Insomniacs and new parents, please look away now, but on Saturday night I had eleven hours sleep. I woke to feel, for once, fully awake and properly rested, but even writing it down feels like a confession.
I’ve always had a strange relationship with rest. When I was seven, I was confined to bed for a week after one of my frequent nosebleeds turned into a haemorrhage and revealed that I was suffering from chronic anaemia.
Visitors weren’t allowed as my immune system was compromised and despite the mountain of books and comics plus the small black and white portable TV hastily rigged up at the end of my bed, those seven days felt like an eternity.
That week of total bed rest saved me from a blood transfusion, something that with hindsight, I’m eternally grateful for. I might have grown up to see rest as a sort of saviour, but instead, I spent most of my adult life battling against constant tiredness while simultaneously, trying to deny the necessity of rest.
Sleep felt like dead time, resting felt like laziness, or worse, weakness. So, like a lot of people, I found myself caught in the cycle of overworking almost to the point of burnout. My health would dip so I’d reluctantly slow the pace for a while only to hop straight back on the merry-go-round as soon as I felt better.
It was my mother’s death and all of the fallout that came with it, that finally forced me down from the carousel horse and helped me to see the ridiculousness of it all.
There are times in our lives when it is genuinely hard to find time to rest; looking after young children, working on an important project or dealing with a crisis, but for many of us, my old self included, rejecting rest in favour of constant ‘doing’ has been a choice.
It’s a choice that gets the full support of our consumer-driven culture and one that we make even though we know that it robs us of our health, happiness and even takes years off our life.
This crisis is inviting us all to rest now. To stay home to save lives. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of its legacies was our ability to feel as proud of our resting as we are of our doing?
It’s not about doing or having…. it’s all about being