“What we talk about when we talk about _________” is our series for June. Words and language have meaning and provide insight. What is revealed when we reflect on the words we say? Check out the whole series HERE.
Lost. The Following. Downton Abbey. The Paradise (my newest obsession). House of Cards. Bloodline. Seriously, I could keep going. Really. I LOVE binge watching TV. And, yes, these are all shows I’ve watched – to completion. It’s kind of a tragedy. Or is it?
I’ve recently undergone a life change. For the last six years, I’ve been a high school English teacher. Two of those last six years have been spent being a mama to two babies – two and fourteen months currently – and being a Shakespeare-slinging, grammar Nazi. (Ok, really more of a Steinbeck-slinging, grammar Nazi since I’ve taught American Lit the last four years. I love Steinbeck. If he was alive, we’d hang out on the reg). In addition to being the average working mom, I was also driving (with my husband), making a forty-five minute commute each way to work. Man, those days were looooonnnnggg. Because, you know if you work outside the home, your job doesn’t stop once you arrive at your home sweet home; it just changes. Kids picked up, dinner made, dinner fed, dinner consumed by an exhausted mama in two minutes, kitchen cleaned, babies bathed, maybe have time and energy to play with babies, babes in bed. In my life during that time, the kiddos went to bed really early because we had to awaken them each morning at 5:45. Horrific tragedy, I tell you. So there we were: 6:30, and the kids were in bed. We had the potential-filled hours of 6:30-10 to do WHATEVER we pleased. And, let me tell you; we did good deeds for those who needed it, we baked extravagant goodies that we pinned from Pinterest so that we could keep up with the status quo, we had LOTS of sex, we cleaned the house in tip-top shape from dusting the highest shelf to the nasty grime no one likes to talk about that lurks on the bottom of the toilet. (You know it’s there). If you aren’t one-hundred percent perceptive, you’ve probably used your high-level critical thinking skills to infer that I was might have been being slightly hyperbolic – I’m a former English teacher after all; the traits die hard. I’m being brutally honest here. That time from 6:30-10 was mostly spent watching TV. Binge watching shows on either one of our drugs of choice: Netflix or Amazon. I accept the fact that you, dear reader, are probably judging me right now. There are so many other things I could’ve been doing, like the aforementioned list. But hear this; I was beyond exhausted each and every night. I truly needed these three and half hours to become a zombie, checking out of my life and checking into someone else’s. That sounds so terrible after writing it, but, oh, is it true for me!
A time existed when I felt guilty for these copious hours spent, surrendering my brain to a talking box. I should be doing something, right? Like making lunches for the next day, doing another foreboding load of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, picking out my clothes for the next day, reading a book, exercising, or, the one for which I feel real conviction, reading the Bible and praying. Sidenote: I have gotten better about the last, and most important, item on the list, but that’s a post for another day. But that, with the exception of the previously mentioned sidenote, is the problem. These are all activities I could do. As we all know, the American way of life is to do, do, do. When, at the end of a frazzled day, all I wanted was to be, be, be. All day, I ran from one activity to the next; I talked, listened, organized. I was simply tired of doing; at the end of the day, I just wanted to sit. And, you know what, I think that is totally permissible. I was talking with a good friend once about this very topic, and she said something to me that basically rocked my world on this subject, altering my guilt for zoning out for three blissful hours each night. She asked, “How many hours are you awake?” I thought for a moment; ok, maybe several because I can’t do simple math. Don’t forget that I was an English teacher. My answer? “17.” Full of wisdom, she continued, “Of those seventeen hours, roughly fourteen of them are comprised of you doing something. What’s the big deal if the last three are spent doing nothing? You need to have time to rest and recharge.” I could’ve kissed her I was so happy. My guilt regarding those three hours each night started to fade. And, the more I thought about it, she’s totally right (as usual; she’s one of those friends I compare to Mother Teresa). If I am to work and think and fret and do for fourteen hours, you better believe that I need to rest for at least a couple hours in order to do it all over again day in and day out.
Rest, relaxation. Why is it so difficult for us to do? By nature, I’m a doer, so it’s counterintuitive to who I am. Several years ago, when I was working for a great missional company called YouthWorks, my supervisor told me that I had issues taking breaks and resting. Since then, I’ve always known that resting is challenging for me and that I need to take more opportunities to do it. When I would, though, I’d often feel guilty, like my aforementioned guilt for binge watching TV. It’s also so difficult for us to rest because of our culture. Almost every daytime TV show or magazine constantly advertises things for us women to do: lose twenty pounds, bake this gluten-free, paleo, nut-free something (I call it a monstrosity), etc. To add to that pressure, Pinterest reminds us of all the cool food we “should” whip up and the 101 projects we “should” make out of pallets to do for our kids. And the worst just might be Facebook. Through the comfort of our dirty shorts, stained T-shirts, and dust-ridden houses, we can peek into others’ lives – into what they’re doing. Whether that’s the type of people who post their superwoman-like to-do lists they’ve accomplished or the fun pictures of moms doing awesome things with their kids. As a culture, we think we “should” always be doing something more. However, as I constantly need reminded, Christians aren’t supposed to follow the ways of the world; our lives should be defined by a different paradigm. I recall that after seven days of creating the world, for goodness sake, that the LORD rested. I’m also reminded of the time that Jesus fell asleep on a boat and, upon waking, promptly commanded the storm to cease. And, I think there might be something in the Bible about a Sabbath, a day of rest. (Another post for another day). Now, we might not be creating the world or telling storms to back off, but we are all doing important work everyday. God’s work. The work of loving, healing, restoring, forgiving, thanking, giving. And that, my friends, needs rest.
Earlier, I mentioned a life change I’ve undergone. I’ve recently changed career paths from a high-school teacher to a full-time teacher of my own children and of other little ones, providing day care. It’s relatively new, as in two weeks, so I’m still in the adjusting phase. However, I will say that I still do enjoy zoning out by watching some TV in the evenings after the kiddos say goodnight. Granted, that checking-out process isn’t as long as it was before, but I’m still a regular customer to binge entertainment. And do I feel guilty? Nope. No matter what phase or stage of life we are all in, we have to admit, although begrudgingly at times, that we are all human; shock, I know. We need rest. If our Lord and Savior needed rest, then, heaven help us, we surely do, too. So, if you’re tired, rest. Sleep, read a book, take a walk, binge watch hours of Pretty Little Liars (Wait. I must’ve typed in the wrong show). Rest. And, whoever said “no rest for the weary” was truly ignorant of the best four-letter word there is. REST.
By Katie Tanner
Katie comically shares her stories in between kids, life and some needed TV time from her lovely home in Central IL.