1️⃣ Sentence Synopsis
Archer connects “grind culture”—a values system wherein an individual’s worth is determined by what they produce economically—to the legacies of racial slavery and hyper-capitalism in the United States; she argues for a rejection of this pervasive paradigm and provides a guide to intentional practices of self-care, affirmation, and healing.
I picked this one up on a visit to BookWoman here in Austin. I had originally gone in to pick up Maria Tatar’s new book The Heroine with 1,001 Faces but this one caught my eye, too. It relates to themes in Wintering but draws a direct throughline from our society’s rejection of rest to slavery—an institution that spurred exponential economic growth by leveraging free labor without regard to its brutal and unimaginable human costs: “The foundations of American capitalism was built on a viciously high-stakes environment of productivity or death.” She goes on to connect this as well to our current anti-labor practices and the anti-social welfare rhetoric that precludes progress toward paid maternity care, universal healthcare, and living wages. I was also drawn to her personal story as it mirrored my own in several key ways. Though I’ve managed to take back a measure of my time from the 9-5 grind, I still find myself signing onto projects, filling my days back up with work, and often as mentally and physically depleted as I was before. I suppose this one called out to me so I could read this phrase, toward the book’s end, “…falling back into our old patterns can often provide a beautiful learning opportunity.” As I head into 2023, I found this to be a gentle nudge toward re-centering and listening to mind, body, and spirit.
🔑 Key Takeaways
- If you have experienced any of the following, you’re experiencing the effects of grind culture: a fear of stillness, feeling guilty about resting, viewing exhaustion as productive, sacrificing the needs of your body to produce, overpacking your calendar, never feeling satisfied with what you have, competing with others over who grinds hardest, treating some people as though they are “more important” than others based on their profession.
- Detoxing from grind culture is not a one-and-done process; the framework of “harm reduction” can be helpful in making steps toward incremental transformation when abstinence is not possible (after all, most of us will continue to need to work).
- Healthy boundaries are essential to preserving mental, physical, emotional energy and are a key to self-sovereignty and work-life liberation.
- “Thriving activities” should be customized — there is no one-size-fits all in terms of tending to one’s own well-being. While it is important to engage in movement, nutrition, creativity, mindfulness, learning, rest, and social connection—the methods are entirely up to what brings personal joy.
💯 Strong Lines
- On grind culture and oppression: “…most of the sacred beings on this beautifully abundant planet are under the spell of materialism, manipulation, control, and coercion. This unfortunate dynamic helps construct things such as racism, gender-based oppression, and ableism. Grind culture provides the fuel to keep these toxic systems running.” (pg. 5)
- On perfectionism: “Perfectionism is a form of self-harm rooted in the need to appear perfect or attain perfection as a threshold for self-worth in society….[it] dims our resilience, eats up time and energy, blocks our courage, and thwarts the mistakes we have to be able to make in order to learn and grow.” (pg. 10)
- On motherhood: “Mothers are presented with a painful dichotomy. On the one hand, we’re expected to nurture our newborn from an endless well of attention, care and presence, and on the other, grind culture wants us to prove that our caretaking won’t be a liability.” (pg. 30)
- On “self-care” (quoting Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha): “It’s not about self-care—it’s about collective care. Collective care means shifting our organizations to be ones where people feel fine if they get sick, cry, have needs, start late because the bus broke down, move slower, ones where there’s food at meetings, people work from home—and these aren’t things we apologize for. It is the way we do the work, which centers disabled-femme-of-color ways of being in the world, where many of us have often worked form our sickbeds, our kid beds, or our too-crazy-to-go-out-today beds. Where we actually care for each other and don’t leave each other behind. Which is what we started with, right?” (pg. 46)
- On resting as defiance: “It disrupts grind culture’s spinning wheels. There is power in the slowdown. When you slow down, you rest; when you rest, you self-reflect; when you self-reflect, you begin to question, which in turn disrupts the culture of grinding.” (pg. 80)
- On quiet-as-resistance (quoting Kevin Quashie’s The Sovereignty of Quiet, with reference to Black social justice movements): “Quiet is often used interchangeably with silence or stillness…Quiet instead is a metaphor for the full range of one’s inner life, wants, desires, ambitions, hungers, vulnerabilities, fears, the inner life is not apolitical or without social value….It has its own sovereignty, it is hard to see, even harder to describe, but no less potent and inevitable.” (pg. 81)
🧠 Brain Tickles
- Tricia Hersey’s work with the Nap Ministry (and book, Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto).
- The history of “[sleep temples](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_temple#:~:text=Sleep temples (also known as,sun god Ra at Heliopolis.)” and “dream temples” in Africa and throughout the Mediterranean. In Egypt, these were hospitals of sorts—treating ailments through chanting, fasting, hypnosis, and sleep (in order to conjure dreams for healing).
- Forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) the practice of walking in forests to clear the mind and connect with nature, originally conceived in Japan to avoid burnout and combat the effects of overwork.
- “Brain washing” through smell; natural aromas quickly calm down the nervous system; they are a powerful therapy because they are so evocative of place and time in our memory.
🍎 Ideas and Excerpts for Teaching and Learning
There are so many activities that relate to social-emotional learning and holistic education. The term “self-care” is well-worn and I have seen the same strategies recommended in many corners—deep breathing, a nature walk, drinking enough water, etc (all good, by the way!) But Archer provides a wealth of other strategies in this book, encouraging readers to create their own “toolkits”. Some highlights that would be easy to incorporate/recommend for students:
- Archer cites the work of Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, who outlines a framework for the “rest revolution”—highlighting seven forms of rest: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, sensory, creative. She offers a free “rest quiz” to locate the types of rest you most need to attend to.
- I think there is a beautiful opportunity to connect some of the activities around “core values” to this book. Archer has a journal reflection that prompts people to think of their core values and then what the “highest expression of honoring these values” would look like in daily life. Then, to outline what one prefers to do to honor it (activities that bring joy connected to the value), what one is willing to allow but does not prefer (norms and tasks that are necessary but not enjoyable), and what one will not allow (i.e. activities, norms and environments that would negate the value entirely). An example of response to this prompt can be found on page 126.
- The templates for ancestor acknowledgment and land acknowledgment (pp. 34-40) would be powerful connectors for communities of students to better appreciate each others’ experiences and perspectives, and the land they share in common.