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Mirror Work and Rest

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

by Rudy Bankston & Vera Naputi

We’re starting this month’s cypher with a December 12, 2022 tweet:

From personal to professional, academic and school spaces notwithstanding, people are feeling this mental health crisis. If you’ve had a recent doctor visit, promoting mental health with screener questions related to concentration, irritability, fear, restlessness and sleep are now routine. Mental health is more than a radar effect, it’s a reality that 1 in 4 adults (26% of Americans) are diagnosed with either anxiety or depression, or some form of a mental illness.

This month’s timely Haiku speaks to our overall health and ability to thrive. It resonates for us in the everydayness of work and living, relationships and community and all that we’re holding internally. It speaks to how vital it is to self-impose centering our wellness. So what does centering wellness mean to you?

Every day when we wake up to capitalism we are lured into the soul-crushing forces that keep us entrenched in a culture of work work work work work. In her song, “Work,” one overtone of Rihanna’s message is work all day so you can have some fun afterwards.

In the song “Go Gina,” SZA repeats “grinding grinding grinding …” emphasizing that the character in the song would be so much happier if she were not constantly working. Of course, there’s something about deriving value from how much work you do. the quality of work you do, and the ability to do it well. But when your self-esteem and confidence are solely wrapped in the capitalist mindset of working and grinding, that default will break you.

Toni Morrison’s tenet, “You are not the work you do, you are the person you are,” tells us that you are not sub-human or a by-product of your job. It’s who you are in community and in relationships with others that can and should bring your capabilities and humanness to the center, uplifting your wellness and perhaps re-igniting your purpose.

Still, there is one thing missing that is fundamental to wellness. It’s undoubtedly a very positive action that ironically has created a mindset of guilt and shame. An action that serves as a prerequisite to an unapologetic practice.


The concept of getting good rest as a health benefit is well known. In fact, sleep deprivation is dangerous. Not resting is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiac disease, and suicide. Our Black ‘n Brown ancestors have gifted us wisdom like: elevate your legs, close your eyes, even if for only 10 minutes, spend time in the morning reading, praying, meditating, taking a pause or a nap. With such an anecdotal inheritance, why do we fight against rest in just about every institution we are in?

The second haiku in the above haiku series advises us to claim the space needed, calling to mind the wisdom of Audre Lorde, “I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”

bell hooks goes a step further by asserting that self-care and community care go hand-in-hand. She believes that rest is a justice practice that we must be doing individually and collectively with intention. How will we claim the space for rest?

For us, this mirror work is a pathway to healing. It is our salvation. It’s also fucking challenging. We carry heavy memories of our elders and ancestors. Their mere survival was predicated on forced and often dehumanizing productivity. We hold space here for our people who worked literally from sun-up to sun-down, overtime, all the time, never-rest-time. We are also called to de-center time and work in order to rest, in the interest of our wellness.

In closing, we invite you to assert wellness by claiming rest in all forms: naps, sleep-ins, sleep-longs, sleep early, sleep deeply, sleep to imagine, sleep to explore, sleep for optimism, for happiness, for imagining and dreaming.

We believe it is your birthright.


Audre, L. (n.d.). Quote.

Rihanna, R. (2016). Work [song]. Spotify.

SZA, S. (2021). Go Gina [Song]. SZA.

The Work You Do The Person You are. (2012, June 5). Retrieved December 21, 2022, from


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