Relearning How To Rest

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Over the last few years whenever I’ve gone away to take a break, I’ve taken all kinds of work to do with me. Last week was no exception. Bill and I spent four nights in one of our favorite places listening to waves rushing the shore, watching Pelicans flying overhead and eating delicious seafood. I had my to-do list with me. I planned on getting ahead by writing a few blog posts in advance, and catch up on reading the blog posts of those I follow and haven’t had time to get to in a few weeks. There were also a host of things on my computer desktop that I needed to file away.

The first day went by and I didn’t get any of that done. The day was dark, with rain showers, and very humid. The famous Outer Banks Midgies, small, gross, flying insects, were everywhere. They don’t bite but they arrive on days when there is a land breeze. When the wind shifts to an ocean breeze they quickly find shelter elsewhere. I’m not one of those people who absolutely hates insects freaking out when I see a spider or stinkbug coming my way, but these guys really got to me. At one point there were so many of them on the screen doors to our deck, that they obstructed our view of the ocean. And they covered almost every square inch of the deck chairs. Really! I took a brief walk on the beach, did some reading, and slept. We went out to dinner and tucked ourselves in early.

It’s been a crazy few months at our house with Bill’s hugely successful production of Death of a Salesman, my unsuccessful attempt to clean out my studio, and figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I’d really been looking forward to getting away … no phones ringing, no meals to cook, no place to be. But I felt restless. I didn’t feel like doing anything, yet part of me wanted to be busy. I wasn’t interested in doing any of the things on my to-do list or doing much of anything else either. I read some more, watched some of the daily insanity on cable news, and slept.

On day two I was still restless. Over the last few years while I was engaged in getting my book ready for publication there was always something that had to be done, keeping me from spending time simply being. When I did take a nap, or sit in the garden and to simply enjoy the day, I felt guilty and overwhelmed by what was waiting to be done. Back to work I’d go.

Over the last year, especially, I’ve found myself longing for time to just be without a list of things I had to accomplish. And there I was last week at the beach, suddenly realizing that I was there to just BE … to REST … and to let the world take care of itself without my needing to help. I had forgotten how important it is to have days when I don’t have to do anything. And I’d forgotten how to do that.

In this strange world we’re living in we rush around hoping to get what we need to do done and living in angst over where this country of ours is going. For many of us self-care flies out the window and we forget that in order to help bring about the change we want to see in our world, we need to slow down and really, really rest. We can’t help bring about that change unless we take care of ourselves first. I’m taking time for that now. Are you?


  1. Oh Joan, you have captured that eternal human struggle — how to just be and let go of the doing, the fixing, the tinkering. It’s not easy. Congrats on finding your way. It sounds like a delightful get away. And congrats to Bill on Death of a Salesman.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Thank you, Janet. It isn’t easy and I find that I need constant reminders to keep me from joining in the storm around me.

  2. Yes. Yes. Yes. Excellent post, Joan, and I’m certain most of us can identify. Your post resonates with some reading I’ve been doing about the need–and great value of–solitude, silence, and being still. I am in a season of being intentional about making time for these things too.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Linda, thanks so much. I’ve been reading your own blog posts and watching that happen. Your words are great reminders to keep it simple and restful. You are one of those who reminds me to stay the course.

  3. Sara Howlett says:

    Thanks for your words, a good reminder for me right now. We miss the beach & some of the serenity of being able to go there fairly often. Glad Bill’s play went so well.

    • Thanks, Sara. I wish we could get there more often as well. I won’t go near the place in the summer, but come fall we will probably go again.

  4. Joan — Your recent getaway sounds wonderful. Len and I are heading to Yakima, Washington for a four-day getaway and I plan to sit like a bump on a log (with a good book).

  5. Laurie, Our getaway was great and I’m feeling pretty grounded right now. The ocean does that for me. Have a wonderful time being a bump on a log!

  6. So glad you stayed at the beach long enough to get to that place of deep rest we all crave whether we know it or not, Joan.

    I wrote about the difference between a full life and a busy one last week. I wasn’t at the beach, so the rhythms were different, but ultimately we are both seekers learning to rest. Thanks for the good reminder.