Updated: Aug 28, 2019
By Andrea Lynn Cianflone
Some of my favorite songs consist of melodies where at a moment’s notice the composer creates some sort of halt, stop, or break. It may be followed or proceeded by a high note for dramatic effect, but there is something about the inclusion of rests and silence that leaves the listener on the edge of the seat in anticipation for what is to come. When that next artistic gesture emerges, it’s like heaven! Quite frankly, I think rests are needed in music. If every instrument played on every moment of time, I would find it overwhelming.
Life can be like that. Overwhelming! Great composers are skilled at building rests in just the right spot of a song or piece. I have heard of no piece to my knowledge where for three hundred measures, there is sound, followed by one hundred measures of rest, and then the piece ends! Now certainly there have been pieces like John Cage's 4' 33, but all in all, the moments of rest give the audience time to get excited, to breathe, to relax, or prepare, and I wonder, am I building appropriate rests in my life, or am I falling into emergency life-saving remedies of overcompensation?
Consider some of the practices of life-saving overcompensation techniques all too common in our world: the ten day vacation to make up for the three hundred fifty-five days of work, work, work, or the three weeks of poor sleep followed by a weekend of 'catch up' rest. Upon observation of this practice, it seems highly insensible to take this method in other areas of life. Do I take two hundred days with minimal sleep, then tell myself that I will take the next ten days and sleep twenty-four hours each day? Do I drink one hundred glasses of water to make up for one day of going without water? Do I binge eat for a day to make up for yesterday in which I may have not been as hungry? Do I workout seven hours of a day because I missed the hour work-out for each day last week? Do I say, "I love you," to a loved one three hundred sixty-four times in one day because I failed to say, "I love you," each day of a year?"
It seems to me that overcompensation is often counterproductive. When I was working in a corporate environment very early on in my non-artistic career, I observed often the practice of employees taking later lunch breaks or no lunch break, not out of 'choice' but out of a pressure to get a certain project done, or the employee had filled the calendar with back-to-back meetings over the lunch period. I questioned how even this seemingly small choice could create huge impact on a company and a person by building lack of productivity and wellness. If a person is hungry at noon but eats at three o’clock, then, hypothetically speaking, the employee may have wasted the company three hours of time, resource, and money because the lack of nourishment to the body created an unfocussed work period. Yet, this small scenario could create huge impact as that employee may end up having a crucial meeting with a client that could cost millions financially to the company if not adequately prepared. Is the price of overcompensating worth the price of giving necessary breaks and rests at the right time, in the right duration, and the right frequency?
Like musical tempo markings, I often reflect on the tempo markings in my own life. When I had periods of stress and adrenal fatigue, I needed to ask myself, what is my tempo? Is it adagio (slow), andante (walking tempo), allegro (fast), or vivace (lively)? We each have a heartbeat that enjoys a certain tempo marking for work, play and rest. Fighting for our rest may require an unapologetic approach, marching to the beat of our own body, as rest is built into the fabric of our being. Rests…like those in a great song…allow us…to want…more in life…to become…the most joyful…and productive…each…and…every...day.