Learning to Rest

The first three days of remote learning had gone relatively well. I was able to get up at 8:30 am (a feat since I am a night owl who takes morning personally). I was getting my son, Ben, online and keeping him on task. I had tackled my to do list with gusto, drawing a red line through each completed task.

That fourth morning, though, I couldn’t drag myself out of bed before 10:30 am. My husband is working from home due to the pandemic, so he was able to get Ben started on schoolwork, and I felt guilty about leaving him on the hook for that. Within ten minutes of finally getting out of bed I was on my way down a shame spiral that so often ends with me fucking around on my phone for the whole day and abandoning my plans. And once I get derailed it can take days, if not weeks to get back on track.

To put the brakes on that tailspin, I pulled out my Tarot deck. I had started pulling a card each morning as a means of meditation, but it has turned into a way to ease in the day. As I shuffle the deck I think about the upcoming day, focusing on my anxiety and reluctance. When I pull the card and look up the meaning I find it encouraging. So far I’ve managed to find a message in each card that has helped me to get over the inertia I’ve had at starting the day.

That morning I drew the Four of Swords reversed. It is a card that indicates exhaustion and burnout. I felt that so much. After three days of getting up early (for me), doing all the things–cleaning, cooking dinner, working on tutorials–and keeping Ben on task I’ve been collapsing in bed bone weary. On the plus side, my usual insomnia has been absent, but I’ve felt like I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath.

This card wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. But hearing it from an outside source, even if that source is a piece of paper, gave me permission to acknowledge my exhaustion and to do something about it. What that “something” is, though, I don’t know.

I don’t know what rest means to me. I know sleep. I love sleep. It is an acceptable escape from busyness. It is the way I deal with the low-grade tiredness I often suffer as a symptom of my depression. Sleep, however, often brings with it guilt. I struggle with questions of why I am trying to avoid my life and family through sleep. What have I done to earn rest? How can I snooze when there is work to be done? And, most vexing of all, sleep doesn’t earn any money so why do more than the bare minimum?

What I need is not more sleep, though. So what does it mean to me to rest?

Reading, maybe, if I can do so around the near constant interruptions from Ben, who is trying to navigate online learning and often needs help. Writing? It has the same obstacles as reading, and it is work, not restful. I could watch an episode or two of a show, especially if I time them during Ben’s online classes. As soon as I came up with that idea my brain pointed out that I have bins full of scraps I could turn into fabric twine while I watch … It seems that getting completely away from work is going to be a challenge for me.

It’s a challenge I am going to take up, though. I want to unlearn the workaholism that capitalism has programmed into me. To do so, I need to find my rest.

Is there a way you like to “escape” from the constant demand to be productive all the time? How do you rest? Let me know in the comments.

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