It’s raining in South Carolina this afternoon. Lawn mowers are quiet. Boats are docked. And, because it’s Sunday, there’s not even a lot of activity indoors for our family.
Our friends are either out of town or they have family in town, the summer holidays have begun. Little Bear missed his 2.5-3 hour nap this morning while in nursery, so we’re in for the afternoon while the babe sleeps. Instead of tackling a project after church, our family needs to rest. It’s a need I acknowledge but don’t embrace for I dread the silence.
Even the hum of the dishwasher stirs guilt, because it’s running half-empty and was an attempt to occupy myself for a few minutes. Crossing something off my to-do list is an adrenaline rush. No, really.
The brain is wired and conditioned to give that feeling of satisfaction for a job well done. And on busy days, those “highs” come quick and fast, leaving me exhausted and irritable around bed time. But it was a great ride, that busy day was. And it’ll happen the next day…and the day after that and after that and after that.
Work is a drug. And, so I’ve heard, over time it takes increased exposure to maintain the same adrenaline rush.
If a drug analogy is too crude, think of a roller coaster. Theme parks know that the appetite for the modern thrill seeker is almost insatiable. Yet, engineers attempt the impossible with bigger and more daring coasters each year.
You’ve heard the advice to write down each morning three things you’d like to accomplish that day? That doesn’t do it for me. My to-do lists are several pages long some days. All throughout the day, I’m crossing things off, getting that satisfaction, but then moving on quickly to the next thing because no sooner have I crossed Item A off my list, the satisfaction is fading and I’m on to the next bullet point. Ridiculous, I know.
I also know that the faster the list is completed, the higher the reward. How many things can I cross off this hour? Now, this discovery was accidental, but when you have an infant, those hours of nap time become powerhouse hours. Chug that venti coffee and put on your running shoes, because things need to get done.
I just listened to a podcast by some moms I really respect who said they count down the hours to nap time each day. It’s a time of rest for them. That boggled me. Nap time is anything but restful for mama most days. Instead, I look forward to nursing. It’s 20 minutes where I have to stop, am expected to stop, and demanded to stop. But even then, work comes with my on my phone.
So after running ragged Monday through Saturday, Sunday arrives, and I’m lost. There is no to-do list other than the essentials: make sure the family is fed and the baby napped. It’s a time that we are actively working to set aside, because we’ve tried the alternative of ignoring this holy day all together and getting back to work as soon as church lets out. That kind of long-term exhaustion is the only thing worse than the stillness of today.
Similarly, today is the first day that we are very intentionally starting another round of Whole30. Aka, no sugar. Another adrenaline rush. I had no idea how much I depend on sugar to uplift my moods. Rough afternoon? Nothing a little Ben and Jerry’s can’t fix. Except today. There is no nibble of chocolate, sip of soda, decadent spoonful of caramel coffee swirl. The temptation to cave is every so strong, yet the determination to stay the course is equally steadfast. This habit must be broken.
The same is true for rest. I want to work. Please let me draw on that second wind and open the coffee can and let me hustle until I’m exhausted. Or I can do the harder thing – sit on the couch and read. Maybe make some tea. It’s been so long that I’ve forgotten what true rest looks like. Go for a walk. Pray. Play a board game. It’s been too long.
Yet, on our wall, right across from where I am sitting, is a sign that says, “Be Still.” The irony is thick. Be still. Stop doing. Stop working. Stop crossing things off and living for the next pat on the back. Stop earning favor. Stop depending solely on yourself.
Just be. Be loved. Be accepted. Be free. Be.