By Joycelyn Moody - JMoody's Musings
Innately, I’m a thinker and planner. As an academic, professor, researcher, author, editor, and entrepreneur—not to mention mate and mother—I’ve designed plans for all sorts of institutions and organizations. I’m also a coach in part because I love saying, “What I/we/you need to do is….”
But it turns out I don’t know how to rest. Recently, I happened on Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s book Rest—OK, OK: “I admit I am powerless over lay productivity studies–that my obsession with happiness psychology and neuroscience for amateurs has become unmanageable.” Until Pang, I didn’t even know one needed to plan to rest. For all my knowledge as a teacher and scholar and as a professional coach, I have to learn how to rest if I’m going to restore my energy. Which I now admit, too, I need to do.
I was in the bookstore a few nights before Christmas to buy a Scrabble™ game. A friend had agreed to try out a new ziti recipe for me if I’d also let him beat me at Scrabble. I’m lousy at most board and parlor games, so I’m inured to losing. Stunningly uninspired to fight to win. The ziti was my prize, so getting whupped at Scrabble™, Shit Happens™, Spades, any game—well, yawn.
Once upon a time, I was competitive. I’d be like, “C’mon!” and “Bring it!” Once the poster child of high accomplishments, I am worn out. Folks, I am finally what not saying “No” often enough, what being one soldier of a tiny army raging against anti-Blackness, looks like. I couldn’t take on another task if I wanted, and in the haze of this malaise, I don’t want to. I’m shedding responsibilities like nobody’s business (that’s a pun). You couldn’t pay me to _____. If my life depended on it, I couldn’t _____. You get the idea.
And now I am even saddled with the work of planning deliberate rest, if I am to follow what seems the common sense—wisdom, really—of Pang’s book, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. (Note my critiques, though: Pang, who cites the restoration processes of numerous White, male creative persons, doesn’t seem to have met even one poor or Black person or working woman ever, and throughout Rest, mind-wandering is advocated more than mindfulness; notably, meditation doesn’t appear in the index.) I urgently need to return to the Elohee Center and Bald Mountain and our WellAcademic retreat in the worst way. And I’ll get back there next May.
Meanwhile, I am resting and wrestling with Pang’s concepts of “deliberate rest” and “deep play.” Pang defines the latter as sustained rest in scheduled creative activities involving physical movement such as sailing, skiing, landscape painting, foreign traveling, or mountain climbing. Uh-huh, my new hobbies might be more like finally creating a household budget we can stick to and dragging a Black woman friend with me to join the local group meditation center, to recover from over-exertion, to rehabilitate.
Deliberate rest takes the less costly form of planned, conscientious, significant time away from whatever constitutes one’s work, again rest being a conscious and active goal. Pang offers one example in Charles Darwin’s afternoon walks of several miles, around his own back yard, after his morning labors. Now that I can do.
And I need to, to regenerate not so much to rejoin the too-tiny righteous army but to be able to remember how awful depletion and over-commitment feel. I need deliberate rest now because I am in fact joyless. For my many self-care rituals have proved inadequate against the number of heavy stressors I’ve faced recently. My habits of daily meditation, regular massage and reflexology, acupuncture, sufficient sleep, an 80% vegetarian-Mediterranean diet, investment in hobbies such as reading for pleasure simply haven’t been enough to sustain the physical and emotional power I believe define me.
So, I must rest. But first, I must learn how to rest.
Until next time,