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Pleasure Practices with Sami Schalk: A recipe for rest

And introducing Madam Alice CJ Walker.

And introducing Madam Alice CJ Walker.

As we approach a full year of this pandemic and attempt to survive sub-zero Wisconsin winter, many of us are tired; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I teach at UW-Madison and the beginning of the semester is always an intense energetic marathon for me so I find myself having to be extra mindful about resting. So this month’s piece isn’t about food, but about rest as a political practice of resistance.

In a capitalistic society, we are all discouraged from resting. Ideas (and guilt) about individual productivity surround us, especially working-class and no-income folks (who are blamed for their financial circumstances), people of color (who have historically been left out of high-paying professions and represented as lazy), and women (who take on more emotional and household labor). It’s a scam, y’all. We all deserve quality healthcare, housing, and food without working 70 hours a week at three jobs. We also all deserve to rest, to ease our physical, physiological, and spiritual weariness without shame or negative repercussions.

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When I talk about rest, I’m particularly drawing from the work of the Nap Ministry founded by Tricia Hersey. The Nap Ministry uses social media to promote naps and sleep among Black women and other marginalized people to “to help deprogram the masses from grind culture” and create an understanding of sleep deprivation as a social justice issue. Following Hersey’s work on social media has been transformative for me, so I am here to spread the good news y’all. Rest and rest without shame y’all. It’s time far more of us divest from the intense, oppressive pace of modern capitalist life and stop encouraging ourselves and others to value work and productivity above all else.


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So for this edition of Pleasure Practices, I present to you a recipe for rest. Feel free to skip parts or adapt them because this isn’t an actual recipe. Do not eat your pillows. In lieu of a food photo, I’ve included a picture of my new cat, Madam Alice CJ Walker, who is so very good at resting.

Recipe for Rest:

Increase comfort in your rest space: If you haven’t changed out your pillows, mattress, or sheets in a while, consider upgrading ones that fit your sleep style (side vs. back sleeper, if you run hot or cold, neck and back support, etc.). The internet is your friend in finding affordable options on these.

Make your rest space more calming: Play ambient music or nature sounds station—I personally like thunderstorms and ocean sounds, probably because I’m a water sign. Use curtains or blinds to block out light. Use candles or a diffuser with soothing scents like lavender, chamomile, lemon, or eucalyptus.

Make/find/steal time for rest: Since I work from home, I often use the Pomodoro method where you work for 25 minutes then take a five-minute break. During that break time, I lie on the floor or in my loft hammock with my eyes closed (Yes, I have a loft-hammock. It was a balcony-hammock in the summer and I didn’t want to have to take it apart for winter, so I just moved it inside. I highly recommend a hammock and hammock stand if you have the money and space). I’ve also eliminated caffeine, said no to way more requests of my time, and tried to reduce how much I look at screens before I sleep. Take a quick lunch break nap in your car. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Turn off your camera during a bullshit Zoom meeting and rest your eyes.

Try as many of these steps as are viable for you and your life circumstances. Take joy in caring for this one precious, amazing body-mind you’ve been given. Relish breaking away from the oppressive capitalist, sexist, racist, and ableist systems that push us to work in ways that primarily benefit the most privileged one percent. You deserve rest.

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

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