Since going to the Women’s March this past Saturday, I’m more dedicated than ever to fighting for Social Justice, Reproductive Justice, and Racial Justice. And since the March, the Global Gag Rule was reinstated, denying women access to safe family planning, including the option of abortion, the House of Representatives passed HR7 (and if it passes the Senate and is signed into law, it will make the Hyde Amendment permanent), an executive order to reinstate the Keystone XL and Dakota Pipeline was enacted, getting visas to travel to Muslim countries will become more difficult, we’re building walls as security, and our national parks are being asked to remove tweets about climate change.
We have a lot of work to do. That work is going to be draining, and everyone is talking about self care.
But organizer B. Loewe writes, “The problem with self care is that there is an underlying assumption that our labor is draining. The deeper question is how do we shape our struggles so that they are life-giving instead of energy-taking processes. When did activities that are aimed to move us closer to freedom stop moving us?” These are good questions. Burnout impacts how we function at an individual, community, and systemic level, and can result in not only emotional but also physical trauma. The Women’s March, rallies in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and more are life-affirming to many, despite the dismal experiences that lead up to these events.
At the start of 2017, I made a pledge to care for myself more fiercely than I’ve done in the past. More exercise, more healthy eating, more pampering, more social media detoxing, more travel for pleasure. But I’ve been revisiting what I’ve said about self care in the past, and how many feel that it isn’t an option for themselves and their communities, and I’ve been making some gradual shifts in identifying what self care means to me.
While meeting with one of my clients, she shared that she helped organize vigil for communities impacted by the 2015 shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado . In fact, she said that her way to caring for herself is by caring for others as well. Cooking for people, helping around the home, running errands. Things that we normally associate with piling more onto our plates. Caring for others was emotionally fulfilling to her, in spite of whatever struggles she may be facing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what self care will mean for the women, communities, and organizations impacted by harmful legislation during the next four years. And when I think of what I really want in self care, a massage is far down on the list of priorities (though they are nice). What I’ve been missing in my self care is community, because I’m going to need my community more than ever as I do this work.
Miriam Lola Perez recently wrote an article for Colorlines and this statemnt sums of what I’ve been feeling perfectly: “My people are my lighthouse. If we make it through, it will be because we hold each other up, recreate the support systems that our government will dismantle, and organize to keep each other safe…”
Like Miriam and countless others around the country, I’ve been fearful of what will happen during the next four years. And just like Miriam, I went to the Women’s March to not only be around like-minded people who want better for our country, but because I thought that it would make me feel better emotionally. Being around millions of people in Washington, DC, and knowing that millions more were marching in cities around the country and globally, made me feel better emotionally and brought up an intense desire to be in community.
Yashna Maya Padamsee, events manager for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, wrote back in 2011: “We need to move the self care conversation into community care. We need to move the conversation from individual to collective. From independent to interdependent…Self care, as it is framed now, leaves us in danger of being isolated in our struggle and our healing. Isolation of yet another person, another injustice, is a notch in the belt of Oppression. A liberatory care practice is one in which we move beyond self care into caring for each other…If your liberation is wrapped up with mine- for me that means that it matters how you feel and what you are feeling. Your well-being is our liberation, and I would hope that you would say the same.”
How can we move towards shifting self care from an individualized practice to connecting with others? I’m seeing many friends host community potlucks as a form of community care. Or developing community gardens. Or volunteering. Or even scheduling Skype dates or Google Hangouts. Or community interfaith prayer circles. Or coming together to create care packages for the homeless. Or strategizing around how to have intentional and sometimes difficult conversations with people with opposing viewpoints. Or offering to care for children while a parent attends a community event. Or making sure that events we host are accessible for those who want to attend. Or calling in people instead of calling them out. Or writing letters and op-eds to elected officials. Or lobbying to make our experiences known. Or making sure that intersectionality is at the forefront in all that we do. Or writing letters letting people know that you’re thinking of them and that you’re here for them. Being is community is going to be crucial in the next four years (and beyond).