In my recent four-part blog series, “On Becoming a Digital Minimalist,” I wrote about how I was changing my relationship with technology and how I use it. The ultimate goal — and a constant work-in-progress — is to live an intentional, purpose-driven life where I focus on what is most important to me. It means cutting out the noise and chatter to work in a distraction-free state.
But it cannot be all work and no play. This lesson was — again — brought home to me when, this past weekend, I was so exhausted I could barely focus. I also ended up breaking my streaming rule, watching three movies. Too tired to think and focus, it was a constant battle throughout Saturday just to keep my eyes open.
Crash and Burn
In pursing my creative goals around a day job, it is not so much a challenge as it is my current state of affairs. To create, I get up early (to some of my friends, it is an ungodly hour). Working in a public-facing role, my energy level is usually quite low by the time I make it home in the evening. After eating dinner and repacking my knapsack for the next day, I can usually put in another thirty to forty minutes on a creative project before crawling into bed. It is a long day since I average six to seven hours of sleep each night (because I have dealt with insomnia for the better part of my life).
For better or for worse, I push myself so that I can achieve my goals, always wanting to do more. But at some point, I crash and burn. And it is because I have not been listening to my body, through all the ways that it is trying to tell me, that it is time to stop and rest.
The Art of Rest and Play
During the last two weeks of August, I made two trips (one by myself, one with a friend visiting from Ottawa) to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), which had been cancelled two times during the pandemic. Like thousands of others, I was eager to return to this annual ritual of community celebration that closes out the summer. It was a break from my usual routine, a time to relax and let my body and mind rest. A day to replenish my creative stores.
I know there are days when I simply need to rest, when I need to let myself do nothing. Here is the problem. It is hard to let myself rest. Why? Because I often find myself often looking to the future and where I hope to be. But if I keep working when I am exhausted (or more aptly, burnt out), the work, or more precisely my writing, does not hold up later on. It ends up tired, stiff, lifeless. Then I end up procrastinating and fretting over my inability to do deep work. The funny thing is this. When I take time to rest, to let my body and mind recharge, I am able to come back and tackle my artistic projects with vigour, see their worth (or lack thereof) from a new perspective. Once again, there is a natural ebb and flow.
Louisa May Alcott puts it this way: “Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and you prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.”