2021 is the first in my adult life where I didn’t have a full-time job, by choice.
It wasn’t as dreamy as I imagined it would be, especially as an immigrant woman.
To deprogram from the pace and patterns of thirty years of working in ways that hurt me and others around me, I needed help. What was play? What was rest? I found my answers mostly in books.
Most important, I turned inward, to a place that Pico Iyer’s calls Nowhere in his small but mighty book The Art of Stillness (free download with Kindle membership). At the end of a year of exploration, I can affirm how right he is in saying “sometimes I feel that I can best change my life by changing the way I look at it.”
Early in the year, Jenny Odell’s How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy set the tone for my journey inward. Doing nothing is not a passive and apathetic act but an active and restorative one — “sustenance for those feeling too disassembled to act meaningfully.”
Stepping off the treadmill is not a linear journey; though I had chosen to slow down, I would sometimes panic about how being a less visible leader would affect my future finances and career opportunities.
When I found myself worrying about whether I should be “showing up” more, I returned to Jenny’s suggestion that “we reimagine #FOMO as #NOMO, the necessity of missing out.”
Katherine May’s Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times reminds us that “we have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again.”
I returned to this quote again and again, in conjunction with Jenny’s “To stand apart is to look at the world (now) from the point of view of the world as it could be (the future).”
These sentiments grounded me as as I let the fields of productivity lie fallow this year.
Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass was a steady companion. Many mornings, I dipped into it, like a spiritual guide, to find what I needed, whether it was on collective action or on healing.
I treasure this year of recovery from overwork, and I am here to say that women of color are capable, and deserving of the gift of rest. I am inspired to share these lessons by Robin’s call that “Our work and our joy is to pass along the gift and to trust that what we put out into the universe will always come back.”