Dawn Tolbert

Writer
sunglasses on the beach at sunset
(be)loved Faith Reflections Writing

Giving Myself a Break

On vacation last week, I struggled to rest. I had, in my overachiever mind, mapped out a plan to make huge strides on not one, but two, Works in Progress. All of this was to be accomplished in a four-day trip to the beach — forgetting, conveniently, that the better part of two days would be spent driving there and back.

The first day flew by in a muddle of frustration at my inability to write or even concentrate on either piece of writing. My brain seemed to block any attempts I made at putting pixels to the screen or words to the page of my trusty Moleskine. I could barely write a complete sentence.

“Out of order,” my brain said. “I am tired so I am shutting down.”

And so I sat and watched the sun glisten on the waves and the birds skip through the foam looking for food. I dug my toes deep into the sand and, I’m sad to say, still tried to force my writing brain to turn on.

“Look at all this time you have! How can you go home and not have accomplished anything?!?!”

My last full day was somewhat more productive. I wrote several pages of a rewrite of my novel, while taking frequent breaks to relish the warmth, to embrace the rhythm of waves lapping the shore. Writing became one part of the fabric of the day and not its sole purpose, and so my brain chose to accept the work.

“Ah, lesson learned!” I might have thought, but then I’d fast-forward to tonight. Larry has been working outside, and I texted a friend to ask how many words I should try to write tonight.

“25” came the reply.

25? But that’s so few, so easily done. I could do that in one of my pre-edited sentences. I just did that in this paragraph.

“I was thinking 1,000.”

“1,025 then.”

And on and on the bar gets moved in my head.

For a long time, I kept in my office a brief story about a girl who, as soon as she got close to reaching her goals, immediately moved the target. Nothing was ever enough.

I can so be that girl.

The stressed out one under the big beach umbrella, who has on reading glasses rather than sunglasses. The one who thinks the first day back in the office must be punctuated with some huge writing goal.

But quieting my spirit, I’m also the girl who will be happy with the simplicity of a finished blog post, overjoyed that she has written 500-plus words more than she had time to write yesterday. The one who is going to slow down and prepare for sleep, confident that her worth lies in the love of her Heavenly Father and not in word counts or to-do lists.

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus called, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

If you are like me and push yourself too hard or set unrealistic goals — even moving them should you ever actually get close to them — give yourself a break. Rest in the One who loves you.

Jesus’ love is way better than a day at the beach.

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