We occasionally get pre-made pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. My husband always managed to spread it thin. Whenever I tried, though, the lump of dough felt like rubber.
And then, one day, I decided to read the package directions. Turns out you have to let the darn thing rest before you spread it flat. It won’t rise without it.
I don’t like waiting. Not to read directions or let things rise. I want to get things done.
“Rest” doesn’t come easily to me. When I got married, my sister asked if I were planning a spa day. I stared at her blankly, because the idea had not occurred to me.
No, if I think about relaxing, I anticipate sweeping my floor and getting the house tidy. Maybe catching up on bills. It’s satisfying to accomplish things, plus I feel less anxious when I get everything done.
The only problem I never get everything done. (I’m guessing you don’t, either.)
Which means that my eternal quest to do one more thing turns me into a perpetual-motion machine.
Note: perpetual motion machines don’t actually exist.
About five years ago, I started taking a weekly Sabbath. Every Sunday, I said no to dishes, mopping and financial planning. I let toys accumulate on the floor and did not open my computer.
You’d think a day of rest would feel restful. Instead, for more than a month, I felt positively itchy. Doing nothing is hard.
But after a few months of detoxing from perpetual motion, I noticed a few things.
- The hard work I did during the week felt more manageable.
- My anxiety about risk-taking lowered.
- I started appreciating my housework more—much less martyrdom.
- I cultivated habits like drawing and long walks.
- I felt freer in my own life.
I was just like that blob of dough. Given time to rest, I rose, and relaxed, and stretched.
Most importantly, I cultivated the resilience to face the next week with courage.
You have no expertise to talk about this, the voices said.
Why do you even bother?
You’re kidding yourself that this will help people.
Who do you think you are?
Just when I’m about ready to break out in hives, Sunday comes.
I take a deep breath, and close my computer.
It’ll wait till Monday, I tell myself. And I stop thinking about it.
In the meantime, I choose to be silly and aimless and unproductive. I remember my life is made up of more than my to-do list. I treat myself kindly without expecting anything in return.
Every Monday, I see my anxiety with new eyes. I might still feel lame. But resting from that worry puts it in perspective.
If I can take a day off from worrying, and the world does not end, I can set worries aside on Monday, too.
If I can take a break from working hard for a day, I can have perspective about the limits of my effort the next day as well.
If I can experience a day of joy without accomplishing anything, I will still find joy if I fall flat on my face with this new project.
Yeast works its way through dough without my say-so or vigilance. The tiny little air-bubbles that make bread rise have formed without my help for thousands of years.
In fact, they do better without my help.
I like tidiness and organization and intentional steps. But all of that is rubbish without rest. Unless I give myself time to rise, I kill my spirit.
And I’m lost unless I remind myself—every week!—that I am stretched by forces beyond my control.