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Rest Is A Radical Act

by Emily Beecher

There is a deep irony in me attempting to write a post on ‘Rest’ at 10:21pm when I’ve been at my desk since 8:30am (aside from a cold and icy scramble to get to the post office earlier). I don’t know about you but this year has been a RIDE. I had a bumpy start to the beginning of the year and it took me until the end of March to find my stride. The reality is last Christmas our house found itself in the grips of Covid once again (sadly not for the last time!) and it meant that plans were cancelled, breaks were forfeited, and proper rest didn’t really happen.

So now, a year later, I am leaning into the idea that rest is a radical act. This year as we moved towards December, Reece & I made the decision that this week, the week commencing the 12th of December, we would limit external meetings and only take meetings on existing projects that needed some wrapping up before the holidays. Then we decided that we’re ‘closing the office’ from 19th December to 9th January. Yes, we’re taking THREE whole weeks.

Part of this is a practical decision: my daughter isn’t going back to school till the 9th and I’m a single mum who’s learned that trying to juggle both school holidays and work doesn’t actually work. But the reality is, the slightly unspoken thing is I, we, need rest.

We have an incredible year ahead of us at REcreate next year, multiple shows in production, the Edinburgh Fringe, a couple of UK tours, an audio project, some artist and producer development programmes, and four R&Ds in the first four months of the year. I have two deeply personal shows going out next year – one I’ve been working on for 10 years and the other for five. But we have to remember that Good Stress is still Stress, and the best way to combat stress is with rest.

Earlier this year we ran our pilot artist & producer development programme – Accelerator – and when we asked all the participants what sort of things they wanted support with – Boundaries and Work/Life Balance were at the top of the list. When we were talking about Boundaries I remember sharing my theory that boundaries should be ‘rubber bands not brick walls’ to looks of surprise. The thing is, a brick wall if met by another immovable force would break apart (and people trying to walk all over your boundaries tend to be an immovable force!) but a rubber band would provide you stretch when you need to be accommodating but can be pulled taut when you don’t want to budge. The key is to know when you need to be each thing.

I feel similarly about work/life balance. I don’t believe you can achieve a perfect balance in a day or even a week. Life isn’t that simple, instead, I tend to look at my life over months and quarters. Sometimes you absolutely need to work your ass off to get something done. You can burn the candle at both ends because you need to (and often because we WANT to) but you can’t do that forever. You will burn out long before that candle ever does.

We work in the arts, not medicine, no one is going to die because we didn’t answer an email. This week already I’ve been asked several times if I can ‘just slip in a quick chat between Christmas and New Years’ or can I ‘just do a couple of hours on the 23rd’ and when I pushed back on one project and was insistent that I wasn’t comfortable asking people to do work over the holidays and really – should they be working over the holidays? I realised sometimes if we’re not constantly go-go-go, if we’re not working all the hours, and doing all the things then we question our worth. We should not be making ‘busy’ or ‘exhausted’ our personal values. We need to lean away from our value being solely the amount of work we get through and start moving towards the quality of our lives, towards our capacity for joy, and for me, in order to be able to even contemplate those things, I need for my cup to be full.

So this year I’m thrilled that we’re actively making rest a REcreate priority. I don’t know about you but I am going to bake all the treats (so that I can obviously eat all the treats!), I’m going to go for walks in the woods, I’m going to see friends, and play Chrismas Movie Bingo with my daughter (there’s nothing like screaming DEAD PARENT or WREATHS INSIDE for it to feel like Christmas). I’m also going to sleep late and go to bed early and stay up far too late watching Traitors (no spoilers, we’re behind!) and get up early to walk the dog with no one else in sight. I’m going to call people I haven’t seen enough of this year and send silly memes to the ones I see all the time. I’m going to make cocktails and dance in the kitchen, and sing too loudly and off-key and I’m not going to care. The question is – are you joining us?