The great writer Audre Lorde coined the term "self-care" in her 1988 book A Burst of Light. "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." Today we will focus on how we as activists and political caretakers can make sure that we have the strength for our long journey.
Often when we become stressed or overwhelmed, the first thing that goes out of the window is our consideration for our bodies. At My Civic Workout, we know that our hands type, dial, and draw; our legs walk to protest; and our voices call out strongly. We want to care for the bodies that do this work. We’re not going to harangue you to join a gym or start a foul-tasting cleanse. Instead, for your five-minute workout today, we’re going to check in with you about being mindful of what our bodies need to support the work of our hearts and minds.
As you are reading this right now, notice your posture. What do you feel in your shoulders, your back, your hips? Sit up, shoulders back. Breathe in deeply for five seconds, then out for five; repeat three more times. Roll your shoulders back, then forward. Stretch, if you can. Get a drink of water. Consider setting a phone alarm to remind you to do this throughout the day.
To cool down from this exercise, print out this post. Put it up where you can see it regularly and check in with yourself on what your body needs.
Since the 2016 election, we have been assaulted by wave after wave of terrifying news. We have lost much even as we have built our communities to survive the oncoming years. Grief is a natural response to the many acts of racism, bigotry, and corruption that we see on a daily basis. Allow yourself to feel sad. Talk with other like-minded people about how you are feeling. Fear and trauma can make us feel alone. Reaching out to be part of a community combats that feeling of isolation.
Over the next ten minutes, write down the things that you are grieving for. What do you miss? What are you worried about? And think: who in your community shares some of these griefs? Maybe they’re somebody you already work with in an activist group. Maybe they’re a family member or a far-flung friend. Reach out to them to talk about the things you are grieving together.
When things are dire, it seems like we should be fighting for our cause all the time. Paradoxically, it is necessary that we do take time away from the fight in order to restore our calm and our internal reserves of empathy and return fresh to kick ass another day.
Take stock of all of the ways you connect to the news. Phone? Tablet? TV? Computer? Put them away. Take time to enjoy the things you actually…enjoy. Feed your plants. Go for a walk. Call a friend. Anything that does not involve refreshing your Facebook timeline. Download an app to help you block distractions if you need it. One member of the MCW team has a "No social media after 8pm rule." Try getting away from the news for at least 30 minutes today.
KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS
Repeat after us: There is no one way to be an activist. We all have different strengths, lives and abilities. When we denigrate what we can do, we feel powerless. Due to limitations--of money, physical ability, immigration status, you name it--not all of us can go to marches or rallies, but there are other things we can do. And in the long fight of resistance, we need many people of many talents doing many different kinds of activism.
Marathon: No one person can do everything. But we can focus on the one thing we are passionate about. Check out the MCW list of groups based your interests and find your niche.
Read more on how self-care is part of activism at Sara Ahmed's blog Feminist Killjoys.
Some of us, Audre Lorde notes were never meant to survive. To have some body, to be a member of some group, to be some, can be a death sentence. When you are not supposed to live, as you are, where you are, with whom you are with, then survival is a radical action; a refusal not to exist until the very end; a refusal not to exist until you do not exist. We have to work out how to survive in a system that decides life for some requires the death or removal of others. Sometimes: to survive in a system is to survive a system. We can be inventive, we have to be inventive, Audre Lorde suggests, to survive.