Everyday Balance: Thoughts on Guilt and Rest
Yesterday, I took a nap.
Here’s the thing about me and naps: unless I’m vomiting or up all night with someone who has been vomiting, I suffer tremendous guilt about the nap. I mean, I don’t DESERVE the nap. Next to a full-body massage and salt scrub in an expensive day spa with fluffy white robes and iced cucumber water, naps are the most self-indulgent and frivolous activity on the planet. Or so my guilt-ridden brain tells me.
I lie there trying to combat the guilt with logic. I tell myself I’ll feel more energized and be more productive when I wake up from the nap. I will remind myself of all the hard work I completed thus far and all the hard work I will complete when I awaken. I will set an alarm so the nap is brief. I will tell myself that I probably wasted more time indulging in mindless crap on the Internet already that day, than I would be spending on the actual nap. I’ll calculate the number of hours I’ve already been awake and then number of hours I have before I can possibly go back to bed, and think through the proportions of hours awake to hours asleep.
It’s exhausting living with this brain.
No wonder I need a nap!
I realize not all of you have the luxury of taking a mid-day nap. It’s definitely a perk of the stay-at-home/work-from-home-mom job description. (If you work away from home, you get other perks—like money. So, it all evens out in the end.) And some of you hate naps. You wake up cranky and more tired, and it’s just not worth it to you.
But this post is not really about naps. It’s about the guilt surrounding rest.
I want to make a definitive statement, right here, right now: Your body needs rest. The daily, high-quality kind. No matter whether you work at home or away from home, first shift or third shift, days, nights or weekends, you need rest every single day.
It’s not indulgent.
It’s not frivolous.
It’s not lazy.
Everyday balance requires both work and rest. God designed it that way. This is both scientific fact and scriptural truth. It’s logical and practical. And if you enjoy naps, like I do, it’s also rather enjoyable.
So, let’s stop this guilt-for-resting nonsense. Agreed?
Buried in my archives, I found the following post called Balance and the Guilt-Factor. It spoke so loudly to me today, that I wanted to include it here, as a conclusion to today’s post.
Original publish date: Sept 19, 2012
So much of what we perceive as “imbalance” is just guilt.
Guilt because we know we should be exercising, except we’re working all day.
Guilt because we know we should be playing doll-house with our preschooler, except we’ve got to clean the bathroom.
Guilt because we know we should be cooking at home, except the kids’ activities mean we’re in the car all evening.
Guilt because we know we need a date with our spouse, except money is tight because we ate out all week.
When we’re working, we feel guilty that we don’t stay home with the kids.
When we’re home with the kids, we feel guilty that we don’t contribute financially to the household.
When we’re cleaning, we feel guilty we’re not resting.
When we’re resting, we feel guilty we’re not organizing.
When we’re organizing, we feel guilty we’re not playing with the kids.
When we’re playing with the kids, we feel guilty we’re ignoring the laundry pile.
When we’re attacking the laundry pile, we feel guilty we aren’t addressing our spiritual lives.
And when we finally sit down to address our spiritual lives, our entire
to-do list life comes flooding into our brains—and with it, overwhelming waves of guilt that we have so much to do, but we are always doing something else. We’re always doing something wrong.
Guilty feelings lead to an illusion of imbalance. You may not be as imbalanced as you think you are—it’s just that you can’t see the balance through the guilt.
What if, instead of nursing guilt feelings for everything you are not doing, you rested securely in what you are doing and focused on that? What if you knew—really knew—what you were supposed to be doing right now, today, this week?
I can think of a few seasons of my life where I felt no guilt whatsoever for what I was doing/not doing, and thus, felt extremely well-balanced:
After the birth of every one of my babies.
Before and after relocations.
After the death of my son.
When my children have been sick. (Like puking, feverish-sick. I’m still not sure what I should be doing when they are sorta sick. Is it okay to still pick up the house and make some phone calls? I don’t know.)
During pre-planned family vacations.
The year we scraped every penny to fund my daughter’s adoption.
I look back over that list and have to chuckle. I can “feel” balanced while I’m surrounded by boxes in a new city or sitting in my sweats holding a feverish toddler, but I sometimes struggle with balance on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon.
The circumstances of our lives don’t dictate balance. Resolving to focus on our priorities does. Distraction and balance are enemies.
Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts….Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.
Proverbs 4:23-27 (The Message)
Distraction parades before us a thousand things we could be doing and tells us we SHOULD be doing them. And then it screams, “Shame on you! Why are you doing THAT when you should be doing THIS? And THIS? And what about THIS?”
Guilt-inducing distraction is especially powerful on ordinary days. The days when priorities are not as clear. When exercise, rest, cooking from scratch, eating out, tending to the children, tending to our home, me-time, God-time, friend-time, work-time, volunteer-time, computer-time and face-time all seem equally important.
But there is a way to dispel distraction and guilt.
It’s called Wisdom.
“Take this to heart. Do what I tell you—live! Sell everything and buy Wisdom! Forage for Understanding! Don’t forget one word! Don’t deviate an inch! Never walk away from Wisdom—she guards your life; love her—she keeps her eye on you. Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom! Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding! Throw your arms around her—believe me, you won’t regret it; never let her go—she’ll make your life glorious. She’ll garland your life with grace, she’ll festoon your days with beauty. Dear friend, take my advice; it will add years to your life….Hold tight to good advice; don’t relax your grip. Guard it well—your life is at stake…The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine. But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker—travelers can’t see a thing; they fall flat on their faces…. Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they’re bursting with health.”
(portions omitted for brevity)
Have you consulted Wisdom? Not just for the big things that show up every couple years, but for the hundred little things that show up every morning? Have you asked Wisdom what’s priority today? The answer you receive could be the key to your balance.
So ironic I am reading this right before my nap 😉
I feel zero guilt at napping as of a few weeks ago. I am a poor nighttime sleeper, and as hard as the baby/toddler years were, I am finding that as I get older and am raising teen/pre-teen/mid-elementary kids, I am needing rest more than ever.
So, I finally decided I will grab my rest where/when I can. I get up at the crack of dawn to start the day while everyone else in my home is sleeping (my choice) so as to not take away time from them at other hours of the day. I figure 2 hours up before anybody else equates to at least 1 hour rest during the days I can 🙂
I will say that I still harbor some guilt around 7pm when my brain decides to not function and that is the time of day that everyone else seems to come alive and wants to talk about deep thoughts…..still haven’t figured out how to solve that one!!!
Wish I could go home and nap – but the lady who comes to clean (talk about indulgences) is still there, and there won’t be time before school pick up…