If you are an activist, people who are not activists will always pick apart your activism. These are the "cheap seats people". I think Brene Brown covered it when she talked about people who weren't willing to get out on the field and get their asses kicked, but rather, just hurl criticisms from the safe zones. The cheap seats. And how, if they weren't willing to get their asses kicked, then she wasn't entertaining their criticisms. Which is smart.
BUT - people who ARE activists are also going to pick apart your activism. Because our activism is borne from personal experience, and as the "fragile little snowflake" activists tend to be, we are incredibly unique in our experiences. I remember a fundraiser that our bar did, and I wanted to donate the proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign. I received an equal amount of praise and disdain for that choice. Which seems to be a common theme for fundraisers. Every organization is either an angel or a devil to every activist and fundraiser out there.
Snowflakes. So fragile. Made from participation trophies and liberal tears. Etc. etc. (image via Flickr)
What do you do?
You go to city council meetings and you speak up about injustice and offer solutions and you are an outsider and you basically get ignored.
You go to court to fight for homeless people and judges laugh at you. And the system is...impossible to navigate. Broken.
You fight for a neighborhood and its community and you get smeared and trampled by people with deeper pockets and bigger agendas and "better" connections.
Election season comes and I researched my choice thoroughly and received both praise and disdain for my choice (it was Hillary Clinton).
The election ended and I chose a very specific way to deal with it - by reaching out to Trump supporters and asking them about their politics while resisting the urge to talk about mine. Just to try and understand what I really did not understand. Again, both praise and disdain.
If you talk about what you're doing, you're waving your own flag. But if you don't talk about what you're doing, you can't get the help that you need. So you talk about what you're doing so you can get help with what you're doing and praise and disdain and praise and disdain and...
And finally...I just got sick of it. All of it. I used to be just ...all in. I worked myself weary to support the causes I cared about, most times at my own expense. For years. Until finally, the toll it took on every aspect of my life led me to pull back drastically. I said fuck it.
And I rested for a while, preferring to be active, but a little quieter. A little less obvious. With a little more care for myself. But damn...I still felt stuck in the middle of that praise and that disdain. I don't want to be praised for doing what feels right - it feels ...gross. But I could really do without all of the harsh judgement, too. Why can't we just talk? Why can't we just do the work? Why can't we just ask for help?
So I quit people. I was so tired of feeling pulled in every direction, trying to navigate feelings and politics and my heart and keep my paycheck...ugh. I just quit. I've barely talked to anyone outside of my immediate family in almost 2 months. I had a major surgery and if you don't follow my Hey Lola social media accounts, chances are you don't know. Because I barely leave my house. And I stay off of facebook. And away from comment sections.
I think I just needed some time to figure out what I was truly passionate about, without feeling pulled in the direction of what anyone and everyone else in the world was passionate about. I needed some time to quiet the noise. (Which is hard, because having an anxiety disorder makes it nearly impossible to quiet the noise. The praise and disdain rules the minds of those with anxiety)
But you know - I recognize that that is a privilege. To just bow out. I'm a bi-sexual woman who is a former sex working, homeless, high school drop-out, so I've had my fair share of struggles. But I'm also a white woman in a monogamous marriage with a white guy, we both have jobs and I managed to get to college. We have a house. We have health insurance. I can check out but I can check back in anytime I want to and generally speaking, life will be kind to me. If people truly do judge books by their covers (and they do), then my cover affords me an enormous amount of privilege.
On December 3rd, I gave myself a 90 day "cleanse." I'm on crutches now, and hopefully by March 3rd I'll be able to walk normally again. And I'll be ready to fight. Because truthfully, it's been really nice not to fight. Not to cry all of the time and be so fucking frustrated with this system and the way it's just set up to benefit the same people, over and over and over again. It's been nice. I've settled into it very nicely and I could easily stay here forever. In all of this privilege. But that's not really ok.
The Women's March was today and it was the most inspiring thing I've seen in as long as I can remember.
And I lamented that I couldn't be there and remembered that a girl on crutches with a broken foot should NOT be in a crushing throng of people and I mentally patted myself on the back for taking care of myself and then I saw...
don't work yourself to death & sacrifice your sustainability for your activism.— wikipedia brown (@eveewing) January 21, 2017
don't persistently do nothing & call it self-care
And oh shit. Because it is SO nice here in all of this self care and let other people take care of shit for a while and I'm done fighting the city and the old white guy politician brigade and apathetic and critical armchair activists who have your back until you need them to have your back and I really, REALLY like it here and that shit sucked. IT FUCKING SUCKED. I like this silence. I like not leaving my house. I like this safety.
But how can I roll around in all of this safety when others are not safe? How comfortable can that remain?
So what I need to do is find my happy medium. I have until March 3rd. Figure out what I'm truly passionate about, figure out where my strengths truly lie, and figure out how to balance my needs with the needs of others. And definitely figure out how to hold strong to my own truths and my own fight and not get distracted by every single battle or by disdain OR praise. Take care of myself, take care of others, navigate the noise...goals.
Please share your favorite organizations with me. Tell me what they do and why and how you support them. Share how you balance your life. Tell me how you handle the noise. How you empower those without a voice? And please keep me accountable, you guys? Don't let me get sucked into self care quicksand. Call me out. I've done the work before. I can do it again. I just need a better approach.