Permission to Rest

I was given permission to be free, to let go, to rest.
Naomi Stewart
April 11, 2021

I often reach a goal, sensing the mistakes of the past chasing me like a dark cloud, dreading the future will look just like it. The standards I create for myself leave little room to “be human”. Although I am wholly human, the perceived strength of the Black woman, oft considered the backbone, cripples me. I sometimes feel weaker than I am perceived. Sometimes I think, “is it just me who feels this way?”

In spite of these feelings, we have arrived at another Black History month. I am inspired and affirmed by the strong Black women on my social media feeds, in the books and poetry I read. On the silver screen, I see their beauty and the pain, the raw unfiltered nature of a sista, yet my size nine feet cannot seem to fill these shoes I believe were made for me. Again I think, “is it just me?”

Our week four gathering consisted of an embodied meditative practice led by guest, Lissa Edmond. During our time, Lissa created a space of acceptance and safety, without condemnation. We moved individually and together, identifying the strongest sensations, locating where they were present in the body. I felt discomfort in my neck and my right shoulder. Humming into that area of the body, I knew it needed release. I knew I had been carrying stress right there for weeks. RELEASE. The word that resonated as I shrugged, rolled, stretched, and moved to the music.

I was given permission to be free, to let go, to rest.

Why is it that I felt I needed permission to be free, to let go, to rest? I think it is in part due to my individual standards, but I also think there is a societal precedent, being that Black women have had to carry the systemic and intergenerational burden, serving as the strength and the backbone.

And now this shift to a movement of rest, led by permission. This idea of permission should tell us that we do not need permission! We should claim it as our own. We, Black women especially, should recognize that we deserve to be accepted, safe, and valued; allowed to express and exist, allowed to rest and speak authentically, allowed to say no, allowed to laugh, allowed to cry and so much more. Oh how we are much more than a backbone, a strength--we deserve care too.

I asked Inbreak Artist, Arneshia Williams, to provide her response to the following statement, “You have permission to be tired and permission to rest.” I leave you with her reflection:

“I come, responding to this statement, after reading an entry from the book "The 100 Best African American Poems", edited by Nikki Giovanni. One of the most notable physical responses I had while reading was a smile. I smiled genuinely, unrestrained, unforced, grounded. Wanting to translate and build on that sense of genuineness and being grounded I felt while smiling, I say: Of course I do. And the same goes for you. Of course you do. Now, may we live in the free permission we are choosing to give ourselves. To listen to this body, this soul, and rest.”