Mid-summer brings with it, for many in the nonprofit space, a turning over to a new fiscal year, while simultaneously offering a mid-way point in the calendar year to reflect on the first of the journey and set intentions for the second half. That’s where I find you: in a period of reflection and intention.
For RO, we set out at the top of 2021 experimenting with what it would be like to run multiple Black Art Futures Fund cycles in a year to allow folks several entry points to funding, to work with our organizations over longer consulting engagements, and always to continue to refine and redefine our relationship to it all—what we call the Work, even as the world was continuing to do so.
In June, we had a 7-day company closure, and even I, for the first time, did not go into my office “just to get a little bit of work done” or answer the emails that would have just needed a quick reply. (I am guilty of still checking them, though!) Instead, I endeavored to spend a lot of the rest period outside, dreaming. A lot of time on horses. A lot of time at the river here in Columbia, riding my bike. Thinking about how I and RO can continue to seek wonder in this world, and community, and culture, knowing all of the endings we’ve endured? Given rest, I was able to settle into some of my feelings about the Work, and how I would be walking into the second half of the new year with my colleagues. Given rest, I could see what was no longer working in our RO Universe and set timelines to address those imbalances. Given rest, I understood what was urgent and necessary for us to attempt to take on and what was clearly becoming our “lane.” Now I can work to define that more, and with the clarity that seemed an impossibility in the midst of going from meetings to meetings to proposals to reports and so on.
When I ran half marathons and was in training for the NYC Marathon (that I completed in 2014), I hired a running coach to help me achieve my goals. Absolutely, running in its purest form is just, as they say, “one foot in front of the other,” but what makes endurance training work—that is, what allows your body to get stronger even as you put more miles on it—is actually the cross-training: the things you do when you are not doing the thing you set out to do. It’s weird. The idea that riding my bike would make me better at running was a wild thought. The idea that resting for a few days prior to the marathon would make me better able to run 26 miles just didn’t make sense at the time. Until it did. More (of the same thing) doesn’t always equal more.
I am thinking of the implicit invitation to rest when the pandemic first hit in March 2020. We had been going and going, and for those of us who could have, what would it mean to allow staff to slow down, to seek their version of safety in all of this, to reconnect to home and family in all of this uncertainty? Those folks who dug their heels in and continued to produce programming and planning at such a clip as they did before March 2020 are so exhausted, y’all. So when I ask my team: How do we move the company to a 4, or even a 3-day work week for the second half of the year and continue to offer our best work to folks? What will you do to cross-train, to show up more wholly with RO when you do? I am inviting us to dream of rest as practice, to make room for the cross-training, to invest in the best versions of ourselves.
In Black Love & Culture—