of solitude, seasons of community, seasons of quiet, seasons of letting the words fall out. I am only just learning how to let the seasons come and go as they may, without grasping at their coming and going.