In Pursuit of Rest
[Originally published in the Simple Parenting Column by The Dispatch]
“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” ~ Gandhi
Recently, I dedicated 20 hours of travel, a few thousand dollars, and over six thousand miles of distance to ensure some rest for my soul. After recovering from a full day of travel and jet lag, I took an old-fashioned paper map, my little French car, and drove myself to the west coast of Ireland. I had no signal, no internet, no connection to anyone, and no one was with me.
I could barely remember the last time I spent more than 24 hours alone. Hell, I could barely remember the last time I spent more than 12 hours alone. Being a mother of two small children, ages two and four, as well as an entrepreneur, means I’m always on: on it, on call, on top of things, there to help, there to clean up, there to pick up, there to give, but hardly am I there for myself in the way that I need.
I let myself get lost walking around a beautiful coastal village. Everything came to life: the movement of the grass, the sound of cows in the background, the sway of a horse’s tail, the buzz of mayflies, the scent of wildflowers, the sensation of the sea in the air, my own thoughts—nature’s fine details seemed so much brighter once my phone was put away and dimmed from my mind. I even took a film camera so I wouldn’t get distracted by the small convenience of a digital camera or my phone.
For a time I forgot that I was a mother, an artist, a business owner. For a moment in time, I just existed. Time went along slowly, matching the sunset that tends to last for hours during early summer in Ireland. As I found my way to some hidden coastal walk along part of the cliffs of Moher, I felt rested and full—honestly, two things that the rhythm of my life back home had not given me. I was exhausted in ways I couldn’t even express until I had experienced the rest I needed, in comparison.
Our culture likes to impress upon us that happiness is the ultimate pursuit, but it sure as hell doesn’t come free—so what is the cost?
Wayne Muller, author of Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives writes,
“When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest—we are on wartime, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: no living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms.”
I laid upon the highest point of this cliff, reading those words and thinking to myself. As I rested there longer I realized, perhaps for the first time, just how tired I was. Not just physically tired but soul-tired. Tired of being on war-time, tired of the over-stimulation in life, tired of the endless pursuit, tired of the lie in our culture, tired of hiding grief, just tired. I need rest—and not just once a year. I need it daily. I don’t need to spend a ton of money or travel the world to find it. It is offered to me every day: a gift, seldom taken.
It was the time I took in nature to rest that made me see how full I already was, that just maybe what I really needed was time to sit in gratitude. There is nothing more in my life that I truly need except for rest and the time to say thank you.
It doesn’t have to take a trip across the world or thousands of dollars to accept the gift of rest that nature continuously has to offer. It is offered to us for free, every day. I think it is a matter beginning a conversation, first with ourselves, then with those around us, including our children. What if our pursuit in life was fullness and rest? What would that look like? What things would change? What type of rhythms do we need to be the best versions of ourselves? What type of rhythm do our children need to keep the balance of rest and play?
As we become brave by asking the hard questions, we invite awareness into our lives, and ultimately into the lives of our children. We model how to live and how to rest. At some level, what is important to us becomes what is important to them. As you explore what it is you need to be the best you in this world, I implore you to look to nature, where rest and solitude wait for you.