Slowing down (part three)

As September comes in the door – all too soon, as far as I am concerned — I suspect it will be tipping its hat at my ever-so-briefly slowed down work life as it heads out the same door.

I do want to work less, really, but my September calendar is already full, and October and November are booking up quickly. Much of that busy-ness is because some of the organizations I work with are slowly moving back to in-person work, so if the anticipated fourth wave arrives, it could all disappear quickly. But for now, my dance card is pretty full.

This weekend, I am headed three hours north of Kingston to do an in-person Board orientation session with a VAW organization; my first such outing in 18 months. I almost wept with joy when I pulled out my box of training supplies – fidget toys, markers, stick-it notes. flip chart paper – which I had not even looked at since January 2020.

So far, I have four more such trips booked over the next few months; three of which involve plane trips, car rentals and hotel stays. For now, the excitement of this far outweighs the loss in terms of slowing down. My heart sings at the thought of being with people in person, hugging them, sitting around a table instead of in front of a computer screen, having informal conversations over a glass of wine after a day of meetings and work.

Not only do I look forward to the human contact; we will be able to do better work. Zoom and other ways of working remotely have been crucial over the past 18 months, but there is some work that is better done face to face.

Slowing down will just have to take a back seat in favour of being back on the road and seeing people I have not seen for 18 months.

Lying flat is justice

Chinese factory worker Luo Huazhong might not agree with me that a change is as good as a rest. In April, he closed his curtains and went to bed, posting a picture of himself with the message: “Lying flat is justice.”

He has taken to social media in China, which now boasts a lying flat movement (or tangping as it’s known in Mandarin), asserting his right to choose a slow lifestyle, which entails reading, exercising and working odd jobs only as needed so he can pay his bills.

Luo is not alone in having a desire to work less and live more. Twitter is alive with comments about stepping away from the work-driven culture. Here are just two examples:

In February, @Katusha7738 wrote:

“I want to live in a small house/and keep warm by the stove/In the morning I want to look at the field/At sunset to sit on the porch.”

Last week, @priscilliux tweeted:

“i don’t want to work i want to sit on the porch and drink coffee like an old lady”

The Nap Ministry, created by Tricia Hersey in Atlanta to “bring the gospel of sleep to fellow African Americans whose enslaved and persecuted ancestors were never able to properly rest,” views rest as resistance. Her organization encourages collective napping.

In February 2020, before we were all confined to our homes and, some of us, free to nap as much as we wanted, the Ministry offered a Resurrect Rest School for those who wanted to learn more about the rest-as-resistance framework. In a blog post this month, readers were asked “How will you be useless to capitalism today?”

A disappearing act

I’m not sure that I am ready for collective napping. For me, the afternoon snooze is very much a solitary activity; one that I engage in on the couch with book in hand, until it drops onto my face and I give myself over to the inevitability of sleep.

More generally, though, I’m ready to find ways to disappear, to limit (and at times eliminate) the emails that seem to require an instant response, the phone calls and the zoom meetings.

I am ready to join the lying flat movement, at least for short periods of time.

As Mary Oliver writes in her poem “The Summer Day:”

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is./ I do know how to pay attention, to fall down/into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,/ how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,/which is what I have been doing all day./Tell me, what else should I have done?/Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?/Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?”

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