Updated: Feb 15
Doing those deeply unfashionable things—slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting—is a radical act now, but it is essential. This is a crossroads we all know, a moment when you need to shed a skin. If you do, you’ll expose all those painful nerve endings and feel so raw that you’ll need to take care of yourself for a while. If you don’t, then that skin will harden around you. - Katherine May, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times
Do you feel overwhelmed? Does your life move so fast, you get to the end of the week and find you did nothing to feed and nourish your body, spirit, and soul because you ran from place to place.
I get it. Two years ago, I had a job that rarely let me fully detach and rest. I did business meetings on vacation, and even when I had Covid in 2020, kept up with some work. I eventually landed in a place where I was overworking at 50 hours plus per week for $45,000 per year, and going to school to earn my doctoral degree, maintaining very close to a 4.0 (one A-).
My family grew used to me always having my laptop in my lap, always bouncing, and running and working and...
It was too much.
Eventually, it began to have such a toll on my health and happiness that I had to make a change. It was hard. My job was one I loved but I eventually realized that I needed to love myself more than the work. I quit in the summer of 2021and then I relearned how to rest.
From late August of 2021 until May of 2022, I traveled around the country, researching my dissertation. I financed my travels by becoming a (mostly unpaid except lodging) pet sitter, staying in other people's homes from Florida to Maryland. And in the days in between jobs, I visited places I have always wanted to see. I drove down to the Florida Keys and spent three days exploring Key West. As I returned to the mainland along those long ocean bridges, I felt the stress I had been carrying slip away. The time with myself was a gift.
That time transformed me into someone I started to like again. I shed a skin and gave my body and spirit the space to heal and grow a new one. The nerves were raw. I cried. I laughed. It also had a real and human cost. My youngest son struggled through Covid, and he struggles with addiction. Our relationship will need some time and intention to mend and return to the close and loving one we had prior to my leaving. He feels abandoned by me, and even though I know I needed the time to heal and be the best parent I could, it is hard knowing the impact it had on his life.
When it was time, I knew I was ready to find my next, but I was committed to the next being radically different than the old. I searched for a place where my heart could sing, and realized the mountains were calling me home.
So, I looked wider. In March of 2022, I interviewed for a job in Santa Fe in a Unitarian Universalist congregation -this congregation.
And I continued to change and transform. I walked even more and developed new routines. I quit overworking. I took days off. I greeted my new mountains each morning and evening. I went to bed and slept well each night. I adopted a second dog, one who had been abused and needed care. Now, he is healing with me. He cuddles and cannot get enough rubs and scratches. I created an entirely new life, and I healed.
When we get frenzied and no longer take the time to do those things, we lose our capacity to fulfill our calling. When our lives become so busy that we need triple lattes to get through the day, and dinner is fast food, we have lost an important part of our human-ness. We become a machine, committed to output. That is not living, but simply enduring life. Life cannot be work and work alone, and we need to stop trying to do it all.
We just celebrated a new year, a time when many people will make commitments to change something in their lives. Rarely, do people fulfill those commitments. They start, and then slowly the old way creeps back into the spaces of their life.
When you are relearning to rest, you might slip and forget the new you. It is okay. Just like learning to ride a bike, get back up and try again after you fall.
Tricia Hersey reminds us that, "We must believe we are worthy of rest. We don’t have to earn it. It is our birthright. It is one of our most ancient and primal needs.”
And you are worth it. Your family is worth it.
So, if you are making a commitment to change this year - why not make one that can transform your entire life.
Relearn to rest, and all the other changes you hope to make will follow.
written for UU Santa Fe