"You won't find rest until you've worked hard enough to be truly tired." That bit of wisdom came from Fr. Rich Zanoni, a Jesuit priest who taught at Canisius High School for many years and is now back among our faculty ranks for another tour of duty.
Like a lot of wisdom, this is deceptively simple. Sure, being physically tired makes for better rest. I think back to the days on the crew team and the swim team, and the way I would crash. But dig a little deeper, and there's a lot to think about here—especially when it comes to restlessness. If we avoid doing our work, and instead procrastinate in order to relax, we'll remain restless. Get the important work done—the stuff at the core of responsibilities—and deep, restorative rest will probably come.
I think Father Zanoni's point comes down to basic economics—supply and demand. An overabundance of rest won't be really restful. Keep rest in demand, and its value will increase with its quality. If I find myself restless, could it be because I'm not working hard enough at what really matters? Sure, I might be expending a lot of energy—but is it to meet my most important responsibilities, or avoid them?
Of course, this has been significantly less of a factor lately—having three kids in the space of five years tends to change the economics of this and everything else. It's a little ironic, I guess. Even though I get far less sleep than I ever did as a younger guy, rest comes pretty easy these days. And I guess it's because the energy I expend on what matters most is proportionally so much higher than it used to be.
Less sleep but well-earned rest—yet another gift of the joyful burden that is parenthood.