This week has been pent up with stress and work and somehow we’re still smiling over here.
It might have been the extra course (or two) that I took on this semester, but I’m suddenly finding that my workload has exploded and I’m applying to jobs for co-op like nobody’s business and I’m attempting to have some kind of social life beyond my isolated desk chair at the risk of losing touch with the substance and beauty of the outside world.
Yesterday I took a walk in the sun, absorbing as much natural vitamin D as possible before winter closes in and really locks us indoors, and it felt indulgent and freeing and human in a centring kind of way.
I think that is what I’m re-learning this week. There is a balance of work and rest in life and we’re called to both. Investing in work and detail is essential to finding purpose and meaning in life, but when that work:rest ratio becomes distorted, so do you. So does perspective. You will feel it when something inside feels a little bit shaky and restless and your thoughts start to circle and tighten up like they are being squeezed into a space that is a size too small. You’ll feel it when the knots in your neck remind you that you’ve been staring at your computer screen for too many hours in succession without a break. You’ll feel it when something about the day starts feeling stale or blunted, as if you’ve overstayed your welcome.
We know this, but we all need a reminder, too, now and then. We can’t continue to produce high-quality output without investing in rich and fulfilling input. This is a lesson I’ve had to re-learn multiple times over. Somehow, I always forget.
A friend called me yesterday: a friend I haven’t seen or spoken to in far too long. I had been working all day, sunk in details and resume building and thinking too much about myself, when my phone rang unexpectedly. I was pleasantly surprised and I picked it up and we had a simple, honest conversation. We were filling moments rather than letting them slip past, unnoticed. Redeeming time. It was like a breath of fresh air. When the conversation ended and I turned back to my work, I had a fresh vision and a little more energy to run on.
So, when you get to that stuck, stale place, go take the occasional walk in the sun or talk to a person or water a plant. Read something that isn’t required or play a musical instrument and don’t forget to laugh about nothing sometimes.
Remember that mindlessly looking at your phone or scrolling through Facebook or whatever probably isn’t the best way to re-charge. Yes, it isn’t work, but it isn’t actual life, either. We reclaim and refill through experience and brushing up against what is real and true and substantial, not by tapping glass or gazing at a screen. What will probably fill you more is engaging with life, somehow. Aim for active, not passive. Tap into an emotion other than stress or seriousness. Massage some of those knots out of your neck.
I was talking to another friend today about how physical space and mental space are so easily intertwined. In school, it is easy to get stuck in my room all day long: studying all day, and then sleeping. We were talking about how we want our rooms to be places to go back to, places that indicate rest rather than all the work we’ve done that day. To separate work and rest in our minds, we need to separate work and rest in our physical spaces. For me, this means finding other places to work during the day, to avoid holing up in my room for hours on end, and let it be a place to unwind and shift away from assignments and rubrics and required reading.
I’m still learning how to keep my work:rest ratio in check. I’m still a little more stressed than I’d like to be and sometimes I forget to stop being so serious, so concerned, so self-focused, and to look outward more often. It is coming, though. The more I remind myself, the more I remember, and, slowly, I steal back my time.