The Rest of the Story

For several years in my late thirties and early forties, I was married to a distance runner. This guy’s life was largely structured around his trips to the gym and his runs. He’d run marathons, or course, but he’d also run ultra-marathons. The oldest ultra-marathon in the country happens in Western Maryland—The JFK 50 Miler—and my former spouse won it a half dozen times.

He might—justifiably—consider those wins the accomplishment of his lifetime.

JKF 50In some ways, we could not have been more different. The longest race I’ve run is a 10k, and I’m not ashamed to say that I came in behind an 80-year-old machine by the name of Carl (who finished the JFK when it he ran it later that year).

By the time I married Marathon Man, my former spouse had been running for 35 years. He’d run through the upheavals of early adulthood, through graduate school, though marriage and the arrival of four children. He’d run through more graduate school, through cross-country moves, through a divorce, and into mid-life. One year, he ran the JKF, then the next week, turned around and ran Boston.

leopard springMind you, this was before Nikes were invented, before gait analysis, before hydration studies or wicking athletic fabrics. This guy was, in his own words, “tough as nails.”

He ended up with a case of bronchitis after Boston that went on for weeks, and may have permanently weakened his lungs. Oh, he finished—I don’t know that he EVER dropped out of a race—but even his toughness hit its limit.

leopard sleepingHe’s still wicked fit, but that experience, of pushing and pushing and pushing until he darn near broke, taught him the meaning of an axiom every distance athlete eventually learns, “Rest is a part of conditioning.”

Rest is not optional. It isn’t just for when you’re sick or they’re repainting the weight room. Rest is not only for the lazy, it’s an integral part of reaching your greatest potential in any endeavor.

polar bear restingI’m still trying to get this one under my belt. I know when I’m rested, I’m MUCH more efficient, whether my task is writing, lawyering, bookkeeping (bleah!), riding my horse, or running errands. I also know EVERYTHING needs rest—bodies, flowerbeds, dreams, relationships, muscles, children, marriages, everything (maybe blogs too!).

Kitten sleeping on guitarI know this, and yet, I’m not adept at finding that rest, and enjoying it. Maybe it’s the potato famine haunting my genes, the anxiety of a single mom, the worry of an author fairly new to the publication game, but how and when to let go and rest is something I’m still learning about.

What do you need a rest from? How will you get it?

To one commenter, I’ll send a $25 Amazon gift card.

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56 comments on “The Rest of the Story

  1. I’m finding as I get older that I’m getting a little better about putting my foot down and telling myself to rest. Whether it’s the need to take a couple of days away from work, to step away from the computer or other people’s negativity, or just taking a look at my to-do list and saying, “that can wait,” I’m learning that I can’t be effective or good at what I want to do if I’m too tired in body and/or spirit.

    So while I haven’t quite mastered the art of the nap 🙂 I have made a greater effort to make my living space a peaceful one, I keep a pile of really good books at hand, I have a couple of favorite walks in the neighborhood, and if the need for rest is really critical, I’ve given myself the rule that I can take the rest of the day to wallow (in exhaustion, in depression, in grumpiness) as long as I remember — the next morning, it’s time to take a deep breath and start anew.

    • Your comment about negativity hits home, Jennifer. The courtroom can feel like a negative place, and yet after spending all day Thursday there, I come home and ask myself, “What can you get done this evening? Can you read galleys? Do some research? Plotstorm?”

      I should snuggle up with some Darcy or Rochester and vege, really I should.

      • There has, unfortunately, been a great deal of negativity this past week, so I finished redecorating my bedroom so I could go to bed and snuggle up with “Darcy or Rochester” by Christmas lights the past couple of nights. Everything seems lovelier by Christmas lights (or candlelight)!

  2. As I get older, it is a lot easier to say no! I have abandoned the commitments that seemed to have become too much (outside time demands – never family). What I need a rest from is work and worry! My husband retired 2 years ago, at my urging since his job was killing him. I work for myself and while I can make my own schedule, it I don’t work, I don’t get paid. I have managed to keep our heads above water, but it would be nice to say I want 2 weeks off and not have to worry about how the bills are going to be paid. I have had this career for 16 years. I know what I need to do to be a success, but at the same time one can raise the question, “How much money do we need?” While my husband has not gotten a paying job, he has become my house husband and I am not doing a lot of work. I am older and getting tired. I love what I do, but would love to not have to think about having to work as opposed to working for the love of it.

