Learning to Rest and Play


 
"You don't need to be busy. You don't need to justify your existence in terms of productivity. Rest is an essential part of survival. An essential part of us." ~ author Matt Haig, The Comfort Book

In my book, Alphabet of Faith, there is a reflection about rest. This quote by British author Matt Haig is included in that reflection and I've been thinking about it, and about rest in general, over the last couple of days.

Early in May, after a couple of book ideas hit me with the kind of energy I've learned not to ignore, I declared this summer the "summer of creativity". I would not make any plans for this summer; I would only work on three writing projects. And garden. Write in the morning, and garden in the afternoon. A very simple plan. 

Then the puppy arrived at the end of June, and that plan fell apart. The summer of creativity was postponed. After the first week, as we adjusted to life with a puppy, I started to get panicky. I have book projects to work on! It's almost the middle of July and I haven't started anything yet! How would I get anything done with all our attention focused on the puppy?

When we reached the actual mid-point of July and I hadn't started anything, I remembered the most important word: ACCEPTANCE. The only way to cope with any situation is acceptance. It is better to go with the flow than exhaust yourself trying to swim against the current. So, rather than resent the decision to get a puppy, rather than stay awake at night worrying, I took a deep breath in and accepted that we wanted her and now we have her, she's a delight and this is fun. I took a deep breath in and accepted that the writing projects will begin once we settle into life with a puppy. 
They will get done. This "getting to know you" period wouldn't be as intense in a week or two. 
And all of a sudden, with the healing power of acceptance, I felt calmer and happier. Suddenly, an epiphany (I LOVE those!): the past two weeks with this puppy have slowed me and my living right down in the best possible way. 

In a way I haven't experienced in at least three years of hustling three jobs, of being busy all the time. 

Because we wanted to get to know our puppy, because I don't have to teach this summer, and because neither my husband nor I have working air conditioning in our vehicles (!), we've been hanging out at home and hanging out with the puppy. Because Rosie is the runt of a big litter of ten, we want to get her weight up and get her growing, so we've been feeding her lots of good food, food that I prepare three times a day. Cooking, chopping, mixing, even serving slowly because we don't want her to rush her food. 
In the mornings, after my walk and after the cats and pup are fed, I drink a cup of coffee while we wander the lane. Waiting for Rosie to piddle and poop means I get to say good morning to the wild hares eating clover, I get to watch the young ravens learn from their parents as they fly overhead.  
In the evenings, I water the plants while the puppy "helps" and waits by the raised bed where the strawberries are growing for her red berry treat. 
We all sleep together in the big bed, her little snores mingling with my husband's loud snores. Not great for sleeping but still... 

Not rushing. Just resting. 
And it turns out, when your days revolve around taking the puppy out a couple of times an hour for a piddle and a poop, and tiring her out with play so that she naps frequently, time slows down. It's very restful and relaxing and 
just what I needed. 

Just what we all need. No rushing, no hurrying, no being "too busy". Just taking the time to be still. 

Sociologist and author Brene Brown said, "It takes courage to say Yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol."

Perhaps this is the real "work" I need to do before the creativity can begin. Perhaps this is the resting and relaxing that needs to happen in order to prepare me for the sitting and thinking and creating. Being with the puppy, being on her schedule, being focused on her needs for the past two weeks has given my brain and my nervous system a break -- a rest -- as I've spent the time being watchful and playful, being still and quiet, being focused on something other than myself, my plans, my thoughts. 

It's an unexpected lesson in understanding why we can't be busy all the time, and how the activities that seem to be the least important are often the most essential. 


~ SJ


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