By Nicole Deane
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Because we live in a capitalist society, we’re all socialized to value productivity over sustainability. If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter during finals, gone to work even when you were sick, or taken drugs (anything from caffeine to steroids to adderall) to perform better/faster/longer, you know what it means to internalize this logic. Hustle – and the money, achievement & status we hope will come with it – over everything. This capitalist obsession productivity is at odds with God’s dream for our humanity, which favors a more balanced dialectic between work and rest.
My friends joke that I am “the most productive anti-capitalist organizer ever!” Poking fun at the irony of an anti-capitalist who is obsessed with work and productivity. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with the rebellion of rest. With saying no to work and yes to other things – like sleep.
It started with my snooze button.
When I first started organizing, I was so on fire for justice and so worried about not being hard working/educated/skilled enough to contribute meaningfully that I became like a political athlete. I tried to wake up at 5:30 am every morning to make time for political study, watching the news, and learning how to speak Spanish before heading to work. I was so proud of myself for being so self-disciplined and for acquiring so much information and knowledge that I hoped would make me a better organizer. For a while, my early morning daily discipline became the thing that I thought made me special, valuable, and okay.
So when that season of my life changed and the discipline became harder and harder to maintain, it really freaked me out at first! Last year, I had kind of a traumatic experience in jail (I was arrested at a Black Lives Matter protest) and I started having trouble sleeping at night, often staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning. I would oversleep, or end up procrastinating on the internet, then beat myself about it. The more I failed to maintain my early morning discipline, the worse I felt about myself. Finally, I found a bedtime routine and the right combination of sleeping aids to be able to fall asleep. If you’ve ever had insomnia, you know what a blessing sleep can be!
After literally months of sleep deprivation, I began a daily battle with the snooze button on my alarm clock. I was so tired – but I should get up, there’s so much work to do. I almost always hit snooze 5 or 6 times, gaining 30 minutes of extra sleep that was interrupted every 5 minutes and still feeling guilty about oversleeping.
One morning, after hitting the snooze button, I thought to myself, “If you were in jail and you’d HAVE to get up when the bell rang for breakfast at 4:15 am. You don’t have to hit the snooze button, you’re choosing to.” I was judging myself. But then, this little voice inside me went, “YEAH, I AM making a choice. My body is tired and it needs sleep! I am choosing to give my body what it needs. Which I can do. Because I’m not in jail, I get to choose! I know what’s best for me, and that’s what I’m gonna do!”
In a world that tells us that we can never work hard or fast or perfectly enough, it’s hard to remember that we have a choice about whether or not we buy into the story that our value is determined by our productivity. We have to remember that God doesn’t judge us by the standard that capitalism sets for us. God has a different set of values and priorities. Are we living in a way that honors God? Are we practicing sustainability? Are we practicing forgiveness with ourselves and with each other? God is not about a financial bottom line or a to do list or who can work the most hours. We can make a choice to reject the cult of productivity and claim rest as an acceptable choice, one that we can even be proud of.
I’ve surrendered the daily battle with my snooze button. Right now, while I’m recovering from a few months of insomnia and overwork, I only set an alarm for the morning if I have to be somewhere before 11 am. I’m very privileged to be in a situation where I can work flexible hours, which gives me the freedom to make the choice to prioritize the rest I need. I’m giving my body the sleep it needs to recover from a really hard year – unapologetically. I feel a little silly about how much stress and shame the idea of letting myself sleep in was causing me. I can feel myself getting a little healthier and emotionally well every day, the more rested I get. I’m finding other ways to participate in the rebellion of rest, too – one day last week, I finished all of important work by 2pm and took the rest of the day to hang out in the Redwoods. Even though I finally have a job I love, it turns I still need to blow off work for an afternoon every now and then. After all, a lot of my work is about making sure everyone has access to the things that make life worth living: rest, play, community, freedom and self determination. I think God probably wants me to get to experience those things too.
What empire narratives are y’all rebelling against, and what is your rebellion teaching you about God and/or about yourself?
Author Bio: Nicole Deane is a community organizer and follower of the revolutionary Jesus. 3 years ago, she left her childhood dream job at Pixar Animation Studios to pursue organizing full time. Since then, she’s worked on successful campaigns to abolish indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons, prevent the city of San Francisco from building a $450 million new jail, and raise the minimum wage in the city she lives in (Oakland, CA). When she’s not busy trying to make the world suck less, Nicole enjoys root beer floats, reading outside, and playing with her cat, Sugar.