The words were etched onto a bench, just below the Ardbeg Distillery welcome sign. David and I had been walking around Islay and were a bit cold and soaked through after an attempt to climb a tower ruin only to scramble back down under an encroaching rainstorm. But the sun had come out on our walk back to our cottage. We approached the distillery sign and the words caught my eye: “Rest and Be Thankful, For You Have Arrived.” This simple statement felt like it was supposed to be fairly pleasant, innocuous even. But to me, it triggered something.
When you suffer from anxiety, as I do, real rest can be hard to find. Even on a wonderful, surprise 30th birthday trip, 100% planned by my partner and where my only job was to enjoy the ride, rest was difficult. My mind was on a semi-constant merry-go-round of worry and fear and joy. So, when I saw those words on the bench, my immediate reaction was not gratitude or rest or thankfulness but instead shame. I felt confronted with my own failure to express any sort of gratitude for what I was given. But then the shame past and instead something else came, something often sought but rarely achieved: empowerment. Maybe I hadn’t allowed myself to really accept and be grateful for what I had, but I still could. There was still time.
After we left Islay we drove toward Glasgow on the meandering road around the various lochs of western Scotland. It was a lovely drive, though I was not exactly paying attention to the scenery as it was my task to navigate our rental car along the twisting corners and dodge careening lorries. After one turn, a small sign caught me eye. “Rest and Be Thankful.” There it was again. Had my eyes deceived me? No, I had definitely seen the words again. When David and I stopped to rest for the night, I asked him to look up the saying and what he told me caught me off guard. Rest and Be Thankful isn’t some common Scottish saying (at least, we couldn’t find a record of that). What we found was that the A83 Road is called the Rest and Be Thankful. When the road was built by soldiers in the 18th century, they summited a hill and put up the sign. “Rest and Be Thankful” is an invitation to travelers to sit and take a break after an arduous uphill climb before continuing on. It’s not a sign for the journey’s end, but rather a way of taking stock in the difficulties that have been endured, being thankful for safety, and preparing for the rest of the journey.
I turned 30 while we were in Scotland. I haven’t been afraid of turning 30, I’ve actually been excited. To me, there is something powerful about the number, like suddenly I’m a wizened Judi Dench and don’t have to take anyone’s crap anymore. Of course, 30 isn’t really that old. But I think underpinning all this has been a feeling that, up until now, my life hasn’t been worth as much. I haven’t published a book or received any literary accolades. I constantly struggle with managing my anxiety. What have I achieved in my 30 years? Well, it’s easy to look at what I haven’t done and feel bad about it. But, when I think back on Rest and Be Thankful, and I consider what I have to be thankful for, I’m blown away. I have a wonderful husband who’s constantly supportive (and does crazy things like plan 2-week birthday vacations centering around everything I enjoy), a steady day job working with really cool, caring people, and fantastic, supportive friends. Though I still struggle with anxiety, I’ve grown so much in managing it. Though I haven’t finished my book, I’m several drafts in and it is much, much better. And I’ve learned so much about writing in the process and how much satisfaction the process brings me. I have a great dog. I have a comfortable home. And the more I think on these things, the more I am grateful for.
It’s all a matter of perspective. It’s good to be excited about what comes next, important even, but it’s also good to rest and be thankful for what I have, because often times it’s so much more than I think.
So sorry I haven’t posted. As you can see, it wasn’t exactly my fault (this trip to Scotland was a complete surprise for me, so I didn’t have time to write posts in advance). Anyway, I did finish a few indie books recently and will be posting reviews over the next few weeks. Also, I believe I’ll have a short author interview to post as well, and I’m very excited to share with you all. 🙂