    • Martha, I’m an outside dog twice over–with the law practice, which I own, and the writing. Neither one has much job security, but it has plenty of freedom. I’m still trying to crack the code on how to have both, but I suspect doing more of what I love (writing), and less of what pays the bills (lawyering), is part of the answer. Hope you get some relief from the bills–your spouse is lucky to have you, and that you made the call you did.

  3. I need a rest from worry! I worry too much about ridiculous things. I’m determined to change this in my life. I’ve changed so many other things for the better; for example, I’ve been vegan now for 6 years and feel and sleep great. But I still have this little stupid annoying thing about myself that I want to change. I’m sure I’ll feel a lot better if I stop worrying.

    • People who never worry are the ones the saber toothed tiger made an easy snack of. Worry has a useful function, but I’m with you–a little worry goes a long way, and when it’s just fretting, not the first stage in risk management–you don’t need it. Best of luck cleaning the worry house!

  4. Believe it or not, I need a rest from rest! I retired about six months ago and moved to our new retirement home in Tennessee. It seems that all I want to do is sit in my room, watch TV, read (your books, of course) or crochet. I have gained six pounds and can’t seem to get myself motivated to do anything at all. Thankfully, that is about to change. My daughter and son-in-law own a small store in town and have asked me to help out three days a week, and I have also getting myself motivated to start exercising and watching what I eat. Hopefully, my rest from rest will soon come to an end!!

    • Sounds like you’ve made at least two big transitions in the last year, and some turn around time was in order. Good of you, to help out family, and good for them to ask. And I’ve gained six pounds this year, too, Sharon, and I can’t point to retirement as the cause.

  5. I babysit 4 days a week and catch up on household chores and errands the other 3 days. I need to realize that not everything has to be taken care of right away and give myself permission to rest and relax.

  6. Your question has me laughing or maybe it’s more of an unladylike snort.
    What don’t I need a rest from would be an easier question to answer. Although, in the last two years I have been better at going off to my bedroom and resting and even napping (my meds make me very sleepy) when my husband is home. I don’t always get a break from the boys when I do that as I often have a little napping companion, but most of the time I don’t even mind that, he is a pretty cute and cuddly napping buddy. I do mind the other boys coming into the room to ask me where something is or to open something for them and most of the time they have to walk right past their dad to get to me, but isn’t that how it usually goes.

    • So start training them: Go ask your Dad, I’m napping. Your Dad can do that for you, I’m napping. Honey, would you please keep an eye on the boys, I’m napping. Another twenty years, and half of them will get it half the time.

  7. Rest from the family run. One at home and one in college still keep me hopping. Curse the cell phone and texting because I’m always available. I turn it off after 8:00. If it’s an emergency, call your father. Not even once in two years.

      • Two post in a row about not bothering Mom when Dad is available and this one is about older kids. I wonder what it means that I usually went to Dad with my problems? Maybe that I knew my dad was there for me and thank the Lord he still is.

  8. I tend to be an all or nothing type. I’m either doing too much or not enough and rarely find that just right lol. And of course there’s always the guilt when I feel I’m not doing enough. The one thing that gives me total piece of mind from either doing or thinking about what I should be doing, is reading. Although at times it keeps me from sleeping but it’s well worth it!

  9. another fascinating slice of Grace Burrowes… My work of teaching inner city kids in a teacher blaming/kid testing gone amok environment is crazy stressful. Urban teachers are in a ghetto of powerless oppression and work-then-you-die hopelessness – hard to be that bright star of inspiration to our youth when we are being abused. What is really restful is getting away from my too real life. Vegas is restful for me because it is the non-teaching Mary. It’s showy, anything goes, in the moment, acceptance, fun, brilliant talent, so who cares, have a blast and do what you want when you want….I come back from Vegas liking myself and being happy with the world. That’s restful.

