Monday, June 25, 2007

Rest

My trip in Paris has taught me a lot about rest. And maybe not even "taught" but instead brought several months of reflection on this matter to a conclusion. Not rest as in sleeping a lot, which I definitely did, but rest in a more general sense. I did a lot of it here, and as an American in the 21st century, let me tell you what, it was maybe one of the more difficult things I’ve ever done. I mean really, who wants to sit in cafes all day reading books, or wander around the streets of Paris with no goal in mind, no agenda, nothing on her “To Do” list? Nothing. Nada. And if I could say ‘nothing’ in French, I would. But that’s exactly what I did. I decided that this trip to Paris, I would simply “rest.” Prior to coming here I didn’t know exactly what that would look like, but now reflecting back, I see it was an exercise in discipline.

It has truly been liberating to 1) not have a cell phone 2) not use my iPod (much) and 3) for the most part have no one to talk to, as I spent nearly all of my 5 days, with the exception of our client meeting and dinner one night with Brian, by myself. Oh, and did I mention that my French amounts to about that which I learned in Lady and the Tramp? So yeah, it was basically just me. And God. Chillin in Paris.

I “rested” as I sat at cafes drinking cafĂ© ole and eating croissants, reading a book, or just thinking about life. I “rested” as at these cafes I often sat for at least 10 minutes before any waiter came to take my order, truly fighting my American sense of “order” and “timeliness,” fighting the urge to look around and catch a waiter’s eye, get his attention, make him KNOW that I’m there and, goshdangit, I want a menu. Five minutes ago. Because really, I don’t have anywhere to be, so why both with all the theatrics?

I “rested” as I fought against the urge to DO, to SEE, to SHOP, to have an END GOAL to my days, while instead meandering through my days, free from worry or anxiety. As a New Yorker, oh man, this antithetical to every strain of what we are “taught” in our city.

I “rested” as I sat at Sacre Coure on a bench for 2 hours. Writing. Thinking. Listening to old sermons from my pastor.

And perhaps the single greatest example of “resting” was in my 2 hour dinner, by myself in a restaurant tonight. Now, I have to tell you, I would say that on my Top 10 list of “Undesirable situations to be in” (if I had one), it might include “eating dinner by myself in a nice, crowded restaurant in a big city.” Your initial reaction may be “Wow, that’s shallow and insecure,” but I bet most of you feel the same way. It’s one thing to eat alone at home, or at your desk at work, or even have your own personal picnic in the park on a Saturday, all of which I thoroughly enjoy and seek to do with some frequency… but in a restaurant? For dinner? With loads of people all around you? And not a quick in-and-out deal?! We’re talking 3 courses, French style. Two hours. THAT is a different ball game, ladies and gentlemen. That takes “eating alone” to a whole new level.

The mere thought of this grates against every ounce of my being. To simply sit contentedly, not rush through my meal, not worry about what other people may think of the “weirdo” girl who is eating by herself (and you know you’ve all thought that), maybe read a few pages of my book, but really, just BE. WHO DOES THAT??

And let me tell you, it was incredibly freeing. It was incredibly… restful. Just me and God, chillin at the restaurant, nothing to do but eat and chat. And truly enjoy it. You know why? Because I’ve spent the past 5 months (and will probably spend the rest of my life, to be honest), learning to rest. And not just to rest, but to rest in God, in his peace, being content with just Him, and Him alone. It may sound weird, but it probably sounds weird because it goes against our culture, particularly as Americans, and even moreso as “northeasterners,” as New Yorkers. We are ingrained with a sense of maximizing time, of always needing to DO a little more, BE a little better, HAVE one more little trinket, WORK a little harder than the competition. When really, all we’re fighting against is ourselves. We’re beating ourselves up, and for what? Whatever it is, it’s probably not worth it, in the grand scheme of things, but yet we get SO caught up in the moment, in the culture, in the world, that we forget what is most important.

Rest.

And with that rest we see the bigger picture, we refocus, we stop grinding our wheels and simply begin to experience a more complete reality. A more meaningful reality. And that, my friends, begins to give us real, deep, lasting rest.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rest sure is great thing! Nevertheless, you were probably drinking cafe au lait.

preethi said...

Rien. Repos. De gloire.

France + Relaxation = Jealousy.

I can't wait to hear about it in more detail.