Whenever I notice I’m beginning to drift into stagnant waters of despondent malaise or veer perilously close to a swirling vortex of panicked mania (not uncommon happenings in these times of political mayhem and imperial villainy) I know it’s time to take a deep breath and reassess some things.
Because if I’ve reached the point of spiritual lostness, despairing stuckness, or existential discombobulation, I’ve likely lost sight of the vision or strayed from my reasons why.
To get back on track, I often start with this: Am I giving to myself what I want for the world?
Since I began working in DV advocacy a few years ago – and especially since the election – I’ve been thinking hard about what I’m doing here and how I’m doing it. Basically: Am I being who I want to be in the world? How am I participating in, responding to, and/or divesting from systems of oppression? What am I building, creating, and supporting?
The deeper I go, the more urgent and nonnegotiable these questions feel. And also: the more I understand how we must absolutely find ways to give ourselves what we wish for others and what we dream for the world.
It can be tempting to overlook this part for all sorts of reasons, but I’ve found that if I bypass this crucial step on my way to resisting injustice and contributing to the effort of building something better, there is a pretty good chance (speaking from experience) that I’ll get tangled up in a manic, swirling charge of unproductive shaming that becomes a fractile of the very system of oppression I want dismantled.
Can we do it? Can we make real in ourselves what we’re striving to make real in the world? Can we prioritize and center our own flourishing, wellness, and liberation? I think to be okay and have any modicum of effectiveness in what we’re trying to accomplish here, we have to.
This is basic integrity: holding myself to the same standard of care I want for others and for the world.
If I want clean air, land, and water, I cannot pollute myself with self-hatred.
If I want peace for others, I cannot speak violently to myself.
If I want every voice to be heard, considered, and valued, I cannot silence my own.
If I want an equitable distribution of wealth and resources, I must give nourishment, attention, and love to all parts of me, not just those I believe are worthy of it.
If I want all people to receive the resources and care they need, I have to be real about what I need and then give it to myself.
If I want white supremacy, cisheteropatriarchy, and capitalism to end, I need to dismantle the hierarchies that live in me and silence, oppress, and kill what I cannot love and accept in my own being.
So let’s not forget to include ourselves as both active participants and worthy recipients of this beautiful thing we’re imagining and building together. Let’s remember that we bring our dreams of liberation, justice, and possibility into being not only by what we create on the outside but by what we plant on the inside – what we cultivate in our bodies and nurture in our spirits. So let’s do that: make our life-affirming, world-expanding visions alive, not only around and between us, but also within us.