There is a phrase we use in Canada and probably in lots of other places too, it is “the fruit of your labor.” When I use that phrase I mean the good stuff or the benefits that come from work done. Lately I have found myself thinking about the opposite, that is, the benefits of taking rest time.
In June I took advantage of a seat sale and got to go to Toronto where I stayed in an Anglican convent and did lots of resting. I also spent time with friends and family. Those were great days. When I came home I found myself with a word in my head. This word bears no connection that I can see to the things I experienced in Toronto, but nonetheless it was there. The word was “decisive.” I found myself with a readiness to deal with a longstanding problem. I had a strategy emerge for it. This all seems so weird. This was not what I was expecting to receive from my “retreat” days.
The problem I had was that I have lived with a sense of urgency for far too long. When that happens, like so many of you know, you deal with what is urgent, and push to the side what is important but not urgent. In my life, what that meant, was that I had opened and paid all our bills as the months and years have gone by, but all mail that did not have that kind of urgency was not opened. Things that did not have an obvious place to be put away got piled in and around my desk. I counted. I had almost 250 unopened pieces of mail, bank and credit card statements mostly, having been paid on line and monitored online, the mail itself had no urgency. I also had at least 140 miscellaneous things piled on and near my desk. It was all weighing me down. How could I accept an invitation from Russell to ride along on a journey to pastures or elsewhere when all that chaos was hanging over my head? I decided I had to tell Russell what the numbers were and share what was burdening me. Then I had to deal with it. I am learning that a big work day set aside for a major overhaul rarely can actually come to pass. This had to be a longhaul overhaul. I made a chart. I identified the problems I had before me and committed to open five pieces of mail a day and put away five of those miscellaneous things. I added other things to the chart that would help me prevent further chaos, like opening three current pieces of mail each day. I am now almost 3 months into this process and I am over the moon about the difference this is making at my desk but also in my head and heart.
Two weeks ago I took a few days off and after going to a Regina appointment kept driving north for a visit with my people in Saskatoon. I stayed with my cousin but each morning we got up and going and went to my sister’s for coffee. It was great.
In one of these visits talk turned to the fact that each of them wear activity trackers. My eyes were opened to the benefits of wearing something that could track many health details and activity level. I came home knowing I needed to research that for myself. Russ and I each got one. Is it life in the 50s plus age zone that makes you take health stuff more seriously? Not sure, but the first days with the trackers have been very interesting and this tracker is going to be helpful, I can tell. Sitting down for these visits because I chose to step away from the ranch for a bit allowed something new and helpful to enter my radar.
What feels controversial about how rest happens around here relates to Russ. Basically he has got to a point where he is claiming time to rest and rejuvenate because he enjoys it so much. He is bucking the training that has been part of his culture since day one. That training would say that as long as the sun is up, you are either at work or at a doctors appointment or something super important with your kids. Time taken away from the ranch implies perhaps laziness, perhaps lack of dedication, perhaps lack of concern for the welfare of the farm/ranch. Time taken away brings with it guilt. I have no idea how it has happened that Russ has found the way clear to resist that culture and its guilt and claim the time we need. I can tell you it has made a difference.
We recently went to Minot for two nights. Russ said, “Kathy, that greenfeed is not going to be dry enough to bale until at least Wednesday, lets go to Minot.” I said, “Russ, we were just there last month. Are you sure you can get away?” My inner dialogue was dancing between guilt that I might have five nights away within two weeks, guilt at our abandonment of our ranch and delight at the thought of being away with Russ. I did research that led us to an air bnb in downtown Minot. It was great. It was so cozy and comfortable. What came of that rest? Hard to know at this point. I don’t have a new guiding word in my head, or a new health insight but am I a bit more resilient because of quiet hours on a beautiful deck on a warm summer night sitting beside my honey?
Russ is very clear about something. He believes that rest time experienced together is good for our marriage. He thinks of these stolen hours and sometimes days as sequels to the honeymoon. About this I know I am very lucky. I also know that our marriage didn’t feel like this when Russ worked all day every day while I raised little kids. The easing up of childcare duties, time to refresh that we have been claiming over the last five years and a commitment to really try and see each other has breathed life into the bond between us.
The rest we claim would not feel nearly as wonderful if it was not the counter balance to lots of work, shaping most of our days. There has to be a balance. That’s the thing we are learning, and sometimes allowed to glimpse clear evidence of….there has to be a balance. A balance between work and play, between effort and rest, between push and retreat.