In the last year, Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart. She is now working on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she is exploring the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves.
Isn’t it odd how we have allowed rest to become one of life’s true luxuries? Something we rarely, if ever, allow ourselves. I’m talking about real rest; not slumped-on-the-couch-mindlessly-scrolling-through-Instagram rest. Doing nothing, in order to build back up. Slowing right down. A pause, a break, a recharge.
I’m not sure if in the aftermath of a life-trauma real rest is possible for a while. So you do your best with breaks, with yoga, with the occasional weekend away, with late nights out or early nights in. But the first year or so is really more of a 'getting through' than anything else. Things that provide a temporary stress release, rather than anything genuinely restorative.
Related: Learning to find value in non-romantic relationships
Throw children into the mix and real rest becomes even more elusive. Because whether you are parenting solo or as part of a couple, when the child or children aren’t there, lying on your bed reading a book, or merely staring out the window, is probably not on your list. The time needs to be MADE USE OF.
A turning point
This summer was restful. We were ready for it. Able to rest. We took several holidays; we didn’t get up until after nine many mornings. We had weekday breakfasts that went on until after eleven. I had an actual afternoon nap in the shade on a deckchair in the garden of our holiday home whilst Herself played elsewhere with cousins – my ultimate summer holiday ambition ticked off.
At home, we instigated spa nights; which started as evenings of lounging, reading books, painting our nails, and have now been expanded by Herself to include anything that could come under the term of chilling (if she used such a word). Lying on her bed for an hour reading books with Grandad; "we’re having a spa night", she announces with delight, ensconced amongst pillows, munching on a brioche and strawberries, deep in a Richard Scarry.
Suddenly there seems to be more time in the day, even though the work is still getting done. Herself is not in school, so there are not those hours within which to get things done, the manic cramming between drop-off and pick-up.
We had planned a road trip with The Mother to Kerry, finally daring four years into Herself to try (after the last disastrous trip when she was only a few weeks old). A reflux baby who did not care for the car seat, she screamed for six of what became a nearly seven-hour drive. Luckily I was with my father, the calmest person on earth. "She has quite a loud scream, hasn’t she?", he said nonchalantly when we, finally, reached Dingle.
This year, now that she is four, I felt ready to give it another go. We used to go there yearly, and I wanted to show her the beaches, Dick Macks, the Connor Pass for a picnic. But we were all slightly under the weather, and suddenly it felt like too much. And so we stayed home, and because I had cleared the decks workwise, we had three, secret, incredibly restful days at home; nothing planned, nothing that had to be done.
Our home is restful; it is amazing how quickly you can come to love parts of living on your own, or as the only adult in your house. I spend a night at the parents and find myself on the verge of asking the actual inhabitants if they could keep it down a little. I catch myself just in time; they are merely chatting, four adults in the room watching TV. But I think smugly of my own peaceful house and how I will enjoy it the next night.
You need to grab the opportunity to rest when it comes.
Sometimes it arrives in a manner that is not immediately obvious. Our neighbour has a little boy the same age. He is a great friend and often comes to play. At first, I would think that I should get things done, as they played together, occupied. Now, I sit on the couch and read, or chat with a friend on the phone (with one ear out to check that the obstacle course they have built upstairs hasn’t come crashing down).
When grief comes, the enforced tiredness is one of the most frustrating things. The days of not being able to do the daily routines are galling.
It is so lovely to rest, and feel that pass.
Photo: Freestocks via Unsplash