Rest Is Not Optional

June 24, 2019 | Filed Under Things I Think About | No Comments

One of the things that is painfully out of balance about our current culture is that it does not value rest. We are supposed to be doing something every minute of the day, and that’s simply not healthy. Even our hunter-gatherer forebears and agrarian societies had times of rest. I read one book (don’t ask me which one, it was more than five minutes ago) that estimated the survival work averaged about 20 – 25 hours per adult each week, outside of the push at spring planting and fall harvest.

We, however, bolstered by technical advances of every kind and a theoretically higher standard of living, are supposed to be fully occupied with some damn thing or other 16 hours per day, and still somehow enjoy 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep. Given that that most 8 hour workdays are really 10 – 11 hours because of commuting, the numbers do not add up. It’s insane, and we can’t keep insisting that this is a workable norm.

We can take care of ourselves by setting boundaries on our time, and focusing on what’s truly important, and on doing only those things which are based in love, joy, and fulfillment. There are endless books, blog posts, and advice columns telling us that it’s just a matter of planning and being organized.

Right. (Most of those also feature perfectly-groomed women doing yoga on the beach, or laughing over a bowl of salad in an immaculate kitchen. Consider the source.)

The reality is that, no matter how well we manage our time, we still have only 24 hours in which to live each day—and for many of us, most of those hours are consumed by the need to work and pay for our daily existence. The struggle so many of us experience, trying to set boundaries and find that balance is, in itself, consuming our time and energy.

No matter how good our intentions, or how intense our desires for an authentic, creative life may be, we are unable to alter the fact that we have limited time each day, and many of those hours are claimed by obligations which are not optional. (Unless, of course, you are independently wealthy and can delegate everything to other people, but I don’t personally know anyone with that particular luxury.)

Be kind to yourself as you figure it out. There is no one right answer—some days, things flow effortlessly, and other days, the Universe operates with complete disregard for your plans. Do your best with what arises, and do your best to defend your quiet time, your time to do nothing, and your time to sleep.

Whichever kind of day you are having, you can take the time to stop, breathe, and decide how you will spend the next 15 minutes. You may not be able to manage the entire day, but you can manage the next 15 minutes—and that may be to unplug and be quiet, so you can deal with the 15 minutes after that.

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