I was 22 years old when I figured out that play was a vital part of life. I worked in a nonprofit organization that I had the privilege of helping build from the ground up. While it was my job, it also became my life. Besides my relationship with family, there was nothing in my life that wasn’t related to or contingent on the organization.
It was my pride and joy. Our team was dynamic, extremely capable and unbelievably close. I held a unique role that required swells of creativity, which made me feel fulfilled and purposeful every day. It seemed like we had it all. We worked hard, grew spiritually and laughed together.
Eventually, after years of hurdles, conflict and disillusion, the fire inside of me burned out. I had no balance in my life, and I couldn’t function because everything tied back to work. I needed separation in my life between the things I did for work, rest and play. We all do.
I needed separation in my life between the things I did for work, rest and play. We all do.
Work, rest and play are necessary for our well-being, but also for our survival. Here’s how to find a balance between the three:
Food needs to be cooked, trails have to be blazed and children must be taken care of. It’s in our nature to find creative ways to get the job done. Productivity has been wired inside of human beings and fulfilling that inclination feels good.
The time we spend on work is essential for our growth as individuals and humanity as a whole. Work thrusts us forward in motion. Creativity lives in this space when we solve problems with critical thinking and discover new ways to do things.
I desire to spend my time on earth purposefully; God has called me to share beauty and healing through words. I feel alive when I sit down to counsel, stand up to speak or use my hands to write. These actions remind me that I was created with unique gifts that I have been called to use and share with others. Yet, work will never be able to quiet my heart or lift my tired feet. This reveals that work is only part of a greater whole.
Work will never be able to quiet my heart or lift my tired feet.
Hustle culture is finally getting exposed as a terrible thing, and I could not be more grateful. Achieving and producing is good, but rest is just as wonderful. It’s a discipline.
Rest doesn’t just keep us healthy, it keeps us alive. While we spend years wondering what we have been created to do, we don’t give the same magnitude of importance to rest. We never learn the benefits because we don’t know how to rest.
The questions, “What is my purpose?” “What have I been created to do?” and “What are my skills and strengths?” are a beautiful part of self-discovery. However, I learned more about myself from answering the question, “When do I feel at rest?”
It has taken me years to learn what types of things quiet my heart and mind. There are plenty of things that activate and even more that numb the mind, but few offer a gentle quieting. This is rest to me.
It’s sitting in a quiet room with my favorite song on repeat. It’s savasana at the end of a yoga class. It’s a glass of wine and cuddling with my dog. Learning to rest is creative in nature. Taking the time to do so is the discipline that makes our lives more whole.
Learning to rest is creative in nature.
Think about swinging on a swing set at the park. Lean your head back and let your arms hold the balance of your body soaring through the air. The breeze in your face, pressure off of your feet and rhythmic motion are how I define play. It’s when I feel like I’m soaring through the sky, flexing my muscles but not exhausting them. My favorite form of creativity is emotional and cerebral, and it’s what I look for in work.
This is why I got so burned out. While I was having fun, I was running too fast to let my feet lift off the ground. Play, for me, means getting outside of my head and in my body. These are things like watercolor painting, yoga, baking, cooking and playing fetch with my dog. I feel alive, but I’m not taxed. I don’t have to set goals or achieve anything at all. Play reminds me of what joy feels like.
This is the hardest one for me. My family jokes all the time about how I was stuck to my mother’s hip as a child. I was unwilling to engage with other children my age on the playground, sandbox or soccer fields. I preferred to listen, observe and learn. It’s in those moments where I felt like I was using my time well.
Even as a child, I think I had an elementary understanding of that. I was uncoordinated and unwilling to embarrass myself. Play does not come naturally to me, but it makes me feel so much lighter. I am a happier human when I incorporate play in my life.
Play does not come naturally to me, but it makes me feel so much lighter.
We don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how we spend our time. When I started doing so, I found that there was no balance in my life. I want to live a life that is whole and balanced. This means that all three of these expressions of time and creativity are necessary.
I encourage you to press into the spaces that may be missing from your own life. Brainstorm and ask yourself when you experience work, rest and play. Then, have the courage to make space in your life for all three every week. Schedule it in, if necessary. I often still do.