Rest Redefined

Spread across my table and my desktop are remnants of the New Year’s resolutions I don’t actually make: to-do lists, a shiny new calendar; there are weekly menus and shopping lists; my alarms are set and the workout clothes and running shoes are by the door. 

  • Run an errand. 
  • Check a box. 
  • Make a call. 
  • Check-in with parents.
  • Check-in with friends.
  • Check-in with kids.
  • Check-in with spouse.
  • What’s for dinner? 
  • Check-in with co-workers.
  • Check-in with students.
  •  Answer pending work emails.
  • Construct a new email.
  • My pocket is buzzing and the text can’t wait. 
  • Drop someone off, pick someone up. 
  • What’s for dinner? 

In an attempt to enjoy family and friends over the holidays, I may have slipped in and out of my regular schedule, and for that matter, I may have completely ignored it. The holidays, for me, are not restful. They are wonderful, and it was lovely to spend time with family and friends, but they are not what I would consider rest. Time is just too short to fit everything in and how can I prioritize rest when that is time that could be spent planning or catching up or getting ahead or making dinner?

I’m not sure I fully understand what it means to rest.

I wrote in that last paragraph that it was not what I would consider “restful”, when in reality, I’m not sure I fully understand what it means to rest. Not in a way that aligns with the culturally and socially, and perhaps even familial, understanding of the word. Rest is typically defined as leisure time, a time to put work aside, and a time to turn off my brain. It is well-known that I am not good at these things, that my idea of leisure is not what everyone else thinks of as leisure. In fact, upon telling my family that I have been writing about rest this month, I may have received a few sarcastic remarks, and, unanimously, laughter. 

stop and rest, stop and relax

People are constantly telling me to stop and rest, stop and relax, take some time to rest, take some time to myself. This is always advice given in spaces that recognize I’m working hard, and recognize that perhaps I stress about things, or over plan, but the directive doesn’t come along with a direction that feels restful to me. Just sitting, vegging out without focus or goal, feels frustrating. It doesn’t feel like boredom, but like a waste of time, and not a recharge, but a setback, one that will take hours for me to catch up on when I’m back in the mode of not “resting”. So the question I’m working out as I write this, is, what is rest?

What is Rest?

A couple of years ago, I was working out my understanding of education. I am a teacher by trade, and love learning and teaching, however, as I watched students struggle to fit into a system and style of learning that didn’t match their lives, I began to study education systems that were alternative to the American public school system. Within this search, I found that the Greek term Skhole is etymologically related to the word school, but their meanings in action could not be more different. 

School is a place of learning in which students learn and teachers teach; often learners are unwilling, often teachers are unwilling. Whereas, Skhole is described as time spent in the leisure and rest of engaging in philosophical dialogues and discussions with other people.

leisure and rest of engaging in philosophical dialogues and discussions with other people

My contemporary mind, formed by a contemporary culture, had to read this over and over to make sense of the fact that rest and leisure were happening concurrent to, or because of, dialogues and discussions. This is not how we think of rest, and yet, my heart began to sing at these words.

Perhaps, just perhaps, I’m not alone in feeling like rest is not always achieved by stopping all regular processes. Instead, maybe there are other people out there who find it restful to learn from one another through engaging dialogue and discussion. Maybe it is okay to find rest in philosophical studies and ideas, and rather than viewing these as just more work piled on to an already full schedule, maybe this is where I will find rest!


Rest then, becomes a time that looks like action.

For me, this is okay. It is wonderful and recharging to sit and discuss ideas, to match minds with friends and family, to discuss the happenings of the world with colleagues. Reading and writing and discussing ideas; this is my place and time of rest.

What is yours?


Rebecca Detrick
Latest posts by Rebecca Detrick (see all)

2 thoughts on “Rest Redefined

  1. I can find both rest and invigoration in reading, music, and spending time with those dear to me. Other times I find rest in nature, especially proximity to the sights, sounds, and scents of the ocean. Enjoy your time doing the things you want to do…rather than have to do.

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