The boring, necessary, unglamorous work of letting things rest


My cats are experts at resting. If lying around and sleeping were Olympic sports, they’d be gold medalists for sure.

Me? Not so much. I have a really hard time sitting still, both literally and figuratively. I don’t always have to be working, but I always like to be doing something, whether it’s writing or making art or planning my next travel adventure.

But a couple weeks ago, I got really sick. I couldn’t work for over a week. I ran a fever. I lost my voice. I couldn’t even watch Netflix or use my computer for more than an hour or two at a time. On day 4, I tried to get some work done and quickly succumbed to my bed again. On day 6, I felt well enough to take one call in the morning and was exhausted for the rest of the day.

Finally, I had no choice but to let myself rest. It was awful. I was bored. I was uncomfortable. I was stressed about my growing to-do list. It felt like a complete waste of time. But it was also, as these things so often are, an opportunity to reflect on resting, discomfort and the need to occasionally sit patiently.

Sometimes, life is uncomfortable. And sometimes, there’s nothing to do but sit with that discomfort and allow it to move through you according to its own timeline (not yours). It’s the only way to grow or heal or learn or otherwise become more of whatever it is we’re in the midst of becoming.

We tend to think of patience as a passive thing, but when we practice sitting patiently with our discomfort--when we consciously let it rest within us rather than try to force it along--we are actually creating the conditions that will eventually allow new possibilities to unfold. It doesn’t feel this way because we can’t yet see beyond the ambiguity and the discomfort. It doesn’t feel like much of anything except waiting.

But--and this is very, very important and very, very underappreciated--the sitting and the waiting and the resting are all essential to the transforming. Whether you’re undergoing a relatively simple transformation, such as recovering from the flu, or a lengthy and complicated one, such as changing jobs or starting a new business, the process looks very much the same.

When you start to feel uncomfortable (and you will), don’t underestimate how important it is to let things rest awhile.