Personal

Rest

Rest… if there’s one thing that’s hard to come by in our busy culture it’s this. It smacks of laziness, lack of productivity, skiving. If you’re like me, you’ve got an internal slave driver that kicks in the moment you sit down to enumerate all the undone tasks, all the ways in which you could, should, ought to be spending your time. Rest is not ever one of those.

And yet, over the past four months I’ve spent almost obscene amounts of time doing nothing. Resting, napping, sleeping, feet up at every opportunity. It’s been the only way to keep going, the only way I’ve managed to keep most of my meals down, the only way I’ve not felt constantly angry. Sometimes in the past four months I’ve felt almost normal, almost back to my usual self with boundless energy and without the slight background nausea (which is already so much better than the constant fist around my throat hauling me to the bathroom time and again the first weeks of this pregnancy before I went on medication), but along comes a stressful event and then all of that goes out of the window and I’m back to wading through treacle.

Until I rest. On Thursday, my oldest tested positive for Covid. He’s doing alright and the rest of us have tested negative so far. But as a precaution while waiting for my PCR, I cancelled my teaching commitments Friday and yesterday and skipped in-person church today. And instead I rested. Feet up, reading Lord of the Rings, insanely long lunchtime naps.

I grew up in a tightly knit, very strict Christian community where Sundays were still very much “The Lord’s Day”, a day of rest. In practice for me that mostly meant boredom. Sitting through endless services, not being allowed to do many fun things. It also meant spending time with my cousins at my grandma’s, eating her cake, having good food, going for walks, playing board games and making music with my mum and siblings.

When I got married and came to this country, Sundays got busier as there were more people. Often, we were at the receiving end of wonderful hospitality, although if we were hosting, Sundays were rarely restful. Anyway, it was a time away from work and work-related obligations.

And this is so important. Looking after my family, running my own business, there is just no let-up. My slave-driver loves shouting at me from every corner of my house. There’s always more I ought to do. The time when I can put up my feet knowing I’ve done all there is to do never comes.

The only way to shut up the internal cacophony is to do nothing. To ring-fence times where I’m not engaged in productive activities. While I’m pregnant, that means daily naps. They’re not a luxury. But it also means not doing anything business-related once I’ve finished teaching for the weekend. No emails, no creative projects, no thinking.

It also means church. And this is as unproductive as it gets. Several hours a week where I could be catching up on sleep, housework or exercise, and where instead I do… well, it’s hard to say. I could list so the activities that happen and I might even come up with some rationalisations for why they’re beneficial. Singing and socialising, for instance. Or being engaged in social projects (I’m not… I’d like to… too much else on my plate). But that misses the point. It’s more like being a compass needle that’s wildly spinning in this direction and that as I’m juggling kids and marriage, business and household and all the gazillion demands. And once a week I get to point to true North for and entire 1 1/2 hours. To a reality that’s greater than me, a reality that existed way before I did and will be there when I’ve passed on, which gives my life direction and keeps pulling me back gently but insistently when my head is spinning with balancing the books and growing a business in a pandemic, keeping a house hygienic enough to live in, feeding my family enough nutritious food with the limited time and energy I have for food prep, making sure the kids are reasonably on top of school work and instrument practice, get some exercise and don’t hang in front of screens at all hours, remember to wash their clothes (oh, and to dry them…), notice when the cereal is about to run out and that we’ve got so much toilet paper that I don’t have to order any for a couple of weeks (but then we’ll need more). All of these voices, or lesser magnets competing for my attention, they all go away for this delicious 1 1/2 hours where I am in a space with other people with equally busy lives, where we are all like compass needles pointing to true North. And that is the ultimate rest.

This weekend, my son’s Covid diagnosis meant no teaching and online church instead of going in person. Instead, I’ve rested every time I felt like it, which has been a lot. Meaning that this afternoon I actually felt like cooking us a roast dinner. I wasn’t moving through a bog or swimming upstream. And I guess that’s the reward of resting – having the energy to live well.

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