It’s so funny. I had big plans for this summer. I had all of these cities and landmarks I was going to visit, but none of it happened. It’s funny and relieving. I don’t deny that oftentimes traveling can be highly therapeutic, but that is not what I needed this summer. I needed rest.
My second semester of seminary was exhausting in a way that was completely new to me. I was spent emotionally, mentally, and physically. On top of school was life–family happenings, adjusting to the demands of a new job, and recognizing I was on a steady ground financially. My second semester, which began in January, contained a lot of resets. Last semester was one of the first semesters I pursued healing more than I did anything else, school included. My anxiety was through the roof. I was a mess, but I persisted. It was worth it. My grades turned out exceptional. My family life was whole, more so than it has been in years. The newness of balancing work and school was wearing off and becoming normal. And one more highlight…I paid my mortgage on time every month. Bonkers.
When the semester ended, I checked in with my therapist. I am that person that will freak out for weeks on end, then when it’s all said and done go, “Wow. That was fine. I’m fine,” when really I’m not fine. Therapists are lovely, and mine is quite great. She pointed out how emotionally difficult my semester was. She ran through every event of the semester, yet I still could not accept those experiences as highly impacting. I told her very quietly, “I just think that if it isn’t something that can be seen then I should be fine. If no one is dying, if nothing drastic is happening, then I’m okay.” It wasn’t until I said that out loud how invalidating I realized that was to myself. So, that led me to make a list of places I wanted to go and sights I wanted to see.
I rearranged my schedule so I only worked three days out of the week, with Wednesday being my Friday. When it came time to buying that first plane ticket, I accepted that I didn’t want to go anywhere. I wanted to enjoy the tiniest of pleasures like sleeping in, cooking breakfast, strolling in the grocery store, coloring, going to a park, or doing absolutely nothing. For two days out of the week, I had no goals. I did what I felt, and do you know that I completed more work this summer than I ever have in a semester? I read more books. I wrote more stories. I opened up more to people, processes, and opportunities. Because I allowed myself moments of nothingness, sometimes just sitting outside for hours because I could and the weather was nice, I felt accomplished. If all I did was get up and breathe, then that day was enough.
This summer I thought a lot about Elijah. I usually relate to the “What are you doing here?” part of his story, but not this time. I think about him being spent, asking for death, then sleeping. Although our stories are a wee bit different, the outcome is the same:
Elijah Runs Away from Ahab and Jezebel
19 Ahab told his wife Jezebel what Elijah had done and that he had killed the prophets. 2 She sent a message to Elijah: “You killed my prophets. Now I’m going to kill you! I pray that the gods will punish me even more severely if I don’t do it by this time tomorrow.”
3 Elijah was afraid when he got her message, and he ran to the town of Beersheba in Judah. He left his servant there, 4 then walked another whole day into the desert. Finally, he came to a large bush and sat down in its shade. He begged the Lord, “I’ve had enough. Just let me die! I’m no better off than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down in the shade and fell asleep.
Suddenly an angel woke him up and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 Elijah looked around, and by his head was a jar of water and some baked bread. He sat up, ate and drank, then lay down and went back to sleep.
7 Soon the Lord’s angel woke him again and said, “Get up and eat, or else you’ll get too tired to travel.” 8 So Elijah sat up and ate and drank.
The food and water made him strong enough to walk forty more days. At last, he reached Mount Sinai, the mountain of God, 9 and he spent the night there in a cave.
So often I think we forget that the best things we can do for ourselves are rooted in getting our most basic needs met. We need adequate rest. Our society is heavily built around the (now crumbling) idea that if you are not constantly working, hustling, producing something then you are failing at life. That’s not true. Being overworked, emotionally drained, and constantly on the go are not life giving. There is nothing beautiful about breaking down.
This summer has been a summer of healing. I have given away all my burdens, processed emotional scars, and became more vocal in the process. I trust my instincts the first time around and listen more to myself and other people. I am connecting with myself emotionally, which is helping me experience this world and the Spirit in ways can only be described as divinely magical.
I’m reading Beloved by Toni Morrison, and I’ve been holding on to this line: “Anything dead coming back to life hurts.” I feel as if I’ve been a zombie all this time. Coming back to life, healing from the tomb I was in, is exhausting. But, I am here. It took me resting to appreciate where I am.
Rest is holy. Get some.