BY EMILY O'CONNOR, COMMUNICATIONS SUMMER INTERN
As a culture, we tend to pride ourselves on busyness.
“How are you?”
“Busy…” is my normal response as I rattle on about the million things I have left on my to-do list. Sometimes I think I overwhelm people by explaining to them why I’m overwhelmed. I like to think that my busyness tells people I’m an involved, effective, active person.
If I’m not busy, then who am I?
“Productivity, productivity, productivity!” the American culture shouts into a mirror reflecting an anxiety-, comparison-riddled population. We create this culture of productivity that no one really enjoys, yet we believe it to be an expectation.
Moreover, busyness has become a competition, to the point where I think I’m less useful if my schedule has more open space. Is my co-worker up to her eyeballs in paperwork? Then I must be, too! Is my neighbor mowing his lawn? Then I must, too! Are her kids enrolled in 12 summer camps? Then mine must be, too!
When did the value of sitting unplugged in a quiet space with nothing but a blank mind lose its value? When did my busyness determine my self-worth?
Artists strategically and intentionally create white space on a canvas. Take Piet Mondrian for example; his paintings are blocks of color and lines running across a white canvas. But he allows for white space in the painting as points where our brains can rest. It allows us to appreciate the color even more.
Imagine your brain as a canvas. If its entirety were filled with chaos and splatters, there would be no room for resting points. Your brain yearns for those white spaces. That space gives room to breathe, wonder, create, dream, introspect, and rest. It gives space to appreciate the colorful chaos.
A Psychology Today article expands on this idea of white space, referring to it as boredom, and describes it as, “moments when [the] mind is resting, before it starts on a new adventure."
Of course restfulness, like many things, is easier said than done. You might have children, a spouse, a job, volunteer opportunity, friendships, or many other byproducts of life that require your attention. But ultimately, you are in charge of your own schedule. You have the power, control, and discipline necessary to set aside restful time. It won’t magically appear on its own. Just like artists, we must strategically and intentionally create white space in our lives.
And maybe we recognize this. I’ve come to notice that if I do intentionally create open space for myself, that time is dwindled away on my phone or computer. Maybe I’m afraid of what I will discover if I let myself enter into that open space. Rest can be intimidating.
I remind you that growth does not come without pain. Yes, introspection may cause some discomfort at first. But discomfort is also the cure for stagnancy.
Rest breeds growth.
Intentionally create space. Accept rest.
For more information about finding rest, visit these Grace pages on rest and prayer.