What Pandemic Life Is Teaching Me About Rest

I used to think that I was good at self care.  I was in really good psychotherapy.  I got acupuncture and chiropractic support regularly.  I exercised, meditated and took vacations, danced and practiced singing.  I didn’t cook enough meals at home, but when I did they were healthy and delicious. And maybe, in these ways, I was good at a certain kind of self care.  I had been struggling with fertility issues for many years, and taking care of my body was really critical as I continued in my efforts to have a child.  And so… I put a premium on those kinds of care, many of which took both time and money.

In addition, I had a full time private practice and a significant volunteer commitment.  And when I wasn’t working or volunteering, I was managing my many varied personal and professional relationships.

What I wasn’t doing… was resting.  Even my meditation practice was about doing something: striving to maintain awareness of my breathing, noticing when my mind wandered, and bringing my attention back to my breathing. If I wasn’t meditating when I was “doing nothing”, I didn’t quite feel like I was using my “nothing” time well.  

Then I came across this article, 7 Types of Rest that Everyone Needs, by Saundra Dalton-Smith, and I was intrigued.  The pandemic was well underway, and all of my plans (except for work) had fallen away.  If this pandemic was teaching me anything, it was that my ideas about self care did not include an accurate picture of rest. Suddenly, I had time.  Not a ton of time by many peoples standards, but… compared to the way I had been living (even with full time work and an infant who wasn’t sleeping through the night)…  It felt like the heavens opened up!  To actually have empty unscheduled time felt like a miracle.  But I still couldn’t sink into it.  Not really.  There was always something else I could or should be doing.

When I was a very small child I spent inordinate amounts of time watching bugs crawl, observing how the clouds changed shape as they drifted across the sky, and watching dust particles sparkle in the light.  These activities brought me such immense pleasure, that I still feel a wave of joy and awe as I remember them now.  When did I lose the ability to “just be”?  Not in the “I am now meditating” sense, but in the “I am just existing” sense.

I realized that there was some part of me that was still trying to prove something… to my partner? To my parents? To my peers? To capitalism?  Deep down inside, I didn’t believe that just existing was enough.  It wasn’t a conscious thought, just… a habit.

My Black Southern grandmother insisted, when I lived with her as an older child, that I be working most of my waking hours.  She wasn’t doing it to be mean.  It was just, in her world, your value was tied to work.  Work was the thing that mattered.  It was a path to self-sufficiency and a certain kind of freedom for her as a working class Black woman, and also… she needed the help.  When she finally retired, after over fifty years working for the post office, she began showing signs of dementia.  I’m not sure she was resting, but it was shocking to see her sometimes just sitting and staring out the window.  I don’t think I’d ever seen her doing that before.  So… yeah… habits… 

The pandemic forced me to look at a whole slew of habits that didn’t work in the context of sheltering in place.  It also gave me the blessing to being able to stay home with my infant son and have a whole new experience of “just existing”.

Now with things opening back up, I’m feeling the pressure to do more.  But I don’t think I can go back.  I now know (or remember) how much empty space I need to feel nourished and energized.  As I remember this, I think of what a privilege and a gift it is to prioritize feeling nourished and energized.   I think of my ancestors, who chose to survive and endure so that their dreams for future generations might be realized. 

In honor of my grandmother, her mother, her mother’s mother, her mother before her, and all the mothers before, I choose rest.  As I utter this declaration, I hear these words…

“This breath, this body… is the answer to a prayer that was whispered long ago.  This existence… your existence is the prayer and the answer.  There is nothing to do, but just be.  You have nothing to prove.  You were loved before you arrived here.  Your ancestors prayed for you, committed unimaginable acts of devotion so that you might have the chance to take the very breath that you are breathing now.  Let your beingness be the prayer and the answer.  This breath. This body.  This heartbeat.  This moment of existence.  Let this next breath be a ‘yes’.”  

And I respond,

“Yes.  Yes, I will live.  Yes, I will cherish this breath, this body.  Yes, I will move towards joy.  Yes, I will let my life be a celebration.  Yes, I will serve.  Yes, I will allow myself to love and be loved.  Yes, I will allow myself to be love.  Yes, I will create a life where I can trust.  Yes, I will be myself, and love every ounce of me.  Yes, I will believe in my own goodness.  Yes, I will believe in my own worth.  Yes, I will create a life where I can rest.  Yes, I hear you, and I am heeding the call.  Thank you.  Yes.”

So I ask you… What are you saying yes to?  Is there space for you to rest?  What kinds of rest are calling to you?  Even resting your eyes against the glare of the screen or standing outside and letting the sun kiss your skin for a few moments can be rest.  I’d love to hear from you.  How will you rest today?

P.S. I’ve been following The Nap Ministery on Instagram for ideas, encouragement and inspiration about rest.  That sista is tellin’ it!  Check her out and let me know what you think.

About the Author

About the Author: Sonya Brewer, MA, is a body-centered psychotherapist, somatic coach and relationship specialist in Albany, CA, where she specializes in creative life and relationship design for “out the box” thinkers (and “feelers”). She loves helping quirky people find their creative voice and express their unique ways of being so that they can feel more alive, connected and authentic in their lives and relationships, while also bringing their gifts to the world. Sonya brings over twenty years of experience, backed by in-depth training in somatic psychology, relational psychotherapy, relationship therapy and somatic coaching as taught by Generative Somatics and the Strozzi Institute, as well as training in trauma recovery through the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Somatic Experiencing Institutes. Sonya's body-based work is also deeply influenced by a lifetime of experience as a dancer, years of mindfulness meditation practice, and training and experience as a professional bodyworker. To learn more, visit www.sonyabrewer.com. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #89901 .

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