In my work and my life, I notice that I go through times of intense activity and productivity, but that these eventually spin down. No one can maintain such a fever pitch indefinitely. When I am working “well,” I cruise along at a sustainable rate, confident that I have that extra literary “gear” when needed. The same is true for emotional intensity regarding political and other matters, in my case preparing for the upcoming parole hearing of the man who raped and murdered my mother. We step up to the plate, do what is necessary, deal with what we must, and set aside what we cannot handle (hopefully for some future time, rather than burying it indefinitely).
For every advance, there comes a rest. A rest is not a retreat, not a failure, although at times it can seem so. We can become so accustomed to putting forth our maximum effort that it becomes normal. It’s no longer a matter of setting aside other needs to make a heroic effort; those needs get put “on hold” indefinitely. We become desensitized to our own inner promptings, as well as the needs of those closest to us such as our families and partners. We can find all sorts of justifications for our continued dedication to that task or good cause. Just because we can carry the weight to the exclusion of everything else doesn’t mean that it’s healthy for us to do so. It’s important to recognize the difference between an emotionally intense sprint and a long-term, marathon effort.
Another reason why it’s often hard to let go of sprint-mode is that a return to a more balanced life and normal energy levels feels like back-sliding or going in reverse. It’s the emotional equivalent of how the room keeps spinning even when we stop and stand still. Sometimes there is indeed a dip in energy to balance out the extra energy expended during the all-out push. I have to keep reminding myself that needing “down” time is not the same thing as weakness, failure, or deterioration. Recharging my physical and emotional batteries, so to speak, is an essential part of being able to take the next step forward.
These periods of rest always last longer than I think they should. Recuperation and regeneration take time, and they also take resources. Simply ceasing activity stops the outflow, but it may take a long time for the inflow to restore balance. I think of the earth as it passes through the seasons and how winter is a fallow time. Fallow doesn’t mean inert, though. We may not be able to see it, but there are slow, restorative changes happening in root and soil, branch and seed.
What does it mean for me as a human being to be in a state of restoration as opposed to immobility?
What nourishes my spirit? (Music, friends, nature, meditative practices, community?)
What refreshes my body? (Good food, exercise, fresh air, massage?)
What rejuvenates my mind? (Reading, learning a new skill or musical instrument, museums, lively conversation, travel, lifelong education?)