There’s this thing that’s intrinsic to adulting; it’s called pushing through and it always, always sucks. You know what I mean because it’s very likely that you’ve had to do it, just like me, many times this year, this month, this week, probably even this day.
This is what the world asks of us. It asks us to stay in jobs we hate, or to finish a boring project. It asks us to clean and then clean again when things inevitably get dirty. Wash, rinse, repeat. It asks us to meet obligations, save face, hold the fort and behave in certain ways. If we’re sick, we soldier on. If we’re unhappy, we lift our chin, put on a brave face and, to the best of our ability, keep going.
Most of the time, we push through in pursuit of the almighty dollar. The rest of the time, we keep going because of the way we think, perhaps driven by a sense of duty, our perceptions of what other people might think or because our inner critic tells us to.
So I want to ask you now: Could you stop? Could you stop pushing through? Would you if you had to? What would define the kind of emergency, the kind of crisis, that would allow you to just stop? Perhaps you’d stop when you went on holiday, or perhaps you’d still check email on your phone. I know I would.
Early on in the life of this blog, I talked about wanting to make the shift from a human doing to a human being. It hasn’t happened yet. I haven’t yet learned how to stop doing. Obligations animate me like a puppet. I love all of my friends, family and colleagues so much, and those puppet strings are connected straight to my heart. I get extra animated by my need to be needed. Tweak one string and I’ll be there for you.
But I’m tired. And lately I’ve found myself very unwell. I have a health condition called Hashimoto’s. It means my thyroid doesn’t function properly and that affects many of my body’s systems. Sadly, this condition has flared up again recently. It’s taken my joie de vivre and a big chunk of my brain capacity. I’m working on getting it all back, but the hardest part is admitting that I need to rest.
So I am trying to teach myself to enjoy the ‘nectar of rest.’ This article by Jo Buick in Dumbo Feather introduced me to that beautiful phrase and taught me that rest is something to savour. Buick says:
I craved rest but was trapped in a narrative around ‘unearned’ rest equating to laziness or wasted time.
The sense of laziness and wasted time that Buick mentions permeates all of my attempts to take some time out. Despite all my inner work, I still get stuck in a cycle of FOMO and to-do lists that tell me I ought to be doing something else, something better, something worthwhile.
But my health flare-up disagrees. This time, there’s no option but to rest. I fear what will happen if I push through. If I choose to dishonour my body while she cries out for rest and for nourishment, I may find the consequences more disastrous than any of my guilt about being lazy and unproductive.
I love these words from Buick:
When we actively choose rest over productivity, urgency and competition, not only are we directly countering the mechanisms of capitalism, but we are also building our capacity to hold the complexity of this time. When rested, we are more able to embody and act in alignment with our deepest values, which generates a sense of connection, ease and purpose.
Back in the 80s, the Stone Roses sang ‘Stop the world, I’m getting off’. While I probably can’t find a way to get off the planet, I do believe I can retreat, in true introvert fashion, under a rock, like this guy in the New Yorker:
I’ll report back from under the rock! May you too have the opportunity to rest when you need it, and may it taste like nectar.