The Lost Art of Creating Margin
Somehow, rest is hard work.
The difficulty in finding rest and creating space for self-care is a frequent conversation in many social circles because the pressure to be productive is intense, regardless of age, gender or occupational status.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year that 20 percent of the total workforce is working at least 49 hours a week. In the U.S., 85 percent of men and 66 percent of women work more than 40 hours per week. The productivity for the average American worker has increased 400 percent since 1950.
But it’s not just those in the workplace who are stressed.
If you’re not there yet, be warned: Parenting has become a competitive sport in which success is often defined as volunteering in the classroom, creating elaborate lunches, crafts and home decor, in addition to running children to and from multiple practices after school. And this doesn’t even include people with older kids supervising the excessive homework that seems to be the new norm. Both career and family life leave many of us feeling exhausted.
This is an age and a society in which busyness is seen as a virtue. And just about everyone struggles with the urge to find meaning in producing external results instead of focusing on our inner life. Because, really, who wants to brag about a lifestyle of rest in their next Christmas letter? Rattling off a list of achievements is what Americans do.
It’s easier to give a nod to the importance of rest than it is to actually participate in rest. On weekends, it’s so tempting to pull out your laptop and just knock a few things off of a to-do list under the guise of checking “a couple things online.” And the next thing you know, the weekend is over. It’s hard to turn off the need to “get things done.” And because most people can access work emails from home, the temptation to check in over the weekend is always there.
I had the chance to travel to Israel a few times in the past couple of years, and I was struck by the emphasis on Sabbath in Jewish culture and religion. A full day of Sabbath rest promoted family harmony and community connection.
At the same time, aspects of this practice, taken a certain way, seemed to veer into legalism—like having a special elevator to avoid pushing a button, rules against tearing toilet paper, hiring someone to turn on light switches. Some of the Jewish Sabbath rules felt more like fundamental edicts than a journey to rest.