As it turns out, practicing ‘rest’ is ridiculously difficult.
I’ve been waking up before my alarm lately, and not because I’m pleasantly well-rested. (I’m pretty sure my sleeping habits are a carryover from college life, or toddlerhood, or something.) I wake up when the light leaks from behind my bedroom curtain with my daily plan already cycling through my brain. My life is mapped out these days, nearly every minute accounted for.
I’ve picked up a few work projects and a part-time job (shoutout to student loans). I’ve started a few projects on the side, too, things I know I need to learn if I want to continue in my field.
It’s not all work, though. There are messages to receive, replies to send, groceries to buy, miles to run, bills to pay, people to see, household appliances to fix, words to read, things to learn. There’s always something to pay attention to.
I enjoy being busy. I like knowing I’m doing things, keeping my mind in motion, staying on my feet. I firmly believe (to the chagrin of my mother and at least half of the roommates I’ve had) that a messy desk means a full life. I look with pride on my kitchen table, piled with yesterday’s mail and tomorrow’s drafts. I also know that I tend to assign myself value according to what I do and how much I can contribute.
I spend a lot of time in my life coaching my friends and family to disengage, step away from their responsibilities and unwind. I’ve seen enough burnout to know that overworking, even doing valuable work, tears a person inside-out.
For me, the bigger problem is the niggling feeling that I should be doing something, the guilty feeling I get after I stop working for an impromptu dance party or opt to read for fun rather than research when I get home from work. It’s the voice in my head saying, “Really, you could be productive right now,” and, “You haven’t responded to that email yet, have you?” and, “After three consecutive days cereal doesn’t count as a meal,” and, “Shouldn’t you be writing?”
It’s kind of annoying.
However, all the things it’s telling me to do — they’re good things. Things I value. Who doesn’t want to excel at their career? Be accessible to friends? Have functioning kitchen appliances?
As I sketched out this blog post during a morning break (irony?), I could hear the news blaring from a television, and I scribbled something in the margin of my notebook about a story I wanted to include in today’s paper. I think — I hope — this constant awareness makes me a better editor. It makes me automatically interested in the communities around me, excited to learn more and experience more.
But sometimes it comes back to that value thing — measuring myself based on how successful I am, how timely my responses are, how much I accomplish.
How little I relax.
The voice in the back of my head saying should helps with productivity, I think. It doesn’t do much for quality of life.
Sometimes, I’m learning, I can’t rest on my own.
This week, when I went to spend time with “serious” friends and talk about “serious” things, we toured a bit of Worthington I hadn’t seen yet and then went for ice cream.
And sometimes — when I think I can get away with it — when I wake up before my alarm starts chirping, I turn it off and go back to bed. It doesn’t feel like a victory — the should voice goes crazy — but I think it might be one anyway.
Rest. It’s a lot of work.