Confession #1: I don’t get enough rest.
Confession #2: I haven’t tried very hard to alter confession #1.
Are you like me? Do you tend to push yourself to the limit, figuring sleep and adequate rest will happen when you’ve accomplished everything else? Do you wear the nametag, “Busy,” with honor, believing, in your secret heart of hearts, that being constantly on the go proves you’re contributing to your world in a worthy manner? Oh writer and friend, let me implore you to reconsider those thoughts if you have them. And, let me share a story that might help prove my point.
Two weeks ago, I got up very early on a Saturday morning to go on a long bike ride with a friend. We were starting at 7:00 am and the drive to the starting place was about 45 minutes from the colony. I got out of bed at 5:30 and was on the road by 6:15 am. This would have been fine ordinarily. I’m a morning person. Getting up early doesn’t phase me – except that particular morning, I wasn’t rested. I’d been babysitting my son’s puppy and the pup kept me up a lot for 2 nights in a row. Add to that a couple of hard days of work during the past week and you can guess my state of being. Tired. Overtired.
I finished the 58-mile bike ride and got in my mini-van to drive the 45 minutes back to the colony. I was aware that I felt sleepy. I kept driving. I talked to myself, sang to myself, shook my head back and forth, and still, the sleepiness seemed to grow like a shadow in front of me. I promised myself I’d take a nap when I got to RWC. I was 3 miles from the colony, feeling like I had cheated a potentially dangerous situation. I was still awake. And then I wasn’t as I drove off the road and into a ditch, slamming my mini-van into a large drainage pipe and rock-filled culvert. I had fallen asleep driving.
I won’t go into the gory details of what happened next. Suffice it to say I was very lucky. I was bruised, but not broken. The wreck cost my car, but not my life and not anyone else’s life. When I got home from the Emergency Room, I let the affairs of the day wash over me. I had experienced a significant event and it was my duty to learn from it. Sleep and rest are too important to our body and mind to ignore. I experienced a wake-up call, pun intended. As I continued to mull over things, I realized I was not just missing rest, I was missing peace, the sort of deep calm and serenity that makes rest more likely to happen.
I’ve been considering how to cultivate peace ever since that day. I like the word “cultivate.” It infers gentle action, caring for something so much that you give it a sort of sacred tending. It would be nice if peace just happened, but that’s not been my experience. Sometimes, it requires a little effort. Here are a few of the things I decided to focus on in order to nurture peace in my life:
1. Walk while holding grateful thoughts in my mind
2. Read a poem a day in my inbox
3. Sip hot tea before bedtime
4. Sit for 5 minutes on the back porch listening to birdsong
5. Visit the creek
6. Draw in my art journal
7. Pick one flower to put in the bud vase on my desk
I’m not so naive as to believe these eight small things would have saved me from having a car accident, but I can honestly say that making an intentional effort to cultivate peace has made a difference in my ability to feel settled, to experience the composure necessary for true rest. When we’re rested, we’re much more able to make good decisions which lead to better outcomes, which lead to the best scenarios for being the best version of ourselves in this sometimes crazy world.
How can you cultivate peace in your life?