rest and recuperation

Why productivity is not enough by Christina Rosalie

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The roads are muddy now; one day ice, the next day thaw. The sun can’t make up it’s mind. It shows up in the morning all glowy and bright, and then the day turns fierce and raw, with flurries in our faces. The beginning of March is the time when things appear to be standing still at the surface, but underneath the mud is thawing and sap running, and it seems right on time, this shift.
I’m reeling still, coming off of what has more or less been a four year sprint: a baby, a book, graduate school, a job, and now this, whatever this is.
I’ve been thinking a lot about standing still. About really giving pause.
I’m not sure when the last time was that I really did that. Stopped entirely for long enough to feel only the rhythm of my own pulse stirring. Can you put your finger on a time like that? When you weren’t actively producing anything. When was the last time that you came to a full stop?
The houses along the back roads here show a rawness and wear this time of year. The optimistic red paint from brighter time is worn thin. Barns that were once full with the sweet breath of dairy cows stand empty or are repurposed, housing tools or tractors or other less important things. Houses gird against the thinning and seemingly endless cold of New England's forever-long winters.
I think that what we’re afraid of, our Industrial Complex in over drive, is that like the barns, we’ll become obsolete the minute we stop producing. Pause one second, and the next we’ll be a wash-up, cardboard over the windows for extra insulation.
I think that’s what has surprised me most about being adult: that it never stops. That if you let it, the world keeps right on demanding. That if you buy it, everything is about production, about resources, about consumption. As if we are made of infinite stuff; time unlimited, our hearts as geared to function like some precise and whirring machine. The days fill up. The years too. Do you feel the way that happens? The way output gets weighted over input; matter over spirit, job over calling.
When was the last time exactly that you came a full stop, or let the hours or days fill with emptiness?
I am feeling my way along the edges of this truth, and finding myths at every turn. Productivity is our inheritance, borne of our our Western Industrial Complex. We produce, to produce more in kind. Our productivity simply yields more. More hours spent producing. More minutes, multi-tasked.
But the fields know a different secret under snow. They lie there, unafraid, bearing the sudden weight of snow, the prolonged rest of white on white, where only voles and field mice and foxes hunger in the gathering dusk, leave a smudge of vermillion at the periphery of what we know; tracks crossing here and there to unknown places that lead back underground. The fields, fallow, gather promise. Metabolize potential. Prepare for the wild frenzied greening of May and June when suddenly the grass is waist high, and we blink and there are red winged black birds making nests and milkweed growing tall and purpling with blooms.
When was the last time you let the field of your heart lie fallow? Not in ruin, like the barns in disrepair, signifiers of industry no longer relevant. Not by accident, or by neglect, or because of giving up. But on purpose and with intention. To rest, to recuperate.
Full stop.
And then to gather energy anew.
I have no idea what that looks like really. I’m just feeling my way around the edges of it, wondering, and also knowing that my body, animal first, is begging me to listen, attuned first to it's wild truth, more than to the endless precise production of machines. How to listen. How to slow in these moments now entirely?
Tell me things. Tell me about full stops, and fallow times, and hibernation. What comes then?