“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” – John Lubbock
Rest is a word I struggle with in my life. When I think about resting, I feel I am being lazy if there is not something “wrong.” The only time I seem to rest without guilt is if I am sick or if it is bad weather outside. Living with MS makes time with sun and my health cooperating, somewhat of a rarity. If both of these conditions are in place, it is pretty much a done deal that I am going to push myself too hard. I shut off my sensor of when it is time to rest. Although I do live with a chronic condition, I feel this trait was ingrained in me well before my diagnosis. I could have written this post as a teenager before the limitations of my body were as well known as they are to me now.
I have always felt a need to not miss anything in my life. I remember as a child when my parents would have company over, I never wanted to go to bed. I wanted to make sure that I was able to witness anything that might happen. I had to be in the know. I’ve been told by my mother that when I was a baby, I never wanted to go to sleep. Seems ironic that for my whole life I have been plagued by insomnia. I still feel the need to live as full of a life as I can. I know that now that my disease has progressed, there are some things that I can no longer do. A trip to Europe is probably out due to my decreased mobility. Running a marathon is also out due to that being physically impossible for me. However, I always push myself to clean the house, tend to my garden and go on outings even if I feel exhausted. In the back of my head, I always have the feeling of “If I don’t do it now, maybe I won’t be able to later.” The more exhausted I become, the stronger the need gets to push through it to prove that I am not lazy. I really believe I am only trying to prove that to myself as I don’t think that people in my life think that way about me.
But, why does rest have to be conditional? Why can’t I rest on a sunny glorious day when I feel healthy? I think partly it is due to societal pressures. I feel like if I go out and appear to be healthy and to have fun, I must not really be that sick. It doesn’t seem to matter if I have 20 years behind me of living with MS. I have MRIs to prove the fact that I have numerous lesions in my brain and spinal column. I still feel I have something to prove and don’t want to miss out on any opportunities.
What I am starting to realize is that I am missing out on many things because I do not take the time to refuel my tank when it is low. Rest is necessary when my body needs it. If I had filled up my tank when I feel empty, when the sun is shining, I will have the energy and ability to enjoy it.
Physical rest is one part of the equation but probably not even the most relevant for me when it comes to resting. The harder aspect for me is to find mental rest. Even when my body is still, my mind is always spinning. Partially about what physical things I believe I “should” be doing. Even if it is not a physical activity, I get stuck on feeling like I should be emailing people. Spirituality is a very important part of my life. However, when I get really tired, I feel like if I am not doing something physical, I should at least be reading deep books or listening to spiritual podcasts. What my mind really needs is some trashy novel that I don’t need to think about. I can just read and be.
I have things in my life that leave me feeling refreshed and rested. Painting without following a lesson, especially doodling, brings me to that space. Listening to calming music allows me to rest and just be. When I am really being reflective, those activities are usually the first to be dropped when I am feeling overwhelmed. My plan for the present moment is to try to schedule time in for nothingness. Time to sign out from reality and not worry or plan anything. There are so many shiny things in life now that call out to us. Check your Facebook, look at instagram, what cool ideas are on pinterest? Today, now that my blog post is written, I am going to sign off and get my hands dirty in my paints. It is sunny outside today, but I need rest. Unconditionally.