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Learning How To Rest

Oxford dictionaries define rest as “ceasing work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength”. This sounds easy right? WRONG. I am amazed at how difficult it is to simply REST. Turn off the brain, set aside the to-do lists, and stop checking (and answering) email. I’ve discovered that I need to learn how to rest.

I have to learn this because I’ve been conditioned to do and to produce. In fact, my self-worth and identity are intricately connected to my ability to produce SOMETHING. That something ranges based upon the situation at hand. It could be solving others’ problems, planning and programming events, helping those less fortunate, or facilitating training/workshops. DOING SOMETHING is a given in my world. Those who do nothing are lazy, shiftless, unambitious, unemployed, and essentially FAILURES!

In my middle-class, highly educated mind this is UNACCEPTABLE! In addition to the social context I find myself in, I happen to hail from a historical context that deems this type of behavior as suboptimal. Since landing on this continent, black women have been the backbone of the American society. Raising children, keeping homes, cooking meals, and working in the fields. From sun up to sun down black women “worked” on plantations and then went home and took care of their own families. From the horror of families displaced and split apart, to the “strong black women” mantra of the present, historically black women are EXPECTED to be all things to all people.

Along with this societal and historical context, I happen to have a personality that likes to be needed. In fact I thrive in atmospheres where multiple people are pulling me in multiple directions. So, what does all of this say about me (besides the possible need for a therapist)? It equals a person who has to LEARN what it means to rest.

To help with this, I intentionally put a few things in place. Took a year off work – Check. Traveled out of the country – check. Minimized distractions with limited mobility – check. But, my BRAIN just wouldn’t SHUT UP!

Here’s what I’m learning about rest:

  1. Sometimes, it just takes time. Time to unplug. Time to unwind. I’m slowly checking my email less and less. I took a nap yesterday and decided to minimize my time on social media. I just finished an entire Netflix series. Time heals.
  2. Nature is my friend. Taking walks, staring at the ocean, listening to the roosters’ cock-a-doodle-do every morning. These things are becoming the new rhythm in my life. Soaking up the sun and breathing in the clean ocean air energizes my soul.
  3. Monitoring screen time. If there is one thing that I never realized about my online habits is that the more you click, the more you want to click. I go online to check email and end up shopping at DSW because I got an email advertising a sale. Then, I have to compare prices at Macy’s and end up on Pinterest because I’m trying to figure out the best outfit to pair the shoes with that I just purchased. An hour later and I haven’t finished checking emails! So, I gave myself a screen time curfew. We’ll see how it works.
  4. Don’t set alarms and resist the urge to watch the clock. The beautiful thing about resting is that you lose track of time. Time doesn’t drive you. You step outside of it and just BE. I haven’t set an alarm the entire week. The first few days my body woke up at its normal time. I’m still working on “sleeping in”. I haven’t been able to sleep past 8 am without making myself lay there and go back to sleep yet. But . . . I’m learning.

I’ve been in Grand Cayman for one week now. Island culture is laid back. No one is in a hurry here. The people are friendly and welcoming. The food, the ocean, and the sun are all conducive to “relaxing and refreshing”. I’m slowly leaning into the bosom of rest. I haven’t written any lists in a couple of days. I’m down to only checking emails a few times a day. I’m learning. It’s a process, but I’m learning how to rest. I’d love to hear how you turn off and enter into deep rest?

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