I am resting today. I have an uneasy relationship with rest, one that comes from my own childhood trauma, as well as the sociocultural trauma of being seen as “other” in a white superiority context. Growing up my (North Korean) mother reminded me many times that my behavior would be directly related back to her, and that I needed to be even better than my peers to be seen as “just as good.” My mother’s own childhood experiences and introduction to white cultural values lead her to see non-movement as laziness. I loved reading and would do so in any moment, but my mother saw that as non-productive. I used to hide so I could read in peace. I would drive my sister crazy by locking myself in the bathroom for long periods of time, then hiding my book in the hamper before coming out.
“What?” I would say, innocently. “I had to goooo.”
Even now, many years later, I have a hard time resting. I have been sick since Saturday, congested and coughing, with a headache.
Saturday I worked all day.
Sunday, my one day off, I did laundry, cleaned up, took the dog to the park and prepped for the week. I did take a nap – but woke up feeling guilty so answered emails for an hour after that.
Monday I took the dog to the park, went in to my office to meet with my colleague for an interview, and by the time we were done I could hardly think straight. I called off dinner with a friend (sorry!), and participated in a very cool interview with students in Singapore. Then I called in sick for Tuesday (it’s only the second time all school year I’ve done so).
And so here I am, supposedly resting. But is it resting when the guilt keeps me from sitting down? From reading, even? From reading books I want to read for work?! The values of white supremacy culture (see a list plus antidotes from Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, 2001 here) have me riding the guilt train. Starting with a sense of urgency that I get from work partners and colleagues is so strong that I feel like I need to be checking my email all the time. Quantity over quality is telling me I need more…things, more deliverables, more speaking engagements, more more more. I am even feeling guilty for not going to the gym today. The gym! Can you imagine me, coughing and blowing my nose while I work out?
And so, here I am. Producing something. Done.