Raise Your Hand if You’re Afraid of Downtime
By Deborah Blackwell
Shortly after dining out with my ex and his wife — in public, in a crowd, without masks — Sir Husband and I got the plague. This was the only time in two years we relaxed our vigilance with safety measures, on a mission to make peace with the past to boot, and we got the dreaded coronavirus.
Flattened with a fever and some less-than-lovely symptoms, I came face-to-face with something I never anticipated.
Usually I when I confront a challenge, I persevere, pretend I’m fine, stick to my routine, and get on with my day. This time though, I couldn’t do it. A larger-than-life, gaping hole where life used to happen, engulfed me and sucked me into an empty vortex leaving me to wonder now what?
Downtime is serious business. It’s ignoring the buzzing, pulsating, high-level, staticky frequency that constitutes our outer world — for me, a relentless grid of perpetual chaos — and infiltrates our inner system. Relaxing and rejuvenating from life’s daily demands is vital.
Lying in bed because that’s all I could do, I felt the void to my core. For the first time in a long time, I had to just “be”, and it scared me. Time stopped. Life stopped. I was off the chaotic grid. What on earth would I do?
We live in a ‘how to heal’ world, where self-help is available right at our fingertips. But even with infinite online advice about how to feel better, fix our life, attract our desires, unwind, and go with the flow, this break didn’t feel like Utopia.
I realized my problem, and it wasn’t just the ongoing pandemic ruling my existence. It’s that I don’t prioritize downtime. Instead, I hold onto pressure like it’s my best friend. I’m the hamster on the wheel running to get it done, make it perfect, hide my flaws, beat the clock, keep up, stay informed, do the right thing, try to feel better, and succeed. The overload, combined with a cultural mindset to persevere, can derail the wheel.
Last year, my nervous system collapsed after I toughed out a nasty bout of salmonella and a long stint of stress. Life was coming at me from several directions, and I was exhausted. We store our whole history — good and bad — inside our mind and body and I had become “worried sick.” And like most of us, I don’t automatically think I have much control over that. But that’s not really the case.
I had to learn how to coax myself back into a gentle rhythm. Quiet my mind. Relax my body. Slow down my breathing. Quit racing, and start embracing true rest. I had to learn to shift my perception just enough to let the outside world go. Become less triggered and more trusting. I had to stop fighting what I couldn’t control, and quit pushing against what I didn’t like. I had to get comfortable with the right now of life. Make choices about how to proceed in my own best interest. Nobody was going to do it for me.
But I did all of those things as if they were items on a checklist, and forgot the most important part. Downtime. It’s so easy for humans to make things harder than they need to be. When exhausted, overloaded, stressed, dealing with drama, or simply wanting to feel better, stronger, healthier, and happier, all I have to remember is that less is really more.
So this time, I surrendered. I accepted my downtime discomfort and it didn’t take long to dissolve. In fact shockingly, making space for nothing was great.
Sir husband and I survived the plague, thank goodness. And I learned that a dynamic determination to persevere isn’t always the answer. But I know what is.
Got a minute?