A Slow Unraveling

Photo of two speech bubbles in the red speech bubble on the lower left hand corner is thread in a tangled ball, in the green speech bubble in the top right corner is neatly wound thread in a circle with rays extending from the circle

I have been in an inquiry around rest, aided profoundly by friends and in community, as well as through the study of rest as written about by Black women, particularly Tricia Hersey, Bishop of the Nap Ministry and her book Rest is Resistance and Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith’s Sacred Rest.

What I’ve come to realize is how deeply internalized grind culture has organized my life, how I have bought into it, and how it has come to control me, such that I have been trying to “squeeze in” or “make time” for rest, in the midst of all the things I “have to do” in order to make it.

I have “made it,” by all accounts, but in “making it,” I have lost so much of myself, my ability to be present, and the will to rest.

I have been trying to come back to myself. It is simple but in a life that is organized to do anything but rest, it feels almost impossible. There is always more to do; there has always been more to pursue, so much so that I used to dream of the time when I was most sick in my life, because it was the only time I felt permission to make a hard stop.

But as Hersey would have me remind myself (and would have each of us remind ourselves) each day, I am enough now.

I have been slowly unraveling as I reconnect with myself, with the embodied wisdom that I have tried so hard to suppress so I could move forward in spite of myself. Unraveling means feeling and being rather than doing. It means facing my humanity and the fact that I cannot possibly do all the things, even the beautiful good things that I have filled my life with. It means I have to learn to delegate, perhaps to disappoint, to set better (more, any) boundaries, to live life differently and to prioritize my well-being.

Unraveling means I no longer want to try to cram in all the visits with all the people when I am in a space, that I am beginning to trust that the people who love me will understand why I need space that is open, not committed. It means that I don’t feel the need to post right away, or perhaps at all, about all the things I am up to in life. It means that I am claiming time to breathe, to write reflectively for myself when there are so many things I need to write for others, to do nothing. It means that in doing nothing, I am trusting that everything can be found.

I am deeply moved when I sit with these things. It is a daily practice. It is simple but hard. It is slow, but moving at the pace that is necessary. It requires patience. It is the most human and heartening journey I have been on.

I am grateful for the unraveling.

Cultivating New Things

Photograph of a ginseng plan in a colorful pot with a rainbow colored kite made out of popsicle sticks and with googly eyes and a felt mouth behind it on a wall

My dear friend Ale gave me a ginseng plant for my birthday.

When she gave it to me, she laughed because she knew I would be surprised.

I don’t do well with plants.

I support the life of my family and dog, but they also advocate for themselves.

Less so with myself, and even less so with plants.

But she said to me, “It’s low maintenance and it’s symbolic. You water it like once a week, and it can make it for a little bit if you don’t water it enough, but if you over care for it, it will drown.”

Hmmm, symbolic indeed.

I do not know how long my plant will live under my care, but I know that I must move past my fear of cultivating new things.

I have never wanted to do things I’m not naturally good at.

I have more than enough to do, with things I’m fairly competent at, so why try something new that I could fail at?

Except…that this means I hold myself back from things I want (to do, to be, to try) because, “What if?”

What if?

I told my husband the other day that I am struggling with rest. I get the idea, but I am inconsistent, at best, with execution.

He said, “Well you can’t get good at it if you don’t practice.”

This, of course, is logical, but also counterintuitive for me.

I want to magically master rest, after years of hyper-productivity.

It seems silly as I look at the words on the screen. I’m laughing at myself a bit. It’s cute that I’m operating in magical thinking and it’s great that I am being honest about what I want.

But I know that old habits die hard. I know that baby steps are still steps. I know that commitment + accountability + daily progress + not giving up when I take a big step back (but treating it as a reminder & learning experience) will be the key to mastering rest, like I have mastered other things.

I know I will have to slowly let go of things I’ve held on to for so many years, that have been critical to my survival.

I am trying to cultivate something new.

It is scary.

It will take practice.

I will forget and be reminded by those who love me.

But, in the end, I am hoping for something new, something beautiful, a life that may be flawed, but is also full of peace and rest and joy.

Rest as Resistance

Photograph of a brightly colored bouquet of flowers

My survival (like that of many of women of color in, and outside, of academia) has always been about the hustle. I write about this a lot. I wrote about it last week, in fact.

But I am committed to moving beyond survival, towards thriving. And to do so, I have to slow down.

I am consistently reminded, by those who know me best and love me deeply (and even by those who don’t know me so much but can see the hustle in me), that I have to rest.

But rest does not come easy to someone who has lived in perpetual motion.

I went to dinner with my friend Christina a couple weeks ago and she recommended the book Sacred Rest by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith to me. I had 4 conversations this week where people said, word for word, “I hope you are creating/taking time to rest.” I was reminded by my Brother Ian’s rendition of Donnie McClurklin, in church this evening, that “after you’ve done all you can, you just stand.”

My body reminds me that I continue to carry things that I need to lay down, that if I choose to return later to pick them back up, these things will still be there, but for now, it is time to put them down.

I am reminded that I can’t give grace to others if I cannot understand the need for grace myself.

I am reminded that rest is resistance in a culture that is built upon exploitive over-productivity.

I am reminded that I want to live a joyful life, and that a life that has no room has no joy.

I am continuing to breathe.

I am resisting the pull to react, to respond immediately.

I am taking moments to be.