The alternate title to this series could have been “coming back from burnout: a journey harder than climbing up a mountain in a rainstorm.” Though I decided against this lengthy title, the sentiment is still there. Learning to receive the gift of rest has not been easy.
By rest, I don’t just mean sleep, but that is a part of it. I spent months where I couldn’t sleep. I would wake up every couple of hours in complete terror. I would wake up before my alarm with my heart racing. All I wanted was to go to sleep, but night would come and sleep would evade me.
I made choices. Circumstances changed. I could sleep through the night again. There was a time where I was needing 11-12 hours of sleep a day. This wasn’t the sleep of depression, where I didn’t have the desire to get out of bed or face the world. I know that type of sleep as well. This was different. I could go to bed and wake up 12 hours later feeling rested and ready for the day.
Before I could begin to receive anything else, I had to be able to rest. I was exhausted. The gift of being able to sleep was the gift of peace. Deep in my soul, I knew I was safe. I could rest without fear. While I was resting, God was working in my mind and body.
It was a battle to continue to rest and though I am no longer sleeping 12 hours a day, it remains a battle. I want to be “better” and be able to go back to a happily busy schedule. In a culture where everyone seems to be in a perpetual state of busyness, it is easy to face shame because of how little I can accomplish in a day. It feels selfish to need so much time for rest. Yet, accepting this time of focused rest as a gift from God has been incredibly freeing.
Rest has meant more than sleep. It has meant more than sitting on the couch all day and watching Netflix— though both have been a part of resting.
Rest has meant long-distance running. Sitting in silence with a hot cup of coffee. Laughing with friends. Time in the sunshine. Reading children’s literature for fun. Lighting candles. Finding places to sit and people watch. Standing in the ocean and feeling the waves.
This season of rest has been a gift. It is not a gift I want to give up. Eventually, I will recover. I will not need the additional rest to allow me to regain strength and health. Even then, I will still need rest. Rest has come with peace and freedom and joy. The number of things I can check of a to-do list may be smaller, but when all is said and done I would choose peace and joy over an impressive to-do list.
I am learning to see this time for what it is – a gift and a time of shifting my goals and priorities into something life-giving and sustainable.