Resilience For Activists

We are living through an age of authoritarianism and fascism. It is global and heartbreakingly local, including our own failed leaders who are openly embracing white nationalism and using biological sex as a weapon against women and LGBTQ people. It is easy to get overwhelmed — overwhelming you is core to the strategy bad leaders and bullies use to amplify their power.

So, we must practice resilience.

Resilience is a practice, a verb. Rather than judging yourself for being resilient or not, my encouragement is that you focus on building daily awareness of resilience and moving yourself more deeply toward a state of sustainable resistance. What is one thing you did yesterday that represents a victory in your daily practice of self-care? What is one thing that could have gone better in this regard? Write them down. I do this every morning.

For activists, practicing resilience looks like:

  • Saying no. Not every request made to you needs to be fulfilled by you.
  • Stepping away from your phone. You don’t have to be on top of everything, all the time. Activism is intense work. Take extended breaks, with family or friends who have nothing to do with your activism, and leave the damn device off the table.
  • Rest, hydration, and good food. This stuff is basic but real. Give yourself adequate sleep. Keep drinking water. Eat good, real food. Breathe. Go for walks. Stretch your muscles. Your body is not your container; it is yourself. Treat it well.

There are times that call for working ludicrously hard, when the work is a strobe light in your face for prolonged moments on end. We are living through such an age. Pacing is going slower than you know you can most of the time so that you are able to speed up when the moment absolutely calls for it. Doing so creates space to surge, finish, and stay in the work for the long haul. Where we need you.

Take care of yourselves, friends.

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Not All Requests To ‘Pick Your Brain’ Are Bad

A simple request to ‘pick your brain’ can be costly and frankly insulting to some consultants who make money based on sharing the expertise they have built in a given field. But I’d like to argue for a more nuanced position:

Not all requests to ‘pick your brain’ are bad.

Personally I grant a good deal of requests for ideas, conversation, or advice from young and/or less established people who share my values. My belief is that if I’m not investing in the next generation of feminist leaders and creators, I’m not doing my job as a social change agent. This not to say that I’m a pushover: If I’m too busy, or simply don’t see a request for a conversation as a good use of my time, I will respectfully decline. But I am proud to have spoken with a number of people over the years to offer support, encouragement, or a few words of advice on their journey.

I respect those who have boundaries such that they automatically turn down all requests for free advice or quote an hourly rate. Where I have landed, however, is evaluating requests on a case-by-case basis and maintaining strict control of how much time I allot to these requests. As I do so, I remember all of those who have helped me, with gratitude.

Thinking Of Running For President As A Democrat? Please, Just Don’t.

There are too many Democrats running for president. The vanity and ridiculousness in the 20+ Democrats running could be hilarious if it weren’t so serious —

We have a classroom’s worth of politicians angling to be captain rather than part of a winning team. This is not how we defeat an authoritarian leader who lies, violates democratic norms, and welcomes misinformation campaigns from foreign adversaries that actively work to sow division among his opponents.

Let’s be honest: The current bloated field is filled with candidates who are replicas of one another. An ever greater number of these candidates don’t have a chance in Jupiter of winning Democratic primaries, much less the general election. Democratic Party leaders have failed to take control of this situation. This has happened likely in part because of fear of a renewed batch of complaints similar to what occurred from the Bernie Sanders campaign and its supporters after the last election, but an intramural and dated fight about a ‘rigged system’ within the Democratic Party shouldn’t be a factor, because it’s both an echo of the complementary waves that brought Trump into power within the Republican Party and also irrelevant to voters in the suburbs and exurbs who need an alternative to Trump.

I am not arguing for a coronation; an ideal number at this stage would be five or so candidates — enough to have a significant exchange of ideas, but also enough to get real and create the conditions where candidates with low poll numbers decide to move on. As it stands, not getting traction or polling into relevance is not enough incentive for our bloated field to winnow itself down now, because most candidates don’t have traction or high polling, creating an effect where no one leaves.

We cannot choose a strong candidate to support when we can’t even fit all of our candidates on one stage. There is a reason why no conference, ever, invites more than 20 panelists to weigh in on a given topic. Please, for the good of the Democratic Party, the United States of America, and the entire free world, if you’re thinking of running for president as a Democrat just now, don’t. And if you’re not getting traction, do the honorable thing and drop out. 

Sometimes the greatest acts of leadership are not when one person’s name blinks in giant lights, but when that person assesses the real landscape in which they operate, recognizes what exists and what is needed, and declines to blow a fuse.

 

 

Learning To Run After A Marathon

I ran a marathon. To achieve this, I surrendered to process. I stopped accepting my own excuses and limiting mental frameworks. And, one day I became an athlete.

Running is one of my love stories. Breath visible in the air, classical music on the radio, solitude in the found gorgeous.

Training and the finish line transformed me. Surprisingly, the biggest challenge has been what came after the marathon: not running.

I am learning the limitations of my body. After completing the race, my right knee announced itself as a hostage-taker. With time, it has transitioned to a toddler testing for power.

In the last week I have begun to ease back in. My pace is considerably slower than my endurance allows, and each step brings unwelcome sensation. One month later I do not look like a marathon runner. I look like someone who is just learning to run.

Who cares, I think. I have found a way back on the road. Accepting pain — observing my pain, accepting my pain, and embracing the deep and vulnerable plunge required to stop my instinctive resistance to my pain — is the deepest meditation I have experienced.

