By Emma Jayne Park
This newsletter started with the intention of coaching people to rest.
Then, I started to write and I realised how utterly arrogant that was.
I don’t have children. I’m only third in line for the caring responsibilities in my family. I was eligible for SEISS and have managed to work during the pandemic. I live rurally, where Covid guidelines do not mean isolating in small spaces. I’m white and cis gendered so experience less vitriol for simply existing online. The list goes on but in short, I have no business instructing people on their rest practice and mis-framing rest as an easy option for all.
Essentially this is a Newsletter to announce that the FMTW will be taking two weeks to rest over Christmas beginning on December 18th. We can't deny that this falls in line with a Christian holiday - something that will be discussed as the group moves forward - however, it also lands almost exactly six months since the movement started and as a group we are having nuanced conversations about sustainability, shifting practice and long term change.
This break is not a compulsory two weeks of annual leave but an informed choice, reflecting that it is important for us all to re-centre ourselves for the benefit of the work we believe in.
This has been six months of extremely hard work from a group of volunteers who are eager to ensure that we don't return to working in a sector with systems that fail to support or recognise the contribution of the Freelance workforce; that is based on institutionally racist, ableist and misogynistic structures and that doesn’t recognise the importance of rest.
It is not very ‘British’ to blow your own trumpet but, as someone who only joined the FMTW movement in the past few months, I take great pleasure in celebrating all of those that make FMTW possible. The work is tireless, all-consuming and moves with a ferocious momentum.
A Word of Caution…
This is why it is important that we all try to take some rest, before that ferocious momentum swallows us and we end up returning the habits of the structures we are trained to live in because there is no space for perspective or moving slowly.
Personally, moving slowly is now the only healthy option for me and a practice I’ve been adjusting to over the past two years – sometimes successfully and quite often failing brilliantly. I’m a self-confessed festival kid who loves nothing more than existing on four hours sleep, burnt coffee and a tonne of refined sugar. I live with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Fibromyalgia, the latter of which took five years to diagnose.
In a world that celebrates busyness it is really easy to pretend that you are simply tired because of overwork if you don’t choose to take time to rest and re-evaluate. It is one of the most dangerous patterns we currently live in.
So, I suppose I wanted to invite people to rest because I am working really hard to learn how to. I am a novice, so this is genuinely an invitation not a lesson. There are so many people long experienced in rest as a radical practice that generously share their work.
Black Power Naps. Toni Dee. Tricia Hersey. Paul Lafargue. Natasha Lennard. Adrienne Maree Brown
Many of these are Black women, that is not incidental.
I implore you, please seek out their work, it is revolutionary, kind and could really change the world if we are brave enough to embrace it.
An Audience of One…
The greatest lesson they share is that rest is personal. Therefore, in the hope of offering some kind of instruction or guiding people through a rest practice I feel that there is only one person I can truly advise – myself.
In my theatre work I embrace that knowing your audience opens the door for truth whereas aiming to talk to everyone can dilute your intention. With that, I invite you to read my invitation to myself. Perhaps you could rest all week or for three minutes a day, both are significant. This is an invitation to take the time you can both now and as we move into another year of challenge.
You lost yourself for a bit there, didn't you ?
That’s okay. We don’t need to focus on it and you don’t need to have any answers for the next couple of weeks – just questions.
How have you been sleeping?
When did you last taste your food? Like really taste it, no bullshit!
When were you last outside?
Can you feel your back move when you breathe?
Have you sang along loudly to anything lately?
Have you baked anything lately?
When did you last belly laugh?
When did you last cry?
When did your body last rest?
When did your brain last rest?
When did your heart last rest?
What do they need right now?
You know that you are going to find the first few days really difficult, right?
The muscles that check your phone are arguably over trained, are there other muscles you want to train? Could you put your phone and laptop in the cupboard?
Take one piece of A4 paper and write down anything essential you must remember. Please don’t make your writing tiny to fit more in, enjoy the bold clear letters and feeling of the pen. Now, be sure to remind yourself that you haven’t forgotten anything when you feel that tightening in your chest. Set timers if you need to so you don’t have to watch the clock.
Can you name that feeling that you have right now?
How can you embrace that without forcing it?
How can you lift the pressure out of it?
What feels better than hoping for epiphanies?
Instead of caffeine, can you take a nap?
What if resting was your job?
How many hours a week could you work?
How many would you like to work?
Who could you collaborate with?
How would it feel?