Let it Rest

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Heather Caliri -Let it Rise3

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.

Take my latest stress. I’ve been writing a lot about anxiety on my blog lately. It was going well until I got caught off-guard by a wave of, ironically enough, anxiety.

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.

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Heather Caliri
Heather Caliri is a writer from San Diego who loves British murder mysteries, advice columns, and hot breakfasts. She uses tiny, joyful yeses to free herself from anxiety. Tired of anxiety controlling your life? Try her mini-course, “Five Tiny Ideas for Managing Anxiety," for free here.
Heather Caliri
Heather Caliri

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Heather Caliri
  • I’ve actually seen the truth of this recently with my writing — frustrated and stuck, leaving it to “rest,” and then coming back to it in a day or two to immediate insight into the one thing that needed doing to make it ok.
    I love the way you said this: “I felt freer in my own life.”

    • YES–with writing this is absolutely true. It’s so often letting things sit that allows us to clarify what to do next.

  • This is so great. The more I see others taking time to sabbath/rest/recover, the more I feel free to do the same.

    • It is a little contagious, no? Our culture holds up busyness and productivity as something wonderful, but the people I admire most know how to be still.

  • Working hard on this (Is that an oxymoron. Working on resting?) YES, so itchy when I rest. As always, thank you for the push.

    • It’s an absolute oxymoron, and completely true. The release is HARD. So excited to get to hang with you this weekend 🙂

  • YES! So much that I love about what you’ve written. I also get itchy when I rest. Your analogy with the yeast reminds me of Richard Rohr’s comments about contemplative prayer being an exercise in getting out of God’s way. And your piece as a whole reminds me of Marva J Dawn’s book, “Keeping the Sabbath Wholly” (highly recommend, if you haven’t read it!).

    • I just added the book to my list! It sounds lovely.
      And i LOVE the Rohr quote. I have been trying to sit still and quiet more often as a spiritual discipline, and it is settling something deep in me.

  • That picture of the dough needing time to rise? So love it. And this is SUCH a perfect reminder to rest, so we can rise. Resting and rising going hand in hand. Thank you, Heather.

  • Bridget Baguley

    So truth-ful, thank you. Just what I need to hear, as I begin a retreat day,feeling slightly as though I have so much to get done I should just be getting busy. This reminds me that is not so…my day of resting with God is needed and to be prioritised. I too love Marva Dawns book on Sabbath.

  • Resting is a long, hard lesson to learn, one where I relapse often but am finally recognizing it’s not a luxury in my life, but a necessity.

  • Love this analogy. One of the things I love most about making our own bread is that it forces me to stay at home to let it rise, punch it down, let it rise again. All before it’s ready to bake! I don’t make it often because we’re just so busy. Maybe I need to make more bread and take time to rest… and rise.

  • sandyhay

    “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.” This took Far too long in my life to be established and even today i can slip right back into the perpetual motion . I’ve had to learn to build more margin into my day too. Just to sit with a book (British murder mystery is my favorite too) and coffee for 20 minutes or pick up my knitting. Amazed at how much of a difference this can make. Thank you Heather