Hello, how are you, g’day and welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. You can also find a link to all the posts in this series on Day One. I hope you enjoy diving in!
It was sometime during my junior year in high school, but it was such an odd experience I remember it like it was yesterday. All my teammates were in the pool, and I was standing by the pool fully dressed. I’d gone to my coach with words I just didn’t quite understand myself, but I did my best to explain, “I don’t really know why, Coach, I just can’t get in the pool today.”
The sport I loved so much almost repulsed me. The thought of putting on my suit and getting ready for another practice was so itchy and uncomfortable and just plain awful, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
My coach was very gracious and said it was okay, and I got in my car and drove home.
That strange and uncomfortable feeling passed, and I think I was probably right back in the pool the next day. But why did every ounce of my being want to refuse to swim that day?
My best guess is I just needed some rest.
I was in the middle of a busy year at school, pummeling my way through difficult classes while participating in lots of extra curricular activities, and I think that day my body was just saying: Be still.
Sometimes our bodies tell us to be still with the gentle warning signs that we might be getting sick: minor headaches, scratchy throats, stomach ulcers, and so on, and we don’t necessarily want to listen to them. We want to keep going, keep pushing, keep doing doing doing.
Sometimes our minds give us a good indication that they need some breathing room, we struggle to focus on one thing, we’re constantly trying to work in several different directions, our thoughts are hazy and cloudy and don’t make sense.
We just looked at the clock and have no idea what time it is.
I recently read an article in the Washington Post in which pediatric occupational therapist, Angela Hanscom, discussed what seems to be an ADHD epidemic, and how so much of the problem could actually have to do with the lack of time that children have to play outside, run, spin and jump and just live inside their own bodies, exploring their world.
Her article made a big splash in the educational community, and in a follow-up piece, she described a specific interaction with a parent, some teachers and a school administrator, who were concerned about a particular child who had not been flourishing at school, but showed great potential after experiencing the therapist’s nature-based development program, which fosters creativity through independent play outdoors. Hanscom was invited to this educational meeting, and her recommendation, in the situation of this particular child, was that he needed an hour long recess to play outside each day.
All of the teachers present in the room burst out laughing at this suggestion.
Why? Because there are time restraints and curriculum restraints and heaps of bureaucratic reasons why an hour-long recess is impossible in public school today.
The system is cutting back on the time for recess — which for children, is really a time for rest. Sure, they are physically active when they’re outside, but mentally, they’re not staring at a chalkboard or reading a book, or participating in any other type of classroom-based learning. While childhood obesity and ADHD continue to rise, the system says it cannot afford to give kids time away from the classroom.
There is just too much work that has to be done.
Could this school-related example really be a telling sign of the times?
Are we so convinced that all our toiling and scurrying about under the sun is so meaningful that we cannot give in to the idea that we need to rest?
How often do we go to the doctor because we want the medicine that will cure us, when a hot cup of tea and taking it easy for a few days would probably do the job better?
You may have heard this point a thousand times before, but it has to be repeated because we just aren’t getting it:
God set a pattern when He created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. He actions said to us, “Work is great and very good things come from work, but rest is important, too.” If even the Creator of the universe decides to stop and rest, shouldn’t we?
How are you doing with allowing yourself to really rest? Does taking a day to rest just look like you, working hard at something else? Do you get outside to recharge your batteries? If you have children, have you been outside to play with them lately?
Rest diffuses the stress of the way that we live in this world.
Rest invites peace into our frenetic pace.
Rest creates opportunities for our bodies and our souls to just be human beings instead of always human doings.
An important part of swimming your own race is knowing when not to dive into the pool. If you are constantly going, and never allowing yourself the space to breathe, take a nap, read a book you don’t have to read, look at clouds, or just stare out the window for a while, chances are making a rest a priority will make your school or work life better and your family life better. Most important, it will empower you to “swim” with endurance the race that is set before you…
Make a plan and block out the schedule…let the world keep on spinning, while you get some rest.