Radiance & Resonance
Information and Advice for Improving your Life and Relationships
By Karissa Lightsmith
Honoring rest : it’s more than okay if you haven’t learned a new language, started cooking healthier than ever, lost five pounds, and mastered guitar during quarantine
The insidious message that productivity = self-worth
As members of a capitalist society, we are sent a clear message every day - are as valuable as what we produce. While we are capable of producing incredible art, work, food, and more, there is a problem with this narrative. Our self-worth has nothing to do with what we do.
Yep, that’s right. Even if you didn’t eat as healthily as you meant to today, rock homeschooling your kiddos, or fit in that 3 minutes language learning app, you are still a good-to-the-core human who is worthy of respect and love.
One might think, in the midst of an unprecedented (not even my great-grandma lived through anything like this) and uncertain (even the epidemiologists each have different ideas!) time, society at large might finally give us a little permission to sleep in, eat a sweet, or feel big feels for a day. Instead, we are bombarded with well-meant advice, Instagram suggestions, and picture perfect advertisements that say: Stay busy! Keep improving! Be more perfect!
Our society tells us rest isn’t okay. We are told ‘peak performance’ is the only acceptable state. Comparing and competing are happening even in social isolation. Our society has a revulsion towards rest and laying to rest.
Do you stay up later than you mean to more often than not? Do you wonder why births are celebrated, youth and fitness honored, yet aging is ‘taboo’? Do you notice a to-do list floats into your head while you’re still in bed and you fall asleep realizing what you didn’t get done? These are just a few examples of anti-rest / pro-production sentiment permeating our daily lives.
If you have ever baked a loaf of bread, you’ll know that the dough needs to proof, or rest, before it can become an air-filled wonder of hot homemade goodness. If you continuously knead the bread, you will break the gluten and be left with a brick. What if rest, endings, good-byes, and even death were accepted as a part of the cycle of all things? What if each part was not any better or any worse than any other part? What would it be like to know you were ‘accomplishing just as much’ when you napped as when you ‘pushed it hard’ and went running? What if taking time to feel your many feelings all afternoon was exactly what you ‘needed to get done’ even though you could have repainted the kitchen?
Far different from the wild pendulating between rebellious indulgence and pushing to be perfect, accepting a rhythmic cycle of activity and rest honors the juicy and challenging parts of each phase. Each part needs to happen. We don’t need to speed up or slow down any of them. All parts of the cycle happen again and again. We gain ease and energy by allowing ourselves to rest our bodies, let go of thoughts that no longer serve us, say ‘no’ to adding one more thing, or close projects that take without giving back. We are most productive, creative, and ready when we bring ease and energy to the task at hand.
What it could look like
“Okay,” you may be saying, “but how do I reclaim rest when the voices inside and outside of me say I’m not doing enough?” Here are a couple concrete ideas to get you started on reclaiming your rest, but ultimately, you decide what feels right and serves you. If these ideas don’t make sense to you, lay them to rest!
Separate yourself from the label
If notice yourself having thoughts about being a ‘bad person,’ ‘failure,’ ‘bad partner,’ or any other label:
Notice the label that comes up and what it’s attached to
“I feel like I’m a bad mom because I didn’t order her a new pair of shoes today.”
“I think I’m a bad partner because I do not want to sit and talk to you all afternoon.”
Notice and name any emotions present
“I am disappointed that I didn’t order those shoes today.”
“I am annoyed that my partner wants my attention when I need to work.”
Validate the emotion
“It makes sense I’m disappointed because her current shoes seem to be pinching her toes and I care about the comfort and feelings of my child.”
“It makes sense i am annoyed because I love my partner and I don’t want them to be upset at me... and I need to get work done.”
Notice if you are able to sense any space between you and the label
“I did not get as much done as I wanted to today and it doesn’t have to mean I am a bad mom.”
“My partner and I had a disagreement and it doesn’t have to mean I am a bad partner.”
Release it altogether
If you experience dissatisfaction or guilt when you think of your day:
1.Notice what seems to be missing for you.
2.Write or draw it on a small piece of paper.
3.Put that paper in a tupperware, jar, or box.
4.Know your container will hold this task, hope, or fear for you until you want to access it.
5.If a thought comes up about what you wrote on the paper, imagine gently tucking that thought into the container as well.
6.You could take the paper out in the morning, or in a month, or leave it there. You can even burn or recycle some papers if your container seems full.A closing wish
What if this was a time when getting as many things done as possible wasn’t the most important practice we could engage in?
What if creativity, activity, and rest were all welcome during this time?
I hope these questions and concrete ideas invite you to practice laying to rest societal beliefs that your worth as a person is defined by your productivity.