An uneventful Saturday afternoon. While drying dishes, making the windows shine, and fluffing bed pillows to life in the nearly springtime light, a phrase entered my mind, and got stuck.
Setting a collection of dusty, damp paper towels aside, I leaned down to ruffle the soft fur of my dog. Scratching her upturned belly, I looked around the living room, thinking: This is our tiny empire. It’s ours to make of it what we will. What a beautiful, wild idea. What a gift.
I pondered this for a moment more, feeling grateful, then launched back into cleaning. But it struck me how I had come to this realization while I paused. Not while hauling the vacuum upstairs, or scrubbing the sink (yes, my cleaning sprees tend to occur on Saturdays, and I like to make it snappy, not being the naturally domestic type), but while pausing and resting. While giving my attention to a quiet, uncommitted moment, snuggling a sweet dog in lazy, blissful repose herself.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about rest. This simple (albeit, four-letter) word sounds like luxury—like music, like silk, like the stuff of dreams, at least to me. Like most women, I lead a busy, productive, ‘modern,’ and multifaceted daily life. I’m naturally worn in body and spirit as the long day folds into itself. At night, I’m often running, at the gym, cooking for two, studying for grad school, reading, writing . . . and, when I can’t muster another movement, when my eyelids flutter mid-sentence—falling asleep late and awakening all too soon.
So I wonder, could I learn to incorporate rest—some simple pause, even if brief—into each day, into my tiny empire? We make all kinds of choices in cultivating homes and lives, in deciding the particular tenor of that sacred space, our space. It doesn’t seem too difficult to list obvious methods of rest, especially while we’re at home: a twenty-minute nap, a yoga sequence, a glass of bright red wine in the evening. Or reading and reflecting at the day’s beginning, before the swirl of activity sets in. All of these things are wonderful and restoring, even necessary in the respite they offer. When I’m intentional, they’re easily attainable, too.
But I wonder about those hectic days, the ones where rest is so easily neglected and lost amid the noise of everyday living. Can we locate it, even if our schedule doesn’t allow for a lazy bath, or a power nap? Is it possible to lead an invested, sometimes frenetic existence, busy and full, but rooted in rest? Can we hold on to stillness in the soft, quiet moments, but also in the midst of movement?
In attempting to answer these questions for myself, I think the answer is yes, absolutely, but also no, not always. Sometimes there are more opportunities for inner rest than we realize. On a particularly hectic afternoon in the office, I take a walk in a quiet neighborhood during lunch, breathing in blue clear skies and crisp air. I choose reading over one more episode, or sing in the car rather than mindlessly absorbing radio banter during my morning commute.
But there’s a limit, too. Sometimes rest comes only with true quiet and solitude that’s allowed to linger. Sometimes, enticing as the music may be, we have opt for silence. There are times to let rest be paramount, in order to foster deep restoration. It may take time to embrace it, but we can learn to revel in rest.
In our daily lives, in our own chosen method of finding rest—journaling, mindfully enjoying a cup of tea, daydreaming, wandering in the woods, picking up that book of poems you’ve always meant to read (or write), playing an instrument, or whatever rest looks like to you—there, too, is our own pattern of restoration. Soon, the music will resume. It will greet us once again, like the warmth of spring on your skin, when you thought winter would last forever. The pace will increase, the colors return, the sounds reemerge; and we’ll greet it all again, joyfully.
But for now, it listens, and allows us to be heard, to rest—and in each of our own tiny empires, that gift is ours for the taking, protecting, and discovering.
Author: Emily Patterson
Author Bio: Emily Patterson is an editor and writer living in Columbus, Ohio. She studied English at Ohio Wesleyan University and is currently earning a Master of Arts in Education at Ohio State University.
Link to social media or website: https://www.instagram.com/helloemilyjean/