It’s Saturday. In the midwest, Saturday is another word for game day– the highest of holy days. We worship at the altar of college football. Our fight songs are hymns to the Gods of the Astroturf. I am in the congregation most days. In my blessed scarlet and gray, I testify to the might of the Buckeyes. Today, I can’t.
I am tired. My head weighs more than the rest of me, and it’s not from drinking too much last night. Rather, I can’t move at my normal pace. I’m an energetic being. I revel in cramming my days with accomplishments, but I’m learning that the divine duty of self-care surpasses the tiny, temporary victories.
Even God got a day of rest. How do we feel exempt from that? Economics don’t allow everyone to rest. I acknowledge that. There are families who struggle to provide while working seven days a week. Even in such scarcity, everyone deserves restorative moments to themselves. Whether that is fifteen minutes of quiet, an hour with a good book, a tender talk with a trusted friend, or a lazy Sunday– everyone needs a break. I’m lucky. As a privileged, middle-class, white woman, life granted me a whole day. So why do I feel guilty? Selfish? How dare I squander these hours on myself!
The hurried pace of life is an inescapable thing. We always feel the dwindling grains of sand in the hourglass. Capitalism hinges on scarcity thinking. That is to say that we cling to narratives of everything running out, ending, in short supply, and that life is a zero-sum game. It isn’t. There’s no reward awaiting the “most productive”. If you’ve worked anywhere, you understand that your productivity is the invitation for more work. Not that such a trait is a bad thing, but it benefits the institution, not the individual. Here’s the dirty little secret: the work will always be there. The concert, childhood, people– they will not. And therefore, this productivity porn the world projects will never fulfill us.
It is possible to do good work–dare I say better work– with boundaries, at a manageable pace. I get it. A moderation/ sensibility narrative isn’t as sexy as an all-or-nothing, balls to the wall strategy (IE: every sports movie/ bio pic ever). Stories of extremity make movies. Patterns of sensibility fortify healthy lives. Because work will always be there. So will dysfunction and family drama and finances. We cannot escape our troubles, but perhaps they won’t plague us as much if we weren’t so cripplingly busy.
Of course this applies on the larger scale as well. To be a wunderkind is to be an asset. There’s this reflex to do things young and early, beating peers to it. It’s a little baffling because life isn’t a race. We get our education when time and resources find us. We fall in love when time and compatibility conspire. Families are created in a billion different fashions. We travel when money and opportunity combine. We aren’t early or late because there isn’t a timetable to this thing. Milestones arrive at different points in everyone’s lives. The only thing they have in common is that events arrive when we are ready for them.
The fetishization of busy runs rampant today. We are all sprinting at record speed to do all the things. But do all the things even have value? I volunteer for a ton of things. I stay yes to stuff I don’t want to say yes to in order to make others happy. It’s sexy to feel important– to overflow with so much stuff. To be emptied used to feel like a drain on all my importance. I prioritized my ego over my peace, over my relief, over myself. I didn’t want to ask who I was without all of my stuff. Then, the load became too heavy. Humans are not limitless. Time is not limitless. The limit is a blessing, it keeps us from straining, tells us where to stop. The wrath of the limit returned me to myself. It’s not a pretty thing to grow hectic beyond function, and I know because I’ve ruined myself at more than one age. I’d awake in pain. Stinging inhale, and my mind began the hellscape hamster wheel I rode until sleep rescued me again. Of course, in those periods, I slept for maybe 3 hours a night, and it wasn’t a guarantee I’d get to sleep the next night. Meanwhile, I ate meals running from meeting to meeting, answered messages between jobs, made time for others before myself. No wonder I felt broken. I split myself into a thousand pieces to keep everything else whole.
Honestly, I’m not sure if it was everything I acquired or my avoidance tiring– that my troubles and pain caught up with me. Busy is the best distraction. Saturating my schedule with immediacy kept my brain in survival mode. Everything demanded urgency. I was so busy with trivial items, I never had to address the unpleasant but important things. Beyond busy lurked so much pain I never touched. The problem is that denial doesn’t protect us from pain, it simply delays it. Truth and pain and and trauma– they will always await us. Procrastination is a shield with an expiration date. One of the things I aimed to shield me from was me. The me that is messy: who bleeds outside of lines and binaries, who is hurting, who has been hurt, who has been abandoned, who is stronger, who is forgiven, who didn’t need to be forgiven because it wasn’t her fault. And wouldn’t it be the ultimate act of self-love to not abandon or numb myself in difficulty? When I did meet myself– when I see myself in total complexity– I am full present. I am my own witness, companion, advocate. That’s the gift of surrendering the hurry.
My sedentary days carry no less weight than the ones when I have moved mountains. The restful days are how I gather the strength to restore my might. I rebuke this societal idea that I need to “deserve” rest. There’s no merit system for self-care. It’s literally who we maintain ourselves. Realizing this saved me from comparison– this racing internal drive to out perform everyone else. Someone else can be the more productive one. I do not want to know what boundaries were burned in that pursuit.
I get this one blazing life. It doesn’t need to be this haze of tasks, calendars, and thinking ahead. It is enough to be here– truly present in my life. I’m more grateful like this. Seated at a table, my tastebuds consider the flavors tingling atop it. Mid conversation, I marvel at my friend’s dimples, the flicker in her eyes, how the sun shifts her gaze from blue to green depending on the position of the clouds. I catch myself when some throws shade– how my lungs swell and ribs ignite in laughter–there’s too much play and not enough body. Life isn’t in the clocks, the calendars, the posts, the scales, the number of events in one day. Life is here, even in the stillness.
What’s the rush? Really, ask yourself that. Not for me, some sanctimonious twenty-something blogger who doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but for you. Because this life is wondrous. You deserve good things, Reader. Read that again. You don’t need to scarf down all your meals on the go or abandon sleep or destroy yourself to devoting a few hours to the Kardashians. Life is vast, convoluted, and hard. When the day is gentle with you, relish it. Savor it. There is no pace in this life outside your beating heart.