I‘VE TAKEN a ‘rest day’ today – yes, call it a Sabbath if you like. As I texted in a message to a friend this morning, I needed to shut down and reboot.
It’s been rather nice. Hard at first to switch my mind off – but I reached the point of carving the space in my head – that is, seeing it as time out of time, if that makes sense. Because I’m thinking of it as a different place, a moment of exception, I am able to allocate the rest of life to tomorrow.
It’s hard to convince people to take a break. As a CFS/ME sufferer (there must be a nicer word than ‘sufferer’!) I suppose you could say, in typical clichéd style, that I’ve learned the hard way.
I’m not entirely convinced there is an easy way. So many of us feel our value is derived from our achievements, the doings of our lives, that if we stop doing, we feel without value. Hence, if the circumstances of our lives steal our potential for ‘doing’ in an active sense, we can be swallowed up with a sense of worthlessness.
I know that as well as anyone. I also know it’s rubbish. But it’s frequently hard to convince myself, let alone anyone else. We live in a culture that prizes success and achievement. But I think the main influence is more subtle.
We label each other. We label each other by occupation. Whether that means paid employment or another role in life. Without being able to say ‘I’m an architect/shop assistant/driving instructor/vicar’ we feel a twist of panic – what will they think of me? What do I think of me? How do I explain who I am when I don’t fit into an easy category? What if the category I always placed myself in suddenly becomes redundant or implausible for whatever reason?
I’m digressing, of course, but it’s all in there, that sense of where we place our identity. And if we place our identity purely in our doing, how do we cope with stopping? Are we afraid of seeing ourselves without the labels? Are we afraid of taking off all the trappings?
But we need to stop and we need to rest. And much of what we call essential is actually not essential. Rest, ironically, is one of the essentials, but often gets crowded out by all the pretenders. The things that scream to be done. The things that we think we should do. Things that convince us of their importance.
When what we actually need is to shut down and reboot.