I struggle with the concept of rest.
Not like I don’t believe in it. And I’m not one of those all-the-glory-is-found-in-the-hustle folks..
But I can’t get comfortable with the idea of just being. And it’s to my detriment.
If I am not creating, thinking, planning, or actively doing something that qualifies as “productive,” I get this pervasive, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I feel like I’m wasting my time. In fact, I apparently don’t think I deserve real down-time. Which I would tell anyone else is completely absurd. But I often don’t have the same standards for myself that I have for other folks. Especially when it comes to self care.
I learned this state of constant motion–learned to do–by watching my mother do. For all of us.
She did the laundry. And the cleaning. She grocery shopped. Cooked. Cleaned up afterward. Made our lunches. Kept track of whether or not we were out of toilet paper or dog food. And it never occurred to me, as a kid, that it should be any other way. Deep down, I think I honest-to-god believed my mother’s purpose was to manage all of our needs. (A totally mortifying sentiment to own up to. But a truth of our 90s conservative family-values home).
When I realized I was queer, one of the cis-het expectations I most gratefully shed was the expectation that I’d be someone’s mother. I just couldn’t get behind the level of self-sacrifice that I believed motherhood entailed. All that doing. And, as a lesbian bonus, there was no man around I’d be expected to cater to either.
This seemed like an exponential win, a way to quietly opt out of patriarchal gender role mess.
But it’s not that easy.
Because to this day, I still carry–deep inside, in the deepest recess of my psyche–a belief that I should be constantly doing things for the other two (fully capable) members of my family. Just the other night, I offered to warm (read: dewrinkle) the eleven year old’s laundry and fold it. She declined my offer to fold it for her because she wanted to do it herself.
And I was offended.
What the actual hell?! It felt like an attack on the core of my being that she wouldn’t let me do something for her.
This is not good.
And the laundry, well that’s nothing compared to my bizarre fixation on grocery-getting. I still exist firmly in the belief that it’s my responsibility to squeeze the grocery store runs into my schedule. I get completely obsessive about it. And (very helpfully) pre-emptively resentful about the whole thing. So now I’m stalking around the house stuck between a pout and a huff, until Simon finally asks what’s wrong. I sigh about the grocery store and scheduling, and no time to read (or write or run or something else that I desperately want and/or need to do), and he inevitably looks at me, slightly befuddled, and says, “I am happy to go to the grocery store.”
And the wave of relief that washes over me is almost enough to make me sink to the ground in a fit of Victorian pseudo-fainting.
But no matter how many times this scenario plays out, somehow I still believe it’s my job gather food for my people.
And, if being a woman in a solidly patriarchal culture weren’t enough to make me feel unworthy of a hot minute to just rest, owning a small business has made me feel like I should hustle all the time.
That’s the thing about capitalism: everything we do is expected to be monetized. Got a hobby you really enjoy? Capitalism says you should monetize it, turn it into a side hustle. Own a small business? Then you should live and breathe that small business. Remember the AmEx Small business commercial “Small business is no days off. And proud of it?”
No days off was my reality when Bookish closed for 6 months in 2020 (because pandemics are a bitch). But it ground me down. And then running the store for almost another year almost pushed me to the brink of burnout.I was not proud. I was tired.
The (often quiet & insidious) message American capitalism sends small business owners is that if you aren’t constantly hustling, working, thinking about improving and growing your business—then maybe you don’t deserve the coveted title of small business owner. Maybe you just don’t have what it takes.
That low-grade nagging feeling that I should always be doing more messes with my ability to read a book without thinking about the review I’ll write later and whether or not that will drive traffic to the store. I feel guilty when I take a Saturday off. Because I could be working. So maybe I should be. I mean, I don’t need the day off to do anything.
It spirals quickly.
But just because I’ve been fed a steady diet of harmful beliefs about doing and hustling and monetizing doesn’t mean that I have to keep interalizing this bullshit as my own. Ultimately, I am the one who decides whether or not to embrace radical rest, to choose to care for myself and allow myself space for pleasure, peace, and renewal.
The moon is waning right now, which is a good time for shadow work. If you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about, fear not. Here’s a quick quasi-woo-woo guide to the waning moon:
The waning moon is a supported time for shadow work.The quietude of this time allows for introspection. Dive deep into your subconscious, your fears, your limiting beliefs. Air them out. Pull them out of your psyche and toss them into the fire. What are you letting go of? What truths are still staring you down in the middle of the night?The Moon Book, Sarah Faith Gottesdeiner
What I can do is get quiet. And listen. I need to know more about what drives my sense of self worth and release my old ideas about my role in my family and my responsibility as a small business owner that aren’t driven by necessity but by old ideals I no longer believe in or support–and by a fear of lack.
These are the truths that are still staring me down in the middle of the night. And I am ready to watch them burn.
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