    • I was prepared to be horrified by Vegas–I took my daughter there for some international horse shows when she was in her teens–and in part I was. Flesh everywhere.

      But then I saw the fountains at the Bellagio as the Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini played, and saw three acrobats, with nothing more than a huge silk scarf and a twenty foot pole entertain hundreds of people for half an hour. That town redefines entertainment in a creative, exuberant, fascinating way. Glad my daughter saw it, because that too, is part of who we are.

  10. I don’t have a hard time resting normally, I usually get lots of rest on the weekends so I’ll be ready for whatever the week brings. What I have a hard time with is to stop doing something when I’m sick or injured that I’m in the habit of doing, primarily exercise. It is not my favorite thing to do, so I have to make it a habit and stick with it. So when I’m injured or sick, it’s very hard to give myself permission to just rest and recuperate, I feel guilty while I’m resting. I force myself to do it though, because I need to be back to normal and if I don’t rest that will not happen or it will take a lot longer.

    • You and probably every other athlete out there–and it is true, the longer you have to knock off for an injury, the longer it will take to get back into racing shape–or the longer it should.

      And my former husband came across this piece of data too: The most neglected aspect of adult fitness in America is STRETCHING. I find that metaphorical, and am guilty of it myself.

  11. I ran frantically for 30 years. Not a marathon, but trying to avoid a life of no accomplishments. Life in the froth of 1980s and 1990s Wall Street booms was a drug, and I fully indulged. I was determinate, bossy, demanding and I felt superior to all other humans on the planet. But karma is a bitch. I ran into several years of financial reversals, personal devastation and tragedy. I decided to stop running. I married a wonderful man I probably would not have married in my previous life, I went back to school, I make a lot less money and I am happy. This is how I got some rest and some peace.

    • Fatigue wins, sooner or later. Whether it’s your marriage that’s overly stressed, your garden soil, your checkbook… eventually, the fatigue WILL get your attention. Glad you figured out a more satisfying path and can report being “happier.” That’s BIG.

  12. Some days I need a rest from myself. I am too much of a perfectionist and when I received a negative comment or reply, I take it personally. Always have, always will….I guess I need to get lost in a book…always!!!

    Thanks Grace for the giveaway opportunity.

    • Sandy, I’m watching old Lady Jenny make her way in the wild, and while she has plenty of positive reviews, she’s not stacking up (yet) as well as some other books of mine that I think aren’t as strong. So… do I doubt my assessment of my own books? Do I wilt a little each time another so-so or negative review pops up? Do I wonder if my sense of my readership is slipping?

      Um, yes. And then I get back to the writing, because down those rabbit holes of self-doubt lies much darkness and a hard landing.

  13. As Sharon F said, I need a rest from rest. I haven’t worked since early in ’02 as my RA was kicking my rear but good for several years. In March of ’03 I started taking Humira, a biologic injectible medication, that I refer to as my “miracle drug”. I’m now able to do most everything I want but have found that I no longer have the motivation to do much of anything. I usually spend a good part of each Wednesday with my daughter and her children as that’s the day she get the child support for the older three. On Thursday mornings I do volunteer work at my church’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors program which I thoroughly enjoy. Slowly but surely I’m getting back to being more active, now I just need to start exercising and eating better.

  14. I’m resting now in anticipation of moving to another town for 6 months. In that town, I will live 3 blocks from 4 grandchildren who keep me active, indeed. It’s a grand time, and I love it!

  15. I could certainly use a rest from stress/worry. It doesn’t do anything to change the situation and robs joy from other areas of life. This has been a life long battle for me, of all the things to inherit from my maternal grandmother, I get the ability to ‘worry’ rather than cook! 😀 Still learning to let go and let God!

    • I have the same problem, Kara. I can what-if and then-what myself out one good night’s sleep after another. It helped to realize that my worrying was another aspect of the same imagination that lets me write 100,000 word fairy tales for big girls.

  16. I’m in the middle of moving right now, and I can’t wait until I’m done and can rest! I’m on call right after moving too, which will be a bummer.

