Something about the events on my calendar this month has gained no shortage of interest lately. It’s something that evokes strong reactions nearly every time I talk about it. There’s opinions, there’s encouragement, and there’s even judgement about it. So what is it?
In March, there’s not much on my calendar. I’m taking most of March off.
Right now, you’re no doubt feeling a little something about that statement, too. Maybe you feel uncomfortable. Maybe you feel confusion. Maybe you even feel jealousy or curiosity. Perhaps you feel hopeful. You might even feel sad.
That there are so many different ways to feel about hearing that someone is taking a month off means that we have a very real condition in our society. I’m not exactly sure what to call this (some have coined the phrase “time poverty”), but dare I say our opinions about time and how we and others spend it might be becoming more divisive than politics?
Here’s the scoop so you don’t have to wonder for the rest of the post: I’m taking March off for a lot of reasons, some of which I’ll share and some of which I will not. One reason is that my amazing mother goes to Arizona during March, and she is my primary source for child care for my 16 month old. Last March, the logistics of getting someone to watch my daughter so I could work was nothing short of a “crap show”. That is the primary reason for choosing the month of March. The second reason is that I’ve had very little true vacation time my adult life (maternity leave is not vacation)- a qualifier I find myself sourcing often lately.
Here’s the other telling piece of this equation: That so many people have seemed offended that I’m taking time off is unsettling to me at best. We live in a culture (or maybe it’s our part of the country) where time off to rest is often perceived as laziness. Real rest is not laziness. When people have asked what I’m going to do with my time off, the true answer is “I don’t know”, and the second true answer is “none of your business”. That may sound confusing and harsh, but how people make space to rest, and what they do with that time doesn’t always have to end up on your newsfeed. In fact, it shouldn't. Rest should be sacred, and perhaps requires privacy to be true rest.
Recently, one of my good friends took off on an airplane to spend a few days somewhere warm. The language people used after she left seemed innocent at first, then maddening upon more consideration.
“Must be nice.”
“How rough for her.”
I do understand that sometimes life seems unfair when our situation doesn’t allow for certain things. We’re so used to seeing people who don’t “deserve” to get more… get more. But average people like you and me aren’t allowed to take vacations unless we have giant bags of cash hidden somewhere, right?
Well, that’s the part for each of us to figure out, I suppose: how much time can you afford to take off. But I want us to think of another, equally important question: How much can you afford NOT to take time off?
We are a culture of people who don’t know how to rest. We know how to go, keep going, and continue to go on fumes. We know how to push through, which is a great quality in it's season, but you can't push through if you've never learned to rest. We haven’t exactly mastered the art of resting- real resting. We’ve mastered the art of zoning out, and of avoiding or procrastinating. We’ve mastered rumination. We’ve mastered living at full speed and living stressed and being partially “there” a lot of the time. When it comes to real, true resting, I’m not sure we’ve even entered the classroom to become a student.
Resting, of course, is new to me too. I’ve been working very hard at 2 businesses for over 3 years now. My businesses have grown, my staff has grown, and my family has grown. I’ve hit lots of walls, I’ve fallen apart all over myself, I’ve picked up pieces that remain, and started all over again. But now I’m in a season where I have these little eyes on me all the time, and she’s counting on me to learn a better way to do things. I wish I had all the answers to these questions, but the telling thing for me lately has been how far we have to go when we as a culture talk about rest, vacation, and taking care of ourselves as though it's a sin.
So here’s my challenge to you and to myself: let’s let ourselves learn to really rest, and let’s think more about our language when we hear that someone is resting.
Instead of the usual sarcastic “must be nice”, let’s start praising those who take time to rejuvenate. Let’s praise mothers and fathers that actually use their hours of leave to be with their families when everyone is healthy. Let’s start saying things like “she worked so hard this quarter, I’m glad she’s out of the office for a while”, or “good for him; it’s so important to get away” next time someone you know goes to Arizona during the winter. If you feel jealousy that someone else can afford to travel to nice places, reflect on your ability to rest right here at home. Counting all that you have, instead of focusing on what others have, is one of the best antidotes to envy I’ve ever found.
As for me, I’m signing off in a few weeks, and I hope you’ll plan a season of time (even if only for a long weekend) where you’ll do the same! I hope together we can build a culture where our children won’t have to validate themselves when they take time to rejuvenate their souls.
Be well, and go rest!