On restoring creative fertility

The Gods of the internet demand to know what this text is about, so here we go: I’m about to argue that rest is as important as work, if not more. Hustle culture makes us sick and devoid of meaning in our lives. I say it’s time we stop glorifying productivity and bring idleness back to our values system. If we want to reverse the burn-out epidemics of our times, that is.

The day before yesterday, I took a day off writing. I was not intending to. After seven consecutive days spent laser focusing, however, I felt overwhelmed. Staring at a blank page, I thought I’d “use that” and I’d write about being tired and the importance of time out. Once I started I felt like a hypocrite. To write about the necessity of downtime, without allowing myself to. Hello yoga teachers, mindfulness coaches, and spirituality entrepreneurs who preach self-care and work themselves to burn-out.

So I posted 300 words of rest instead (check header,) and I don’t know if I’m fantasizing here, but I think my readers vibed with it. I could have written nonetheless, and that’s what’s pervasive about not giving yourself a break. I don’t necessarily feel weariness as such when I’m in that state, so objectively, I *could* go on. There was no actual pedal break preventing me from pushing through, so it was really up to my inner-parent, if you will, to protect my boundaries. More often than not, fatigue morphs into anxiety for me or irritation, and I can live with that for a while. But at what cost? 

Ana BCP didn’t know how to rest, partly because hustle culture is not a rest-friendly environment. If productivity is the main path for self-worth, do you have an alternative to working more and more? When, on top of that, your “work” is also your “passion,” well, that can be a recipe for disaster. Ana BCP was juggling a regular job and freelance gigs and blogging. She also had an active social life and practiced yoga at least four times a week. She felt restless when she was not producing because time was scarce for everything she wanted to do. She felt guilty too. What are you complaining about? You don’t even have kids! she scolded herself. The logic of comparison decrees that you shouldn’t have feelings nor boundaries if other people have it harder. Then, my body broke. It was cancer that finally taught me to be idle.

@JAN.ARSENOVIC AND I TAKING OUR DOWNTIME SERIOUSLY AT THE LLOYD HOTEL, AMSTERDAM

Setting farmland aside for a season is an ancient practice that enables the soil to regenerate. Fallow land may appear abandoned to the naked eye, but it is, in fact, the most fertile patch of earth. It has communities of worms and insects beneath the surface, working to make it fruitful. Industrial agriculture disregards ancestral wisdom because “time is money.” More land gets claimed through deforestation because business needs to expand, and profit maximized. To keep prices high, we overproduce, an approach that bears fruit in the short term. In the long run, it degrades the environment, destroys communities, and contributes to climate change. Lack of rest leads to the collapse of the natural world. And so it is with the body as well.

Sleep and leisurely time are as important as work. If you ask me, the first should come first in our pyramid of priorities. They enable me to function, for one. They are also the moments when I have my best ideas. FYI, I was preparing dates with peanut butter in the kitchen when I came up with this paragraph and had to rush back to the laptop. I think that I outlined half of this piece last night during my sleep (anyone else “writes” in their sleep?) Honestly, nobody can be really creative without enough down time. Yogis have been doing it for centuries: finishing the practice with shavasana, or corpse-pose, where the practitioner lies still on the floor for a few minutes, allowing their body to return to their baseline of relaxation after the effort. Shavasana, or final resting resting pose is known as the most important pose of all, according to tradition. It’s then that the benefits of the practice get integrated into muscle memory, mind, and nervous system.

Perhaps, the real question I’m asking here is this: a life without time for a walk in the park, to meet up with a friend, idle time spent with your loved ones – is that worth living? Are we even going to care about the shit we do for work in our deathbeds? Even a plot of land deserves to rest. Why wouldn’t we?

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