My typical pattern is that I go on vacation with a plan, a list of things I’m hoping to accomplish. That should tell me something right there. Don’t get me wrong, they are good things, really good things. They are things that I enjoy and things that have the potential to bring me rest. But somehow when they become a list, they take on a life of their own. All of the sudden I am trying to rest—I’m working at rest. Thus, the rest is gone right out of it. Now I’ve just got a bunch of goals, a bunch of things to do. And when the things on my list don’t get done, or somehow my goals are blocked, I get frustrated. By the way, that’s what happens when our goals get blocked—we get frustrated. If you are ever frustrated and don’t know why, just ask yourself what goal you have (spoken or unspoken, acknowledged or hidden) that is being blocked.
Take the last few days, for instance. We had the opportunity to spend a few days at the beach. Immediately I thought, “Oh great, a chance to get a little sun, read a little, exercise a little, and be still and quiet.” All good things, yet when those good things subtly become my goals, I’m setting myself up for failure. All of the sudden I am working at accomplishing my goals, rather than truly resting. I don’t know, maybe folks that are wired differently from me don’t have this struggle. But I sure do.
All of the sudden, getting a little sun becomes work; something I’ve got to do. And the rest of it drains right out. Then it rains and I find myself frustrated. Or that quiet reading under the umbrella by the beach that I had envisioned in my mind is interrupted by the bazillion people that are now crowded around on every side, talking loudly enough for folks five umbrellas down to be able to hear them, and blaring their music from their wireless speakers. Strike two. And that run on the beach I had envisioned is interrupted by the pulled soleus that has been nagging me for the past few months, and now decides to flare up again. Strike three. Awesome! (Not awesome in the sense that “this is wonderful,” but awesome in the sense of “of course, this always happens to me.” Funny how the same word can have two completely different meanings depending on the tone they are uttered in)
So somehow I have to figure out how to take the work out of rest. Somehow I have got to learn how to be intentional about making the space and time for rest to happen without turning it into a goal. Because goals really are the enemy of rest. Somehow I have got to start holding things loosely, taking things as they come, and enjoying whatever the present moment has to offer. Which is not easy for me, being the anxiety-ridden person that I am. But if I ever hope to have any deep sense of rest, it will only come when I learn to stop doing and start being. Just being alive and present. Breathing and breathing out. Living and savoring time and space, rather than always filling it. Just enjoying, as one of the saints of old once said, the sacrament of the present moment. It’s going to take some practice, but hopefully one day I’ll get there. Hopefully one day I will actually go on vacation with no list. A man can dream, right?