I used to worry that I would never feel fully rested. And now, as an adult (one who is hoping to be a mom someday), I see that this is not something to worry about so much as it is an impending, inevitable reality.
And for the first time, I’m not afraid of that reality.
But first, let me back up a bit and tell you about the last 6 years of my life. (It’s the short version, I promise).
Since I graduated from college, my life has been bursting-at-the-seams full, sometimes in beautiful and joyful ways, and other times in death-crawl-toward-the-finish-line ways. I joined Teach For America right out of college and spent my first three years of teaching and professional life just trying to survive. During my first year of teaching, I consistently worked 70+ hour weeks, and over each subsequent year I was able to reduce my hours a little more and a little more. I was involved in my church, participating in a weekly Bible study, trying to maintain a healthy balance by going out to dinners and coffees and parties with lots of friends. But meanwhile, what I really needed was 1) time to sleep, 2) time to read, and 3) time to be silent. School breaks would refuel me just enough to make it to the next one, and so on.
After that, I joined staff at TFA, which was, at first, a welcome break from the routine of teaching. Even still, I brought my work home with me constantly, if not on my computer, then absolutely in my mood, my attitude, the way I would snap so quickly at Dan. Eventually the emotional and mental energy required of the job I was doing was enough to leave me haggard and cynical, wondering if I’d ever find work I enjoyed and that wouldn’t rule the rest of my life.
Side note: don’t get me wrong. I think Teach For America is doing good, necessary work. It just wasn’t the right fit for me.
When I decided to leave my job in education and pursue publishing, I took an internship before landing a full-time job, where I worked 30 hours per week while also waiting tables for another 30 hours per week. When I finally landed a full-time, 40-hour week (firmly capped!) job, I nearly passed out from the joy and exhaustion of it all. And joy of all joys, it’s work that fills me with life.
For the first 3 months of this job, I worked, came home, watched TV with Dan, read for countless hours on the weekends, and avoided all people except Dan and my mom. Of course I attended perfunctory events, but not for longer than I absolutely had to. I was lazy. At times, I was selfish. I put my needs first. Perhaps I should have done things differently, but the chaos of the previous 6 years had caught up with me and wrestled me firmly to the ground (or should I say, the couch), pinning my chest down so I couldn’t move. When I finally had that crushing weight off my chest, I didn’t want to jump up and start running around again. All I could do was lay there and try to catch my breath.
I still deeply loved all my friends and family and church people. But I really, deeply needed that rest. I had to quit trying so hard all the time, and I had to do it cold turkey.
I’ve shared this with you before, but I am deeply introverted. A little shy. Kind of awkward. Hater of small talk. Valuer of silence and solitude and thought. And for the past 6 years, I’ve given myself almost no time at all to recharge. My jobs have always been about people—talking to 30 tiny humans all day, coaching 20 teachers, attending meetings and brainstorming sessions and leadership groups—and I’ve filled my extra time with more people and more events and more talking. I needed to stop talking for a while. I needed to listen to my own soul, to God’s words, to silence.
And occasionally to 8 solid hours of Rory and Lorelai’s witty banter.
One afternoon not too long ago, having read about 10 books in 2 months, blown through numerous series on Netflix, and exhausted my movie collection, I declared to myself, I’m bored. Which also meant, I’m finally ready for a new challenge.
I’m rested. No, I haven’t slept well this week, but I’m rested. My soul, my mind, my spirit—they are finally moving at an appropriate rhythm. I’m no longer hurried or harried, not frenzied or frantic. Just . . . rested. Those quiet months were a sabbatical of sorts, and now I’m ready to slowly re-enter the realm of people.
So here I go, one step at a time. Launch the blog. Grab a drink with a friend. Go out on a date with Dan. Talk with him instead of sitting side-by-side watching TV every night. Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep praying. Keep finding silent spaces.
And most importantly, don’t fill up the empty spaces so much that they all get consumed by people and shrouded by thoughts of work or what I should be doing.
These last few months have been beautifully restoring, but I hope I won’t need a stretch like this again. I don’t want to yo-yo diet my way through life. Too full or too empty. No people ever or all the people, all the time. Only no or only yes.
This is why I care so much about simplicity, about living in line with who God created me to be and in line with what Dan and I really value. It helps me maintain balance instead of losing it and fighting for it and then losing it again. It allows me to say no the things that don’t fit, and a resounding, whole-hearted, not-begrudging yes to the things that truly matter.
The truth is we were made for work, for creativity, for challenges. If I’m using my talents for the good of others and for the good of the Kingdom, I should feel tired. But there’s a critical (and sometimes subtle) difference between hanging-by-a-thread exhausted and I-did-good-work-today tired. I may never be fully rested, and I may always be a little tired—but instead running myself ragged doing all the things I think I should do or all the things someone else wants me to do, I’m going to let myself be good tired by the things that draw me closer to the Lord and help me live out His purposes for me.
So now it’s your turn: What is that thing is your life that is depleting you of time and energy? How can you take a step to let it go? What is a life-giving activity you could replace it with? (Hint: Replace it with the thing you’re always wishing you had more time for—your husband, your child, writing, reading, exercising, cooking, knitting, gardening, painting. Pick one and go for it. Slowly.)