    • That is tough. Moving is a major stressor, and Americans move a lot more than many other developed societies. I’m lucky that I was born and raised in the same town (in the same house for my entire minority), but I do love to travel now–which is not the same thing at all as moving.

  17. I’m busy. But I’m a different busy from when I had a job and little children and a home to run and a busy, hard working spouse. Now, most of what I do is me generated and actually I think I need to step up my game and increase my productivity. That said, I would love to be free of housecleaning. I’d love a permanent rest from THAT! I started having trouble sleeping about 10 yrs ago and now I’m falling asleep but I don’t sleep as much as I used to do. But I usually have at least one ‘at home’ day (no outside commitments) per week and that is where I putter and catch up. yesterday was that day and I accomplished.

    • I NEED at home days. Days when the truck does not move from my driveway and if I leave the property, I do it on foot. I also need solitude days, and home is bound up with solitude for me. Without those days in each week, I start spinning my wheels more and more loudly.

  18. I used to be a volunteer for every little project that anyone came up with. I was a beast of burden for many years. Then I hit the wall. And someone who had always been running in harness with me in these various projects said to me “It’s okay to say no.” I couldn’t believe it. Someone gave me permission to rest from my sense of responsibility (something I notice Lady Jenny needed to do).

    I have watched others go through the same thing and find that you can’t tell people when they need to slow down unless you have a gift and the right timing for it. They will just look at you as though you gave up and they never will. But eventually they will give in.

    The secret is: give in to rest but never give up on life.

    • That gift, of knowing how to say something so the person who needs to hear it CAN hear it… that is a precious, precious gift. Somebody got through to me when my daughter was about two, and running me ragged. They didn’t say, “You’d better get that kid under control…” They said, “I wish parenting didn’t mean you never got any rest…”
      VERY different way to phrase a message aimed at the same end of setting limits for the kid. Genius!

  19. How very interesting to read your recent post. I am married to a runner who ran the Boston twice and at least one other marathon every year between half marathons. He recently turned 65, a major shock. I am older so I recognize the “deer caught in the headlights” look on his face when his body screams for rest.

    After 24 years, I have decided to not feel guilty about my need for rest. I no longer work in the corporate world or as a freelance non-fiction writer but have retained the intensity and need to fill time with “doing.” I now write fiction (unpublished BTW), which requires a focus I lose if I dash about tending to all that must be done. I simply apply my husband’s attitude to running. He does not fuss about it, he just does it!

    I now walk away from mental and physical goal-oriented activities and read, a form of showing up daily to spend a restful hour (maybe two). It all began with reading my first romance novel two years ago. Although I am aware of the part of the brain pondering structure, character development, theme, etc., I simply exist in a lovely and quite restful HEA world.

    • LinP, I hope your guy is faring better than my former spouse. While he’s quite fit, his back no longer tolerates the concussion of running, but I think the sport had served its purpose for him.

      I started writing purely for fun, and because I read so much faster than my keeper authors could write. After a few years of that, and of being elbow jabbed by all and sundry (“Why aren’t you getting THAT STUFF published?”)I went to a Romance Writers of American chapter conference, and lo, the first person I pitched, offered me a book deal.

      Something to think about… you.

  20. My needed rest is now a long term daily priority…resting everyday to maintain my health. As well as do something physical each day also to maintain some level of physical health. Love the axiom – will be posting it where I can see it often, to remind myself that resting isn’t lazy, it is necessary. Thanks Grace!

  21. Oh, Grace, you are so very right that rest is essential! I am at the end of a ten week recovery from a “shredded” shoulder surgery and I’ve needed every bit of it to get back to function half-way normally.
    At one time, though, I thought I could get by on four hours of sleep a night. Both my parents were ill and passed, I was traveling a third of my life and had to deal with a flare up of allergies to everything and asthma. I remember endless nights in hotels in Indianapolis where I couldn’t stop coughing until I finally fell asleep exhausted. Once I finally started allergy shots and realized that I had to rest to heal, it got better.
    I’m so grateful for your success, but I know how difficult it is to shut your terrific brain down and say “no” when it is needed. Isn’t it a female thing?

