I’m resting for a weary world. Most people I know are overextended. Either because they can’t slow down, won’t or don’t know how. I figure in the grand balance of life, I must have been made to take breaks for them, because they sure aren’t taking them for themselves.
Life is exhausting when you hold a full-time job, care for children and sometimes elders, cook healthy meals and do a lot of volunteer work. These days it’s hard to even make phone appointments with close friends. They don’t have time to talk on the phone much less get together in person. They complain about being too busy but aren’t sure where to cut back. Some get depressed. When I get a moment of their time, and hear the story of their busy lives, I become so sad that I generally go straight home and sit in my prayer chair and rest… on their behalf.
This is a volunteer effort on my part because I happen to be blessed to have time between seeing people in spiritual direction and running the Hesychia School. I certainly could be busier—if I ramped my life up a bit. The contemplative life and freelance work I do—as a writer, educator and spiritual director—doesn’t quite add up to the full-time job I aspire to. But it does allow me to offer this free resting service for my tribe.
I wasn’t always a contemplative person. For over twenty years I worked in radio news, rushing from one newscast to the next. If a newspaper writer has one deadline a day, then a radio news writer or announcer has at least two an hour. One job was at a network, servicing three radio stations an hour—some needing half-hour newsbreaks, or six newscasts an hour, about 30 deadlines a day. I can do hurried.
At one point I worked three jobs. A full-time radio job and two part-time church jobs while my husband got a graduate degree to move into a new career field. Then, after he graduated and started to work as a physical therapist, I entered graduate school—seminary—and attended full-time while working part-time on the weekends in radio. I understand busy.
But something in me changed when I transitioned out of radio and into ministry. While training to become a spiritual director that we were warned that if we did not take good care of ourselves—setting boundaries; nurturing good mental and spiritual health; slowing down—we would not be useful in accompanying others in matters of faith. It was that simple.
And now I can’t do busy without losing important chunks of my soul.
I work at my own pace—slow–giving myself time to think, pray and meditate before I “do” anything. I say no to a lot of requests that feel like busy work, or better yet, don’t feel like what I’m meant to do. None of this makes me a better person than busy folks, but it does make me different.
There may come a time (soon) when I have to work harder, faster, and for a more demanding boss. And there probably will come a time when my friends, now in a fog of activity, will want to slow down and rest—and will be financially able to do so. It may be that the universe won’t allow us to do the resting for others. Perhaps, as my former Sunday School teacher used to preach, “every pot has to sit on its own bottom.”
I’m dedicated to my own version of having it all: meaningful work and time to enjoy it. And I hope the people I am resting for now will also find their own styles of work allowing them to take better care of their bodies and souls.
In the end it is all about the choices we make. Are we willing—in my case—to make less money in order to have space to do quality work? To think through and bless our work? Are worn out people willing to sort through their life and decide which activity stays and which activity goes in order to have time each day to savor life and feel renewed?
My choice—for now—is to keep resting for others, at least until their adrenaline wears out. At which time we will collapse together, cup of tea in hand, reflecting on the gift that is rest.
If you are interested in learning more about spiritual direction or entering spiritual direction with me, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.teresablythe.net. Also visit my website for the Phoenix Center for Spiritual Direction.