Although finishing a marathon was pretty fucking cool.

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Reflections On Dry January

Greetings from January 42, 2019, more often identified as February 11. I joined Dry January this year on a lark. And, I haven’t yet stopped.

Started in the United Kingdom as a way to help people reset their relationship with alcohol, it’s pretty simple for folks who, like me, can stop drinking alcohol without encountering physical problems. Tonight I drink tea.

I like red wine, and I like hoppy beer. What I have learned over the past month and change is that I don’t need them. More than anything, Dry January has taught me how much of my drinking has been mindless and out of habit: Ordering a drink because a server at a restaurant asks me if I want one. Drinking because other people are. Drinking because I’m watching a movie or a game.

I was most nervous about attending a friend’s surprise 40th birthday party without drinking. But, it wasn’t bad. Not drinking during a night with dear friends who were drinking did nothing to interfere with my enjoyment of the evening, and it was easier to get up too early the next morning to catch a flight home. I can also report that not drinking in the face of stressors — such as, oh, being a Virginia Democrat — has been fine. I’m 42 days clear that drinking does nothing to resolve problems or calm me down.

My not drinking does seem to make some people nervous. That’s interesting. It’s easier for me to hear dark humor and offhand comments about drinking for how dark they truly can be. How hard walking and breathing through our culture must be for those with alcoholism. Compassion and respect, y’all.

Physical: I’ve had fewer problems with acid reflux overnight. My skin has lost its barest trace of a Keith Richards-like quality. I’m eating all the time and in the best shape of my life, although that one’s hard to tease out from training for a marathon, which has been happening simultaneously and is also why I decided to stay straight edge, for now.

When this is all over I’m looking forward to a glass of red wine with a piece of bitter, punch-in-the-mouth chocolate that makes my cheeks flush. The dark chocolate is at least as exciting. It has been nice to gain a greater appreciation for little life things I had conflated with alcohol.

Bullying Anti-Abortion Speech On The Playground

In my community, the Knights of Columbus operate a large pool that is popular for birthday parties. Behind the pool is a playground. And beside the playground, low enough to be visible for the children, is a monument to the ‘millions of babies murdered by abortion.’

When I saw this, at a party, I became so angry during the ride home that I started to shake.

Recently I was glad to have a conversation with a fellow politically engaged mother, who also expressed concern about sending her children to this pool.

As a professional feminist, I am well aware of how rude young men wearing Knights of Columbus regalia can be to women advocating for our own rights — it has happened to me outside of the Supreme Court more years than one. I, too, pause to give them my money or my presence, even for social situations.

But to think of my daughter and her friends at parties where this statue lies in wait for their burgeoning reading skills is another thing entirely. The line is tricky: My daughter is well aware that Mommy used to attend Catholic Church and doesn’t anymore, because the men in charge don’t treat women and girls fairly (also because of the priest celibacy requirement, which only breeds awful things, and rampant sexual abuse coverups, although neither are age-appropriate to discuss with her in detail now).

I have started to attend an Episcopal Church on a semi-regular basis. It is a good place.

At times, I have visceral reactions watching people who claim themselves pro-life applauding a president who conflates Nazis with good people and separates refugee children from their parents. The Catholic Church I grew up in is not what I thought it was then. Seeing it on a playground, I feel deep sorrow, anger, and resolve to keep at my work.

An Obligatory, Trite, And Earnest Note About Marathon Training

I ran a 7:49 mile in the fourth grade. They thought I cheated and skipped a lap. I didn’t, but I too was surprised by my relative speed. I was one of those types who did the bent arm hang instead of pull ups. I thought I was not athletic and couldn’t achieve much physically, so generally, I didn’t. Until I did.

Our expectations for ourselves can be far more limiting than our bodies and I have had to learn this lesson throughout my life.

I am currently training for my first marathon. It is humbling, exciting, and occasionally painful. Mostly it is a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. In this process I have learned a lot. I must prepare. I must be willing to challenge what I think my body cannot handle. I must confront fears and jettison habits that have carried me through decades of 5Ks and dedicated running that was good, but not marathon-level.

For example: Eating while I run will not make me throw up, nor does it obliterate the point of a workout — I have to do it to survive. Or, pushing through pain is not heroic or tough; if I don’t take breaks when my body tells me to, I won’t be able to run my race. I knew I had gone pro when my period started while I was on a busy street, and I just kept going.

More than anything, marathon training has taught me that I can mostly do what I say I’m going to do if I focus and commit. It is also training me to better recognize the boundaries of what focus and commitment can achieve. I can’t and won’t become everything I’ve dreamed of, including some things I had thought more achievable than running a marathon. And yet, remarkably, I’m still going.

On Running And Eating Disorder Recovery

Running has made me a better person. It wasn’t always this way.

Distance running was the beginning of my eating disorder. While it wasn’t the running that was at fault, I quickly cruised from clocking miles to restricting calories and punishing myself with exercise.

How times have changed. Blissfully, I’ve been recovered for some time. And today, running is something I do for me.

Running gives me a feeling of rootedness in my body and mind. It also helps me feel connected to the Earth. Aside from reading a local newspaper, there is nothing I love more when traveling than a run outdoors.

Judging by the regular queries I receive, my stomach sticks out as if I were pregnant. As a runner, I don’t give a shit. I’m strong — as fit as I’ve ever been. My head is clear. When it’s just me and the road ahead, my body is capable of astonishing things.

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