The Art of Rest

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The Art of Rest

This is not something that comes easy to me, but some days resting needs to be a high priority. Today I’ve had swollen feet and ankles, and been tired from a couple of bad nights’ sleep. I had a little list of things to do (get a CAF number so that I can enroll Louis in childcare) and buy (sandals, a summer-weight sleep sack, muesli and bread) but decided to can the list when I realised that nothing on my list couldn’t wait till tomorrow, or Monday.

Louis and I ventured beyond our apartment briefly, to the park for an hour or so after lunch. I wrote in my journal and then read a little, between short bursts of playing with Louis. It was idyllic, sitting there in the shifting shade, the breeze keeping the heat off.

Louis was very happy, though the whole walking/running thing does mean a few rough moments are inevitable. At one point he actually flipped all the way over. He was running after the ball and went down – not at all unusual – except this time it was in such a way that his face went to the ground and his feet kept going right over his head. He has one red cheek still, but I think at the time he was mostly shocked rather than in actual pain. Calmed down within a minute and was off after the ball again.

Balls are the thing. He is, this very moment, playing with three of them, chasing them around the lounge in his wobbly toddly way. He spots every ball on every page of every children’s book we read. Anything spherical will elicit a cry of ‘baw!’ and a pudgy little pointing finger, usually pulled fresh from his mouth and therefore leaving a wet splodge on the page.

But wait on, I was saying about how I find resting difficult. That doesn’t sound right does it? Rest, surely, should be easy. That’s the thing where you do very little, you put your feet up and relax. Resting is as easy as it gets.

You’d think, right? But no, there’s always something to do. Perhaps if I cleaned and tidied the entire house, and did some writing, and organised something for dinner… all of this during Louis’ morning nap, then when he had his afternoon nap I’d be able to really rest, without anything hanging over my head, whispering ‘to-do, to-do…’

The Art of Rest is the resting you do when the to-do list is not done. You’re really an Artist of Rest when you can do this without feeling guilty, but even the Artists of Rest probably need a pen and paper hand, so that they can jot down all those little things they think of doing. At one time I used a great time management tool and scheduled in my rest-time. This was the only way I felt free to rest, un-haunted by guilt. In fact, I’d highly recommend this tool if you struggle with doing nothing. Have a look at my ‘Resources‘ page. Under the heading, ‘On Getting Stuff Done’, I’ve outlined this great tool, and yes, I’m aware of the irony of using the same tool for ‘getting stuff done’ and in order to aid rest – by definition, not getting anything done.

I find rest easier now than I used to. Perhaps because I feel I have a good excuse – poor sleep habits, pregnancy, an energetic toddler… But everyone needs rest. Everyone needs downtime, alone, doing nothing. Few people, perhaps, get rest. Busyness is bandied about as a virtue and we tend to use the technology that makes life more efficient, not to make more time for rest, but to make the most of our time and to DO MORE. We tend to be proud of our busyness, as if being busy proves we are important, valuable members of society. We tend to be martyrs for busyness, complaining about it oh-so-graciously, as if we have no say in the matter.

There are people who have to work multiple jobs and ridiculous hours just to keep themselves and their families from starvation, but I am not one of them. I doubt anyone who reads this blog is. We all make choices and, consciously or not, we tend to choose busyness.

One of my aspirations is to be a restful person; to choose rest. That’s not to say I choose laziness or that I don’t also aspire to work hard, to be productive and to grow and progress… But I also choose to rest.

Practicing the Art of Rest