For the longest time, I thought of rest as a luxury, a reward you only get after completing your work, like winning a prize. Growing up in a heavily patriarchal society, my mother and I always did most of the domestic work in our home., Often she would tell me, ‘Omweishi tashutama!’(a girl doesn’t just sit). I grew up to be ridiculously guilty about taking a break and resting.
Even when I reached a point where I could afford to find support, especially around domestic chores, I was always convinced that I should do everything myself. But this was mostly fuelled by guilt, shame, a need to validate my rest.
I recently started to reconsider my restlessness and made it a point to gather information about rest and take a pause. Rest is centering one’s well-being. It is a radical intentional act of ensuring our physical, mental, spiritual wellness. We all find different activities that can aid us to be restful: sleeping, a cup of warm cocoa on a cold day by the balcony, journaling, dancing, hanging out with friends, or just being with yourself and doing nothing.
However, just because we are not actively working doesn’t mean we are resting. Often, we are plunged by worry and anxiety that even when we physically stop, our minds are not really resting, so we constantly feel drained and exhausted. While the list of things we can do to rest is endless, it’s important to know that rest is not passive; it is intentional. It’s a decision to unplug from this fast-paced world and be one with ourselves.
The guilt and shame that we often feel around rest stems from the isms; racism, capitalism, sexism, etc. These oppressive social orders enable some groups of people to use their power over others, in turn dehumanizing those deemed or who don’t fit in those categories. A rich cis-gendered man will be praised for taking vacations, praised for helping in the home and will be availed a stool to raise his legs at the end of the day, but a woman of the same class would not be availed the same applause. It would be more, “such a lazy woman! She came back from work and wouldn’t even care for the husband!”
In Uganda, a woman will often be accused of not being a good wife because of finding someone to help with the domestic work.
Privilege plays a big role in actually being able to rest; the quality, the quantity & the ability. Social class also affords some women rest that other women wouldn’t afford. Being aware of rest as right should be translated to affording those around us, who we work with, work for
REST, THEREFORE, IS RESISTANCE! It’s rejecting social norms and going against social structures that try to dehumanize us. To reduce us to just tools for production, tools for childbearing, just tools, stripping us of our full humanity. As people with bodies, souls, families, communities, we have needs and rights for care through rest. When I visit my mother and we sleep in and wake up refreshed, we are saying we are human too before we are breakfast chefs and caregivers. To listen to our bodies and understand our needs and rest long before we are tired and broken is a powerful act of self-love of liberation.
I have since learned, or rather I am still learning, that rest is not a reward. That while, it’s true that when I rest, I am more productive, I will not just rest solely to polish myself as a tool of production. We live in a very fast-paced world; the Covid-19 pandemic has added weight to our lives. Everything is too much and too fast; it often feels like the world is on fire. And as a feminist, sometimes, it feels like I must continue to work on and hang on, and on to exhaustion, to burnout, to despair sometimes. I am still learning that it’s okay to rest from the fight some days. That I can’t heal the whole world in a day and alone, I can’t heal the world through chronic self-sacrifice. Rather I am a part of the world that needs healing.
And so, I will resist the notion of self-sacrifice. I will honor my body, mind, and soul. And when it feels like the world is on fire, I will beckon my fellow guard, and we will take turns at the extinguisher and build a safe haven where we care for ourselves and each other. But most importantly, we will rest, we will rest.
Lucky Kobugabe is an African feminist currently focusing on feminist organizing and movement building in the region. This blog is part of the GBV Prevention Network’s 16 Days of Rest Campaign.