It’s part of a decision I am making to accommodate rest and relaxation in my life and to oppose or counteract the capitalist glorification of being busy and the urgency of productivity
I want to begin to invest time in activities that can help me switch off from the urgency of productivity. Representation pic
These days I find the hardest question to answer is the most elemental ‘how are you?’ Especially when the person asking earnestly wants to know about my state of being and isn’t merely performing a courtesy. I have at least five emails in my inbox from friends checking in on me and informing me about their lives. I feel humbled to receive such correspondence, especially when social media makes it easier to simply send an emoji in response to an Instagram story, rescuing you from having to wrestle with vocabulary. I suppose I don’t know where to begin with answering, because each day is so uniquely intense, so bridled with a vast spectrum of emotions, there is no static state of being, which means each answer is conditional, tied to an ephemeral moment. At any given moment I am overwhelmed but also ecstatic; joyous yet also homesick; delighted but also nervous… Motherhood has thrown so many emotional complexities into the mix that are compounded by hormones and other microclimates.
On the one hand, I feel a rush of thoughts that are intricately attuned to my feelings. In the past 10 months, I have experienced my subjectivity in a daringly intimate way. There has been no schism between body and mind, the two have been working in precious harmony to keep me sane, connected, and elated. I find myself frequently composing lines of poetry while doing mundane things. On the other hand, I find I have been almost consciously repressing myself from writing down these thoughts, almost for fear of the interruption that I know will surely come. It might be why I don’t respond to these mails in a timely fashion, because I am afraid of ‘getting into it’ and then having to pause to monitor my now awake child and ensure he doesn’t grab the toilet paper.
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As I was contemplating ways of answering this question while on a walk with our child the other day, I thought about the future conditional… how I would like to be, which made me think about resolutions, which I rarely ever make, because who needs a new year to change the course of something? Then I wondered what my resolution for 2023 would be, were I to, in fact, make one, and I instantly decided that I want to do less. I have yet to buy myself a planner, but when I do and begin scheming my daily and weekly activities, I want to start setting time out to do nothing and to measure each week’s success by virtue of whether I was able to do less. Instead of packing my day with to-do lists, I want to free myself of the need to be constantly productive.
It’s part of a decision I am making to accommodate rest and relaxation in my life and to oppose or counteract the capitalist glorification of being busy. My exposure to people who saw themselves as high-profile or important made me equate significance with level of activity.
This became more visible when Blackberries were a thing, and you saw people constantly tapping away at their devices as if their jobs involved saving the planet. I internalised along the way, especially within the art world, that having back-to-back appointments or constantly responding to emails and checking one’s screen for updates was the only legitimate way of advancing one’s career. You had to network constantly and when you weren’t doing it professionally, you allowed it to spill into your personal life too.
Moving into this tiny town of 3,500 inhabitants helped me reframe my perspective. I have been thinking more and more about what constitutes leisure. I want to begin to invest time in activities that can help me switch off from the urgency of productivity. In other words, I am trying to teach myself to ‘make’ more time to ‘have’. This has meant embracing saying no. When I receive an email seducing me with an opportunity, instead of responding instantly, I take a step back, think about the kind and extent of labour it will entail and whether I will be remunerated sufficiently for it. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, because, as a freelancer, I have gone through drought times, when money was lean. But I tell myself now that I would rather have time than money, saying no to something means making more time for myself.
I haven’t fully examined what my version of rest and relaxation will look like, but I am getting closer to envisioning it. In the past I worked to the point of exhaustion, often telling myself that once something was done with, I would take a break. I am gradually learning how to declutter all the activity I filled my life with so that I can be free to live. As a feminist mother, I am learning to reject the pursuit of ‘having it all’ in lieu of embracing the art of better ‘having’ what is already mine.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx
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The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.