Here on this balcony, in Hilton Head, South Carolina, the wind is cool, the air typically thick with humidity, my wife reading a novel by my side. Inside the rental, our children are winding down after days of sun, sand and sea. Their bodies scrubbed pink by salt water and ocean breezes, their faces glowing with sun. My daughter’s lovely blonde hair is more blonde than usual.
I am on leave, in a sense. I am not, however, in the armed forces. Furthermore, I am not at a conference or working at all (except for a little writing, which is as much breath as work.) I am, in fact, celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary on a trip suggested and planned by my love.
I have accomplished little that the world would view as substantial this week. I have viewed it as a kind of sabbath. I have enjoyed my family, played on the beach, eaten far too much and delighted in every single, solitary minute…and Oreos.
“Sabbath,” “on leave,” “R&R” — however one describes it, we must remember to do it — we need it — because life is a kind of battle. Many well-educated, peaceful post-moderns think that’s far to bellicose a description, but the truth remains: Life is a struggle that rises to the description of battle with stark regularity.
Looking at my work schedule for the next 2 to3 weeks, I know I’ll be in the thick of it again. The sick and dying, the wounded and dramatic, the abusive and deceptive, the abusers and the anxious families and all the rest — not to mention the difficult physicians I’ll encounter. I’m thankful for my job, but sometimes when I’m away, I don’t miss it. Twenty years ago I graduated from medical school, and I have seen some battle.
However, I’m not so arrogant to think I’m the only one. Everyone who works — everyone who lives — has struggles. Wars with other companies, skirmishes with co-workers, raids by family and friends, sieges by the public, ambushes by unpredictable tragedy, titanic combat for the hearts of their children, fatal wounds by terminal disease.
Sitting here, I am reminded of several things. One, that we all need a break. I’ve said it many times, but even a quiet walk away from it all is a kind of leave. Even a weekend drive to a different town is rest and relaxation. Two, that our struggles aren’t necessarily reality. It may be that we will discover, one day, that our joys and times of rest were ultimately far greater reflections of truth than the suffering we endured. And three, that going back into the fray is hard — harder than I remember.
But most important, perhaps, is number four — the acknowledgment that life is this battle. If you come home weary, if your heart is broken, your back sore, your hands calloused, your soul drained, it isn’t because you are weak or bad. It’s because the world in which you find yourself, the combat into which you were born, is bloody and difficult. You have my permission to embrace your wounds, to recognize them, and to know that they are not self-inflicted, but life-inflicted.
So go and rest a little. Take leave. Sit and read on your own personal sabbath. The battle rages, and shows no signs of abating. You cannot continue unless you take time to rest, reflect, and reload.
*This blog post was originally published at edwinleap.com*