A New Work Week

Last Friday I woke for once restored, refreshed and ready to start the day. My body was back in the eastern time zone after a few days in CA, and having forgotten to turn my alarm on, I slept longer than usual for it to be a workday. I felt good! Is my inability to sleep well directly related to being attentive to contemporary racial, environmental, and social issues? Studies show that Black Americans take longer to fall asleep, and spend less time in deep sleep. And, without deep, restful sleep it’s not possible to sustain mental clarity, or physical wellness.

Honestly? I’ve disengaged from listening to news as much as I used to. I prioritize keeping up with the local. I’m in IN. So little public transportation. No public recycling. One 1 July, it becomes a level 6 felony to disseminate, display, or perform material harmful to minors in an area where minors are exposed to such material. My city, with its declining population and shrinking economy is building a casino. My university, with shrinking enrollment is in the midst of restructuring. My library has lost an associate dean position and will lose its dean position in 2024. Tenured librarians will report to a dean outside the library. There were close to 20 librarians when I arrived here 11 years ago, in June there will be 6. I may only have 4-5 years left, but just the thought of how to serve campus in the fall invades my rest. I’m done figuring out how to restructure, design a new library, or debating tenure for new librarians. I just want to find new, innovative, practical, and meaningful ways to work with students in the fall.

Nationally, are we serious with our prospects for the next president?

Locally and nationally, patterns of silencing voices continues with book bans, with the need to pay close attention particularly to local elections, to pay attention to textbooks, to evaluate changing school curriculum, to the continued physical threat to marginalized lives, and to all of our children’s lives as they sit in classrooms. And the list continues.

Self-care you might suggest? To really understand that concept, check out Code Switch’s “Self-Care Laid Bare” episode. Listen to understand how this concept has been monetized, making us think that to engage in self-care, we need to engage in practices that require us to spend money (and time) on them. According to Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, the real way to take care of and protect ourselves is learning to say NO to whatever distracts from our own journey or by setting boundaries. Instead of attending yoga classes, she says real self-care is speaking up about the practices and policies that disrupt our well-being and probably that of others as well. Coloring books and essential oils are at best a band aid. The additional load of including the welfare of others within our boundaries is the tax of being a woman and of being a member of a  marginalized group in the United States, but we do that because that’s what we do. There’s no financial pay for the emotional or justice care work that we provide because a patriarchy won’t value the work. We have to redefine value for ourselves.

This reminds me of back in the day when I was in library school and I realized that taking time with my quilting, a crucial creative outlet, was stressing me. I was trying to get a quilt done, take care of my children, work as a full-time teacher, and take library classes. Creativity is an essential part of self-care, but not when it’s a stressor.

Reading stopped being relaxing to me about the same time as quilting. It is work for me. It’s good work for me! I could go on and out about that but, I’ll just say that my work continues to center on everything that happens in and around children’s literature that sustains oppression. I remember starting out with a focus on the need for more books by Black authors and as my understanding continues to grow and becomes more inclusive, so does my work. It never was just about the books.

I see a cycle in the US of creating possibilities for marginalized authors that is quickly followed by attempts to suppress these voices. Part of me understands these women who are engaged in work that limits the freedom of others in their form of community care, and I wonder if the media hadn’t convinced us that we aren’t supposed to be able to talk to each other, could this process look any different? Could these women consider that maybe their energy would be better spent in working with librarians to get perverts out of the children’s area? Could they see the need to work to find better ways to protect our children in public spaces from gun violence? Could we re-assure them that they can have the freedom to protect their children from learning about the social progress that surrounds them while at the same time working to protect my children (ok, grandchildren) from the hands of strangers who take the opportunity to touch their hair? If you think that’s a small, meaningless gesture, you’re missing my point.

I’d love to have the energy to organize, attend meetings and rallies, and do the grassroots work that these other women are doing on behalf of their children. But, we have different energies. I’ll follow the local and national news, and I’ll champion Ashley Hope Pérez, Kyle Lukoff, George M. Johnson, David Levithan, and Sarah Brannen who are among the most recent to step up and lead the cause. I’ll try to post more here on this blog and I will talk about them and their agenda every which way I can to keep my readers informed (No, I don’t have the bandwidth another social media platform that will further erode my privacy.) I’ll focus here in my dwindling little library, and on the students and staff I serve. And, I’ll keep reading, promoting the books, and addressing imperialism, capitalism, discrimination, and hatred. Boundaries! My work is about so much more than books, it always was and always will be.

Friday left me with so many thoughts! That restfulness really was restorative.

One thought on “A New Work Week

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s