In Gift from the Sea, author Anne Morrow Lindbergh observes how we tend to interpret the waning of passion in a relationship as something negative, a sign of things gone wrong. To counter that conclusion, Lindbergh develops the metaphor of tides that alternate between low and high, and suggests that ebb tides, when the sea has retreated far from shore, are desirable because they reveal hidden treasures that would never have been seen if the tide always remained high.
Our culture encourages us to prefer the times of high energy, high passion, high activity, high creativity, as being the only times that matter. The contrasting movement of decline, when energy and passion and activity and creativity are waning or absent entirely, becomes something to fight against because any sort of decline means something is not right. Strategies for boosting energy, for increasing passion and creativity, abound. On all sides we hear the same message: if we manage our lives properly, we can be going full tilt always.
A book on my nightstand at present discusses the value of periods of waning, placing those periods in the context of the natural world and the progression of day moving towards dark, of seasons of growth moving towards seasons of dying away and an absence of any growth. The waning is needed in order to restore; without waning, all reserves would eventually be spent. So the author concludes by advocating for embrace, not resistance, of times without high energy and creativity.
Because I love the rush of inspiration and the feel of having plenty of energy, I tend to fret when I cannot find good ideas or words, when I want to spend more time on the couch and less time working. I worry that something is wrong with me when I watch myself slowing down. Yet if Lindbergh and the natural world are to be believed, there is no value in running full tilt all the time—even when that running produces desirable results. Just as the ebb tide reveals beautiful shells and the bare branches of winter trees etch beautiful patterns across the sky, so does decline as part of the ongoing cycle of life bring valuable experiences. Perhaps the next time I simply want to spend the afternoon doing nothing, I might follow that inclination, for it could mean the beginning of something good.