I could have build my home here, on the precipice of frenetic action, riding the wave of my own utter exhaustion and the meager urge of stress hormones coursing through my veins.
I could have build my home here. It was comfortable, believing that everything is an emergency. Believing, deeply, that my goodness hung in the balance of completing my ever-lengthening to do list.
I could have build my home here. I could have rushed past you in the line at the post office – Hi, how are you doing? Ugh. You know… BUSY. Yeah, I know. Ugh. It seemed that my muscles were built for piling it all on. My inner working hardwired for winding myself up to watch myself plow magnificently through the tasks at hand.
I could have build my home there. It was comfortable. It was safe. But, I didn’t. I couldn’t.
Because when, bleary eyed and wild-hearted, I poured myself another cup of caffeine, I stopped being able to realize where I ended and the task began. I was in graduate school and I felt could feel the fear brimming beneath the surface all of the time. I could feel myself believing that I had to hold myself to an unholdable standard. I told myself the lie that it all mattered more than I did, buying into the very American concept that I would rest when I retired.
But I was starting to get really, really tired. And I was only 27.
At the time, I told myself that I was stronger for it, better for it. That I could base my pride saying yes even when I should have said no, even when others said no.
I realized that I was building a life to answer the question: Hi, what do you do?
But, while I was building, I forgot how to answer other questions.
Who are you?
What do you love?
What are you delighting in right now?
I forgot because slowing down meant doing a Bad Job. And doing a Bad Job meant not being good enough.
We build our homes here, at the altar of busy.
We genuflect on our way to the office, stimulant in hand. When we tell ourselves that our worth is based on what we are able to accomplish. On how much money we have in the bank. On the car that we drive. We follow the path without questioning it, not even pausing to realize the truth that our hearts are no longer in it.
We work our fingers to the bone and we tell ourselves that it will be ok to put our needs on the back burner. We liken ourselves to machines, honing ourselves to improve our efficiency. I remember feeling cozy and at home there, in that energy, finding my place in the swinging pendulum of work to play. All or nothing. Black or white.
It was the same way that I wrote. The same way that I ate. The same way that I exercised. The same way that I did everything.
Zero to ninety. All or nothing. Rushing around until I became so overwhelmed that I truly had no idea who I was and suddenly couldn’t deny my needs any longer.
But what, I asked myself, of the slow pleasure of consistency? Could I learn how to disentangle my home on the jagged cliffs of taking pride in being busy and reassemble it on even ground? Could I learn how to know myself in glasses of water between cups of coffee? Was it possible to unfurl in the tender mercy of slowly plodding along?
The truth is, I’m a slow mover. I require legendary germination time. I need a lot of sleep.
However, when I am able to slow myself down enough to begin meeting my many needs, I am consistently surprised by how much I am able to get done.
Scrolling through my Facebook feed. Feeling self-conscious in my sleepy delirium. Second guessing myself. Scrolling again. Wondering what everyone else was doing.
When I prayed at the altar of busy, I was busy, but I wasn’t getting anything done.
When I held myself to an insurmountable standard of perfection, I got lost in the fear and exhilaration of wanting to be seen as good enough. I got lost and, instead of doing the work of shining my light in the world, I scrambled around to sign myself up to learn how to become everyone else.
The truth is, rest doesn’t come easily to me. It is something that I have taught myself, healing my burnout and overwhelm by consciously holding the container day in and day out. I (still) have to resist the urge to pile it all one. To believe that I need to earn my keep. To feel like my dreams are lining up and demanding my attention and I can’t spare even three minutes to brush my teeth.
I rest on purpose. I rest deliberately.
I rest because I choose to believe that I am worthy of a good life and, to me, a good life is more than the stress and fear and to do lists.
I rest because, I want my life to be one that I’ve chosen and not just one that has chosen me.
I rest because I require it, and talking about that openly is not a weakness.