To Rest & Grieve

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

I’m tired and I’m grieving.

And given these circumstances, I’ve been writing less lately. Which is okay for a short time, but writing is such a creative and therapeutic process for me, that when I step away for too long, everything in me is trying to find a way to return.

Interesting thoughts have come to me lately, almost like I could write about this or that. I graduated from college 7 years ago! What?! I moved to Indy 5 years ago. About 2 years ago, I moved to Westfield and my life re-started in many ways. It’s just been a time when a lot of memories keep popping up.

What I am learning year after year, especially as I pay closer attention to the seasons–is that I have my strongest environmental reactions in May and June.

These are months I deeply appreciate for the warmer weather, for the spring turning into summer. And I experience environmental reactions in buildings as the weather warms up, but the air conditioning hasn’t been turned on yet. My body can still feel the mustiness, the lurking mold in buildings.

It feels like my body fighting to return to this deep patience within myself. A patience that accepts what is happening. A patience that can still cling to gratitude, somehow, even in the midst of a brain struggling to make coherent sense of the thoughts moving too quickly to process. A patience that resists my brain telling my body about how active I “should be” (Should is a huge warning word!!!) especially since the weather is warmer.

A thought came to me while driving in the car this week–my body still associates May/June with intense performance, whether it was big track meets growing up, exams and finishing school, graduations, moving. There is this intense feeling of needing to improve, that I’m learning to sit with more gently.

As I’ve taken time to just be with myself, to observe all that is swirling around, it’s also clear that my body is trying to be distracted (even though I wasn’t truly conscious of this until today) from the fact that I was sexually assaulted by a doctor 4 years ago. At the end of May. The urge to disassociate feels really strong right now. And generally I just feel distracted.

I’ve felt like I needed a lot of alone time; and simultaneously like I didn’t know how to be with myself.

I just finished reading The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel. In this second chapter he says, “Out of the days through which we fight and from whose ugliness we ache, we look to the Sabbath as our homeland, as our source and destination. It is a day in which we abandon our plebeian pursuits and reclaim our authentic state, in which we may partake of a blessedness in which we are what we are…”

So far May has felt like accepting how I feel, and also showing up to my life in ways that I can. Showing up in the lives of friends. Being gentle with myself and my limits, and accepting that showing up often can’t mean “in person.” It’s meant watching those protest Millions Missing, in hopes for more government funding for ME/CFS. It’s meant showing up at a local school board meeting. It’s meant offering a spiritual direction session between tutoring sessions. To grieve the loss of some beautiful white ancestors: Rachel Held Evans and Jean Vanier. And to grieve Sandra Bland’s arrest & death as more footage has been made available.

It’s meant realizing how much rest I need, even with fatigue it feels like the rest I need feels extremely elusive, like that need is never going to be met. And yet the longing to rest, to be in my own unique authentic state is there. So I’m giving myself space to grieve and hold joy. Giving myself space to realize what I need and to rest. To rest from the reactions I have from buildings and to recover.

And not to recover just so I can go work really hard again and collapse. And repeat that cycle again and again. Heschel states in the first chapter: “To the biblical mind, however, labor is the means toward an end, and the Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day of abstaining from toil, is not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for forthcoming labor. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. Man is not a beast of burden and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work…The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays, the weekdays are for the sake of Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.”

So this summer, I’m going to keep leaning into rest and pleasure, not just as a thought process, but to embody them in new ways. For the sake of life.

I finished out my tutoring week, by reading this piece with my student honoring Jean Vanier’s life and work. As my student was giving supporting details about Vanier’s legacy, he said, “It seems important that laughter and play were important parts of Vanier’s life and calling.”

Yes, I most certainly agree.


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