Off The Clock

There is no doubt in my mind I am beginning to be “of a certain age.” I am not 100% sure what that means, but I see myself consistently eyeing yoga pants during the weekday with a degree of longing. I also put down a pair of heels to buy a reasonably priced mock-Birkenstock shoe.  Why would I subject myself to a shoe that makes my foot look like pancakes, you ask? It is because time is creeping up on me. I am so tired.

I am cresting the hill of 40. In my late 30s, I was astounded by how great I felt. The ridiculous imagery of a hill of any kind, let alone being over one, felt like such dishonesty. Yet here I am, peering at 41, and envying my retired friends.

I used to relish time to sit. Time to lay in the grass. To sit by water. These mindful breaks felt like beautiful, long inhales. They were wide-open spaces to dream. And now? Now it feels like aching in my bones. I avoid time to rest. The underused times between moments spoon-feed me guilt. I should be cleaning something. Or journaling. Or mentoring. Or working on a paper. Or cutting my kids veggies into Impressionist shapes.

Sitting on my front lawn in the grass, watching my boys play, I wish I could practice presence. However, there is no rest; just guilt. Even as I blink at the setting sun poking holes through the leafy canopy above me, all I can feel is time dragging me like gravity into the ground below me. Tendrils of weariness circle my limbs like the wispy smoke of a cigarette. I can feel it even if I cannot put a direct finger on it. Time has caught up, and in a distinctly evil way, it is robbing me of real rest.

This pressure to make every block of time count is utter BS. If every minute is supposed to be creative and meaningful, then I am never off the clock. Think this through with me…NEVER OFF THE CLOCK.

The idea that every minute should mean something drives me to vicious cycles that sabotage Sabbath.

Time becomes adversarial. It is now a thieving task master, a brutal slave owner. It pillages my rest because I am not allowed to just sit. I have to sit and be mindful, or present, or reflective.

You know what my heart really wants? To waste time. To sit on a bench and sift through Instagram memes. To online window shop. To people watch while listening to Spotify (without an enriching podcast or NPR). To watch old episodes of Parks and Rec.I do not want to thinly veil it in a refusal to adult or a lack of wine or coffee. I want to read celebrity mags and make fun of the new must-have top that is made of unicorn hair or weight loss magic that will cost me a mere $590 on sale.

When I waste time, time works for me. It doesn’t run or rule me. I exercise the choice to not feel utterly brutalized because I am not maximizing every moment. That feels like real rest, because it feels like power. When the gravity of time tries to suck me into the ground, I can escape its pull.  This power sets me free.

Last night I laid on a blanket on our lawn as the late summer sun was setting. My eldest ambled over and asked what I was doing. I replied, “Nothing, my darling. Why don’t you join me?”

Eliza Cortes Bast is a fierce and honest follower of Jesus. She is a pastor, and denominational executive, dedicated to helping churches think missionally. She lives into her passion by connecting people, advocating for the community, and helping organizations think strategically so they can be healthy, vibrant, and sustainable. Eliza lives in Michigan with her patient and handsome husband EJ, and their two boys. Her loves include her home country Puerto Rico, her interracial marriage, a good steak, salsa dancing, writing, empowering emerging leaders, making the impossible possible, Diet Coke, and mentoring. She is not a big fan of anger without action, generalizations, basketball, and saying you can’t live without coffee. She believes you can, because she believes in you.