On this past Monday I attended this session organized by CITY Leaders called A History Of Activism: An Intergenerational Dialogue with self-care heavy on my mind. In a room full of activists, young and old and culturally diverse, when I asked the question of what it has looked like or meant to these folks, they began to regale us with war stories of terrifying burnout. Full collapses leading to bouts of depression, pneumonia, deep depression - the spoke of these tales with smiles on their faces, a trait that is so distinctly a part of this work. Finding pleasure in the heart, finding the learning in the hardship, knowing intimately the beauty and the necessity in sometimes giving everything you have, and often even more. Then the conversation took a sterner tone, a more mindful one and I realize in reflection that this was due to the difficulty their bodies remembered in learning these lessons:
I also want to say although I am attributing the quotes to coming out of the mouths of specific people to honour the lived experiences they endured in order to share that wisdom, I also want to say much of what was said and shared was a product of the shared brilliance of the room
1. "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon." "We need to be able to live to fight another day" (Sakura Saunders)
I loved this metaphor, but then I was reminded that it isn't even a marathon. At the end of a marathon, you vomit and fall to your knees. (Dave Meslin) If our goals are to increase the quality of our lives, then this goal must part of the process.
2."When people were asked how they became activists, they said it was because their friend was involved." (Judy Rebick)
We need to count it as activism when we cook each other dinner, watch plays together, cuddle and generally just play with each other. We need to be social beings and love and be loved.
3. "We are not trying to live forever, but we are trying to make ourselves obsolete, reproduce ourselves."
This is something I work hard to live by. Few should not do the work of millions. We actually need to decentralize leadership friends, this means not leaving anyone behind and instead of speaking on behalf of others, we need to bring more to the table - this is not only good for ourselves, but good for the movement.
4. We can't use activism as a way to deal with or to avoid dealing our own personal traumas or guilt. (Adrienne Marie Brown)
Transforming yourself, this can be the deeper work. This is what liberates into the world we want to see.
5. We have to have joy. (Adrienne Marie Brown)
Right, we know this one family. But we need to practice it with authenticity and intentionality. Write down what joy feels like organizationally, and individually, a meal together, a cookie, cheese (I may just be a bit hungry;)
This is a working list, any other ideas?