How good are you at doing nothing?
Okay, I’ll rephrase that. How good are you at resting?
I’m not good at it at all. Oh, the idea of lying in a hammock with a glass of chilled white wine to hand, reading a frivolous romance, appeals. In fact, I dream of it. Today, is the last day of summer; tomorrow it will rain. The hammock is right outside my window. It sags, forlorn, over a scatter of crisp brown leaves, already fallen from the horse chestnut tree above. I’d love to go out to it: to rest, just for half an hour – but I probably won’t.
Growing up on the farm, under the autocratic rule of my grandfather, Sundays were sacrosanct. No farm work was done on a Sunday; even at harvest time when every fine hour counts because the weather could turn to rain at any time. We had dairy and beef cattle which had to be milked and fed but Sunday mornings were for church, and Sunday afternoons for rest.
It was difficult for us as young children to sit quietly for the whole Sunday afternoon, although there were some slight compensations. Television was allowed on a Sunday afternoon and there was often an exciting Western on, with waggon trains and horses and whooping actors dressed as Native Americans. That film might alleviate the tedium for a couple of hours, but the rest of the afternoon dragged. We were not allowed to go out to play; we had to sit in the stuffy front room, seen and not heard, until teatime.
Later, when we were older, any time other than Sunday was filled with homework and the unending round of chores associated with a big rambling house full of too much history and too few modern conveniences. There seemed no time for rest, and if I were discovered hiding in a quiet corner with my nose in a book, I was hauled out to do something productive.
Perhaps it is that combination of boredom and guilt that makes it difficult for me to rest. Add too, the guilt I feel when my bouts of depression force me to sit, shaking, on the sofa for weeks, doing nothing.
Depression is like any other illness – it demands rest. The body has healing powers and those powers work best when we rest.
Depression attacks our minds and so, even if our body can be active (this is not always the case), we need to rest our minds.
Meditation forces us to rest; reading a book which sweeps us away into the story without the need for critical analysis, gentle TV; crafting where the product is secondary to the process; all these can help us rest.
Without rest, we burn out; we stumble into exhaustion; we become prey to depression, again.
Maybe my grandfather was right, all those years ago. Once a week at least, we need some rest.
Perhaps I shall lie in the hammock this afternoon.
A Moodscope member.