I really like “doing.” My version of rest involves running errands, volunteering, professional development, cooking, doing things around the house, and working on creative projects. Having a day off work to check off a bunch of things on my personal to-do list brings me a lot of joy.
I’m not really very good at “being.” I discovered that this week when I injured my right thumb doing one of the things I love most in the world: knitting. Unfortunately, right now knitting is one of the many things I cannot do.
I have a new appreciation for thumbs. They are surprisingly important! Not being able to use my thumb has made work difficult and also eliminated pretty much everything that I like to do in my spare time.
At first, I resisted. Against my father’s very wise advice, I made myself a homemade splint and attempted to power through my knitting project. Well, pain exists for a reason and I don’t recommend ignoring it. After making my thumb worse, I resigned myself to the inevitable. With much complaining, I headed into the long weekend, trying to adapt to a new definition of rest — one that involves doing absolutely nothing.
I was so upset about “wasting” this weekend, that I kept trying to think of new things I could do without hurting myself. But in the midst of these creative workarounds, it also occurred to me that perhaps this mandated vacation from all things productive might actually be good for me. Could it be that my thumb was trying to tell me something?
This weekend, I took two naps (my usual is zero). I chatted with my sister about decor for her new apartment. I FaceTimed with a dear friend. I hung out with my cat (obviously). I sat outside with my family and we laughed and enjoyed the sunset together. I’m not doing anything — I’m simply being.
Personalities vary widely, and my type-A, compulsive to-do list self isn’t representative of everyone. But I do believe our culture struggles with placing identity in achieving. Why do we find it so difficult to slow down and sit still? In the midst of this quarantine season, there’s a lot less for us to do than there usually is. But it seems we’re all trying to endlessly fill the voids of our normally busy lives. We’re all terrified to stop doing.
Could it be possible that merely existing is what true rest is supposed to look like? Do even the productive and fun things that we enjoy sometimes need to be paused? Is slowing down how we put aside our ambitions for the sake of ourselves and the people we love?
Because maybe in this new stillness we will discover the extraordinary, and we will realize that our worth and value are unaffected by how much we do or do not accomplish. Maybe we will find that the people we love love us unconditionally.
Maybe we will find that “being” is enough.