Today we poured coffee, split macaroons to try each flavor, and talked about rest.
: to stop doing work or an activity : to spend time relaxing, sleeping, or doing nothing after you have been active or doing work
: to give rest to (someone)
: to stop using (something) so that it can become strong again
I use myself up until there is no strength. I love to be strong, so why isn't rest appealing to me? Because I don't recognize it as necessary, as beautiful, as good. Growing up in a culture that asks, "What do you do?" has made me believe that's all I'm worth.
"What do you do?"
These are the four most discouraging words I know on days that I've been less productive. A day for tea and coffee is a sweet ceremony in some cultures, but not in mine. It's not fair. I like pastries and long afternoons, too! Why can't I have it? "Because you haven't done enough today. You don't deserve it." Whether you're a college student, a career woman, a stay-at-home mom, a high-schooler, or middle-schooler you've felt that pressure. I can't remember a time when I didn't. I can't think of a time when my performance wasn't my measuring stick for "how good" I was. I hope it isn't the same for you, but odds are you know exactly what I'm talking about.
I love to work, but not when it costs my family, my friends, and myself. The joys of my heart are so often neglected that last night I'd almost forgotten what they are. As I lay in bed I thought, "What do I enjoy? What makes me happy?" And, would you believe? I couldn't remember. I knew what made others happy, what I filled my days with, but I'd almost forgotten some of the things that bring me the greatest peace and rejuvenation. Journaling, collaging, writing letters, baking, decorating, embroidering, songwriting... these are a few of the things that I love.
I like what Leo Tolstoy said in his book, Family Happiness:
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.”
Not a bad take on happiness, not a bad idea, in fact, to have one's own idea of happiness! Is it funny to you that he has even thought this out? Because, to my work-worn soul, it's almost childish at first glance. Yet, as I write, as I drink my coffee, as I watch my sleepy babe in his crib, as I take a glance at the Christmas tree, I'm pretty amazed at what it is doing for my soul. I already feel stronger. I feel rejuvenated. I feel a yearning, a compulsion to work with new-found strength.
So, as you venture into the next few days before Christmas I challenge you to rest, to find strength. Perhaps you could even do as Tolstoy did and put to pen and paper what your idea of happiness might be. I challenge you to sit down, pull out a favorite book, write to a loved one, stare at your Christmas tree, drink a whole cup of coffee, or whatever it is you do that brings peace and quiet to your soul. And, I'll do so, as well.
I pray you are strengthened through this simple art of rest. The human condition pretty much guarantees it, but I also challenge you to begin to cultivate it, to recognize it as necessary, and as beautiful.
Go make art & Merry Christmas!