Stuff I’m Learning: Downtime.
by Chris Kamalski
I type this in a groggy, semi-coherent state having just fought hard for a nap this afternoon. Sleep has always been something that I’ve struggled with on and off, often because my mind takes awhile to shut down, particularly once I cross that line in becoming overly tired. So I find myself trying to fall asleep a few hours ago, and suddenly it’s as if the sounds outside which I typically tune out are magnified to a degree that is unfathomably loud.
Shrieking birds. A passionate high school rugby match. The creaking of the steps outside (Busi’s home from battling home affairs!). Fellow apprentices talking in the warmth of the fleeting autumn sun. The sluggish fears of ‘Will someone knock on my door?’ Chippy and Jesse (our community dogs) deciding that NOW is the time to hang out directly outside my door.
But these sounds are dwarfed by the internal monologue raging through my mind and heart. Why am I so drained? Why does exhaustion come on me so suddenly? How come I feel sheepish coveting naps as I approach my 30th birthday? Why do I say yes to so many things? Why do I feel guilty saying no? Can’t I simply enjoy a bit of wasted time? And then the noise internal (“the noise eternal?”) grows more jagged in tone, accusatory even. Will I always live without enough margin? Will I never be fully rested? Am I letting our community down yet again in retreating away for a bit? What is really bothering you? Is anything even bothering you? (Mom: The answer is no, by the way!). Sometimes a general sense of anxiety is all that I need to spin away into myself. My weariness grows as I realize familiar beasts within gnawing near their approach.
And I suddenly come to grips with a simple fact: I desperately want to grow in giving myself permission (grace, actually) to live with increased margin. I need this time, down and away. Others need this time. So, in the grips of being unable to fall asleep (at least for awhile), I sigh, and give myself freedom to choose to take a nap. And the nap was glorious.
A few years ago I asked my students to perform an experiment in class with me illustrating how hard silence/stillness was for us. I asked for 10 minutes of complete quiet in our classroom. We dimmed the lights, and within 2 minutes, every single student was fast asleep! An important point was unearthed that day at Eastside, which is this: The only time most of us are still is when we (finally) fall asleep, to the degree that our bodies are conditioned to shut down when we are still! Like normal, as the teacher, I learned the most that day.