    • Interesting question, Julee J. I know a lot more tired women than I do tired men, but also think women are more aware of when they’re tired. We know the toll it takes on our relationships as well as our bodies… but then, guys die sooner by a margin of seven years, and the women who emulate a masculine career path are more likely to die when the guys do.

      It’s enough to make you take a nap.

  22. There are days when I need a rest from every day life. I tend to worry about little things all day long. I need to learn to let things go and not focus on these little things that make me crazy. I will sometimes take a day off and stay home alone and read a couple of books and just relax.

    • I am still catching on to when there’s a hormonal aspect to my worrying. I’ll get on that mental hampster wheel and gallop along, worrying, worrying, worrying, until I realize: THIS IS STUPID. These problems are all the same size they were last week, but I’m inflating them to the size of dirigibles…

      And slowly, slowly, they deflate.

  23. I wish I could say that I needed rest. Almost 8yrs ago I hurt My back real bad it actually disabled me. I went from walking 3 to 5 miles a day. To not being able to walk down the street. On Oct 21 i went through another procedure that I hope well finally let me be able to walk any distances. I well say that because of the accident I have never read more in my life now i act like reading is my walking. In a good week I will read up 4 or 5 books.

  24. Rest is a very powerful word…we are so busy doing a bunch of stuff that we are missing life. I am learning to rest from my thoughts that I have to do this or that and just live life because tomorrow is not promised.

    • I think restfulness can be contagious too. If you’re around somebody who’s sobered up their “drunken monkey” thoughts, and is present to the moments, and present to themselves, it makes you calmer and more sanguine, too. Rest is a gift that can be shared in this sense, and public service.

  25. Our culture and our time has lost the meaning and power of a “Sabbat”. Used to be that when women were menstruating, we withdrew, took time to rest and renew, to dream. Now we just plow ahead as is nothing is going on. Sundays in our culture used to be time of rest and renewal, physically if not spiritually…but no more. It’s just another day to shop, run errands, etc.

    I’m still trying to figure out where and when I developed this feeling that I have to be constantly doing in order to be okay? Perhaps when I was raising those three boys?

    Sigh! We know how important rest and renewal is to the creative process–I just led a retreat on that–but knowing and doing…

    • OH, I should have attended that retreat, Paula. Week after week, I spend Mon, Tues, and Weds getting ready for court, then Thurs I’m in court, sometimes all day, not much lunch, a ton of backed up phone calls to return at the end of the day. I’m road kill by Thursday night, but wound up.

      I drag myself out of bed Friday morning, and think, “OK! Two thousands words! How hard can it be?”

      Ten games of solitaire later… but I must be productive, because it’s a day to work at home.


  26. A couple of years ago, I needed to rest from all the volunteer activities I did. I’ve slowed down a bit. But with Hubby retired, we are on the go a lot; sometimes I need a rest from that. I also babysit the grandkids quite a bit. I love them to pieces, but it is tiring. When I need to rest, I like to curl up in my recliner, kick back and read (or nap!) The older I get, the more I understand the need to rest and recharge.

    • The older I get, the longer it takes me to recharge. If I miss a night of sleep, it’s DAYS before I feel back in rhythm. In college, I used to skip a night (reading, mostly) about once a week.

      Too soon old, too late schmart.

  27. Arse-holes. And, *ickheads-really-begins-with-a-D. You know them, those people who make your life difficult because they want to control you and derail your ambitions and successes. Walking away, leaving their mess behind you, feels both good, and sad for the loss of something you loved to do – if it just wasn’t for those [insert your own derivative label here]. Hey! who opened the window? 😉

    • I know that scenario, Jeri, where you used to love your job so much, and then, a new boss, a change in team membership, some new assignments, and the snakes are loose in paradise. The last time this happened to me, I derived some solace from realizing that EVERYBODY was having trouble with the new snake on the block. It wasn’t just me, and I wasn’t making it up.

      And yet, you’re also right: These people who wreck a good thing, take advantage of good folks, and turn a sweet situation sour… they’re bad news, and getting away from them and the environment they create is a huge relief.