Today’s post is brought to you by my good friend Andi Cumbo-Floyd in celebration of the release of her book, Love Letters to Writers.
When I would get sick as a child, Mom would make a bed for me on the couch: my pillow, my favorite blanket, a rare treat of clear soda nearby, a bowl just in case. Then, she’d turn on the TV – which was never on in our house during the day – and leave me to doze and watch Bob Barker.
Every once in a while, she’d come over and lay her long, cool fingers against my forehead to see how my fever was. Sometimes, I’d be half-asleep, but I’d feel her hand on my face and instantly slide deeper. Her skin bore comfort.
I think of those couch beds, the plastic cups of Sprite, and Mom’s hands often, especially when life feels like it’s infecting me with the illness of over-busy and too much to do. At this moment in my life, I feel that infection sliding into my lungs as I finish up book revisions for a publisher and launch my new book, Love Letters to Writers. Some days, I just want Mom to give me permission to lay on the couch with my pillow and doze through the hours.
But Mom died 7 years ago, and so she is not here to give me that permission or to lay a cool hand of grace on my forehead when the fever of doing becomes too much. Instead, I have had to learn to give myself permission to rest, to step back, to step out.
This lesson of rest, perhaps more than any other I’ve learned in my writing life, is the hardest because there’s always more to do. Always another way to promote. Always another guest blog post I could write. Always another idea I could explore. Always another book to draft.
The further I get into years of living life as a writer the more I realize that this is steady quest, not a quick sprint. What I give to frenzy and frantic, I do not have to give to play and questions. So I have learned to slow down, to write some words every day but not all day, to set out a few things to try for a book launch but not everything, to trust that in the end the balance of rest and work will come anew each day.
I ache to feel my mother’s hands on my forehead again, but until the day I can, I give thanks that she taught me to rest and heal in a world that most often recommends a never-ending hurtle toward forever.
Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer, who lives at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, four dogs, four cats, six goats, three rabbits, and thirty-six chickens. Her newest book Love Letters to Writers: Accountability, Encouragement, and Truth-Telling has just been released.