Do you ever wake up one day and realize how tired you’ve been for an entire year? I do this pretty much every year, when I take my October Internet fast. First I think, “wow, there are a lot of hours in the day.” And then I think, “oh my gosh, I need to sleep for all of them.”
I’m not off the Internet 24 hours a day. Though my original year without Internet was a complete blackout for 365 days, my annual October refresher is a lot more lax than that. It has varied from year to year, but the gist is that I take a break for a month from checking up on what people think of me, and I devote the extra energy to something useful or creative. The point of beginning was a very structured thing with boundaries, but now I do the more advanced version. Basically, I know it should feel like in my soul and I stay off the Internet until it feels like that.
Sunday I had my town day and picked the tomato patch and canned a batch of salsa. Monday I spent four hours working on the house with Nick and another two hours cleaning up the summer garden and storing the herbs – all that on top of our normal homeschool time and baking bread and everything else we do. Nick said, “That’s one hell of a Monday.”
I said, “No. That’s just how many hours days have in them.”
I don’t do much computer work while the kids are awake. That’s a decision I made long ago, because the mix between writing books and yelling over my shoulder at wayward children is such a depressing one. Computer work is for the dark, and days are for living.
But when I made that decision — being a person who does have children and also writes books — I sentenced myself to a decade of short nights. It’s completely normal for me to burn the candle at both its ends, every single night of my life for this entire decade. I squeeze a whole another life into the edges of my first life, and it’s a precarious mess, but I fuel the whole thing with chocolate and caffeine.
When I take my October Internet fast, the first thing I do is fill my day completely full with useful work. And the second thing I do is sleep at night.
It takes a cushion of silence, to get me this kind of rest. I’ve always been a front-of-the-class, A-student sort of person. Plus I really like people. Plus I really like it when people like me. I have the ability to make things that people like, and I have to take steps to keep from working myself to death doing it.
But I’ve seen it come around year after year. I’ve seen how a drive to create a lot of content also creates burnouts. And I’ve seen in myself that I can create awesome and beautiful things when I’ve got my head on straight. I have to do what I have to do to keep my head on straight.
Also, I’ve been thinking this weekend about stamina. I have wise friends, and one in particular just reminded me that faith is “a long obedience.” It’s tempting to think of this life as a sprint, but that’s a costly mistake. A lot of us know about that mistake because we’ve made it.
Even if this year weren’t my year of “slow,” even if it weren’t my mission as a writer to reclaim the value of ordinary daily work and ordinary daily life, even if I weren’t so tired, this October — even if all that weren’t the case, which it is — this would still be the right thing to do: to fill my days with useful work and sleep at night.
If I do this — my leaning into rest — with full confidence, it’s because I already know about seasons. I trust the turning of the earth and I know it comes around again. Dry periods come where you just don’t have the strength, or the inspiration. That’s real. And it’s okay. Because then you survive those times and the fertile times come around again. Your audiences (or customers) may get bored or cranky with you. But they aren’t the measurement of anything that matters.
You are still valuable and you are still loved. And we just keep going on. We keep leaning into the daily moments, finding beauty and truth in ordinary things and living loved.
I still write in the mornings, sitting on my couch cushions…hopefully with the cat on my lap. It’s still just warm enough that with a blanket and the warm cat on my lap I don’t have to build a fire in the stove. Sometimes I write pages and pages of completely awful writing, and sometimes I still feel dry as a bone and sleepy. But I still show up. As always, it isn’t black or white or all one thing. To regain my balance I don’t have to throw out everything. I just have to fill my days with meaningful work and sleep at night.
Today I’m wishing you all a good rest. In a world full of high expectations, and a culture fraught with hamster wheels and other such traps, I wish you the courage to keep your head on straight. I wish you the wisdom to believe in rhythms and find your place in them. And I wish you the power to be creative where the world would rather keep you only productive.
Love, from the yurt (mostly unplugged),