Rest is a risk worth taking and at Threshold we swear by it! Saundra Dalton-Smith, physician and author, breaks rest down into seven key areas, physical, mental, emotional, sensory, social, creative, and spiritual. She illustrates methods of what rest can look like and the benefits it has on our health and wellbeing. Working to create healthy relationships and life affirming structures, while living under multiple forms of oppression and violence, requires that we integrate moments of rest and ease to heal and bolster our nervous systems for the radical shifts we want to make.
As Black and Indigenous women, we are committed to doing things differently – quiet Fridays, quiet February, a Co-CEO model, a staff coach on retainer – attempting to prevent burnout, as opposed to addressing its consequences. We have a responsibility to shift culture, processes, and policies so that our organization is a place where Black, Indigenous, Queer, femme, and gender non-conforming community of color can thrive.
We chose to take a quiet February to go inward and tend to what needs strengthening, healing, and restoration. Like our organs, that heal and repair themselves when we sleep and rest, it is important for us to set intentional time to tend to our individual and collective health. We know that it’s a privilege to center rest over burnout and feel immense responsibility to model liberatory practices. Below are some of our learnings from our fortifying February.
For me, this February was an opportunity to put my oxygen mask on first. A month to prioritize my ongoing healing and unlearning. I’ve been trying to be more intentional about my own deschooling – unpacking the ways in which I’ve been socialized by media, our factory system of education, and every other institution I’ve been a part of. This looked like examining what I read, watched, listened to, ate, drank, attended, where I shopped, and with whom I was in relationship. Our quiet February provided me space for authentic discernment. I had the space to interrogate habits and coping mechanisms – where did I learn them? Which ones were about survival and previously served me? Which ones no longer serve me?
I took a break from screens, and leaned into my healing with nourishing foods, rest, my children, partner, and extended family. My toddlers stopped asking me every hour if I had to be on a work call! I was able to take steps to become a more whole, integrated person in a way that I never had before as a student or employee. I was able to break through the mindset that I am only worth my labor. I was able to start to shift my inner critic to a loving voice more capable of manifesting grace, gratitude, joy, and abundance. I started a long and twisting road back to myself and am continuing to explore my path.
This February, I realized how disconnected I was to my body, a body I never thought of as mine. This was the first time I could remember breathing fully. My lungs and body responded with ease and elasticity. Reminding me that I have been whole this entire time. I just turned 30, it took 30 years for me to access the fullness of my breath. I didn’t think I’d make it this long. As a fat, black, queer woman, I had assumed I’d fold or give up by now. I knew it was unsustainable existing as resistance. I just didn’t know what the alternative was.
I felt guilty about taking the month of February to be inward facing, when community was depending on us more than ever. The world was on fire — is on fire. Who were we to sit still and breathe in the midst of it. These fires, problems, and systems were built deliberately by people and they will torn down be in kind. That is the work, our work. We will do it on our terms at our pace.
I’ve learned a lot, and still, no one taught me how to receive. One of the gifts of my spectacular team is that they remind me of my purpose. That in slowing down and doing the work of reflection, repair, and restoration we know that our offerings will be healthy and loving. Coming out of our quiet February I have the pleasure of grappling with how to ask for what I want and need in order to exist with ease.
The beauty about this practice, being intentional around healing, rest, and reflection, is that it’s never predictable or straightforward. It’s always revealing and enlightening. Last year my revelation was that unlearning and shedding white dominant culture takes time, a lot of energy, grace and intentionality. This year February, I was holding a lot of grief, loss, and uncertainty. Coming out of February, I realized that I was only holding my grief, loss and uncertainty. I wasn’t processing or moving through it. The sadness, pain, sorrow was just there and after further reflection, I recognized that this was how I moved through life. I either let it sit or I bury it and push on.
That’s what Quiet February offers me, a chance to turn down the noise and provide space for me to find revelation. It was in this revelation that I found a choice and a path to center restoration and repair. As I quieted the noise, new (and scary) questions revealed themselves, what is this doing to my body? How is this affecting my relationships? What’s the path of acceptance and emergence? Other questions continue to expose themselves but I’m open to them and committed to seeking them out and exploring them.
Our inaugural year taught me how much work it takes to rebel against white supremacy and all that it encompasses, and I’m still fighting against it and working through it. Our second year unleashed a deeper focus on myself, one I did not see coming but am extremely grateful. I hope to continue to lower the noise and listen to the questions, to my body, to me.
In the summer of 2020, Morgan and I were working at WA Women’s Foundation. A global pandemic coupled with the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and uprisings in cities across the country, including at home in Seattle – we realized that if we were to truly live into the Foundation’s values, we had to slow down, acknowledge the trauma, and make space for healing and reconnecting to our own bodies and emotions in order to have the capacity and skill to connect with each other.
At Threshold, I was in favor and support of the team taking a Quiet February because emotional labor and pain like this are not acknowledged in most workplaces, even when other individuals benefit from the pain and labor through personal growth and evolution. So, we co-created Quiet February as an acknowledgment of this burden, and while it cannot fully compensate for that, it at least creates a space for reflection and hopefully, restoration and repair.
For my part, as a white woman, I didn’t take a Quiet February. I continued to work and show up in places so that my sisters didn’t have to. Quiet February is a time for me to lean into the work and lift some of the burden on my own. Get in the extra reps, so that I can continue to show up in love and reciprocity.
Rest and slowing down need to be incorporated more intentionally into our daily lives, organizations, places of business, and beyond. Let’s build formations and processes centered around care, reciprocity, and celebration. Our creativity is our antidote and biggest superpower, let’s wield this power responsibly with care and vision for the future we want to live in!
Next month, we’ll be introducing our newest colleagues and reflecting on our attempts to engage in a more liberatory hiring process. If you have thoughts, emotions, sensations, or anything else you want to share, please reach out! Our goal is to be in broader conversation about these topics. More from us soon!