Warning: this is not perfect, and you might not agree with me, and that’s okay. I had to write this for myself, and if it’s helpful to anyone else, I’m grateful.
I was so sad and angry to hear about the tragedy in Vegas this week. Jimmy Kimmel had a beautiful monologue that I suggest you watch. Yet another Facebook war is going on about gun control, and it feels hopeless because we know that children were massacred and still no policy was changed.
I know it’s difficult to be happy and positive when the whole world can feel like it’s going to shit. Nazis and white supremacists no longer feel like they have to hide their thoughts and feelings, natural disasters are getting bigger and coming more often, owning an assault rifle is a right and healthcare is a privilege. Innocent brown people are thought of as terrorists, while a white guy can kill 59 people and be called a country-music lover. Whether you agree me with or not, you’re probably feeling a lot of anger, fear, sadness, confusion and despair about the state of the world.
It’s totally normal to feel those feelings and you obviously have every right to. And those feelings can be a great motivator to take action on causes we care about.
More people are calling, writing, tweeting and emailing their congresspeople every single day and it’s working. Both sides are listening to the voice of the People. There is power in that. With Citizens United, unfortunately, politicians make decisions based on who’s paying them or who’s voting for them. If you aren’t paying them what the NRA is paying them, you’ve got to be louder than the NRA.
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
But, it can be exhausting to call or write everyday. It can be exhausting to feel fearful and angry everyday.
That’s why I recommend a few simple actions you can take everyday to take care of yourself while fighting the good fight.
Emotions and Feelings are important and helpful, but not when you’re stuck in a disempowering state for too long. Neuroscientist and stroke survivor, Jill Bolte Taylor has made the observation that emotions (when felt fully) last for 90 seconds, and then we can move on to the next one. Sometimes, though, we get stuck in a mood. That anger or fear can be an important motivator, but not if we’re stuck in the mood for too long. We need to take action with clarity and we need to have the stamina to keep taking inspired action day in and day out until policy changes.
Here are some tips to do just that:
1. Focus on what you can control. You cannot control how people feel about other people; you cannot control what politicians believe or who is paying them off.
You can control standing up for oppressed people, educating people who are privileged, and fighting for underserved community members. You can control calling, emailing and tweeting your representatives.
I use the DAILY ACTION text messaging service to keep me informed on important and urgent policies that need our attention. Like them on Facebook and sign up for messages! They also tell you when your hard work has paid off. It’s great to get those texts when they say a bill has been blocked that would deny millions of Americans the right to health care. Even if your rep agrees with you on an issue, they still need to know what’s important to us, and they prove that with numbers of calls and letters.
HRC also sends me text messages and Facebook messages to keep me in the know and allow me to take easy and inspired action. I also get action steps from an email from Shaun King letting me know how I can help my friends of color. He will always let you know when there are wins as well. We must celebrate all the victories no matter how small or big.
2. Use self-care. Meditations, exercise, sleep, getting together with loved ones… Whatever it takes to change your physical and mental state when you’re stuck in a state of fear, anger or sadness is important. Emotion follows motion. Move that body, breath deep, calm your nervous system. Change your state of mind by changing your focus. We cannot ignore the tragedies of the world, but we cannot allow ourselves to live in a constant state of fear and lack.
Bad news sells and the media is biased so be aware of your source for news, and be aware of how much you consume. Seek out positive news as well as being informed about the horrible tragedies of the World today. Ignorance is not bliss, but there is more good out there than our TV and papers lets us know.
I’m writing this from a plane and the safety video from American Airlines once again reminded me that we need to put our own oxygen mask on before helping others. It is not selfish to take care of yourself first in this world, it’s necessary. You won’t have the energy or emotional stamina to make change without taking care of yourself. If you don’t fill up your cup, you’ll have nothing to give.
Check out how to create a happiness routine here!
3. Raise your consciousness- it starts with you.
“I’m talking to the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways…if you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and then make a change.” MJ
I’m going to get all hippy dippy woo woo on you now, I’m sorry. You cannot change other people. You can only change yourself. But, the good news is once you raise your level of consciousness and awareness, you change the vibration of the world. I’ve got news for you, we all have to take responsibility for the way the world is now. For the good, the bad and the ugly. We all have a collective agreement and a collective consciousness.
And even if we don’t personally agree with what’s happening, we are responsible for changing that collective agreement. We need to practice love and forgiveness with others and ourselves in our lives on a personal level. If you cannot forgive and love your own family and friends, how can you expect strangers to forgive and love each other? If you don’t say hi and smile at the strangers you see on a daily basis, how are we supposed to all feel connected and as one?
If you feel separation, lack and jealousy with someone who looks like you and is in your social circle, how are we going to feel connected and abundant and love for someone who has a different skin tone and lives in a different neighborhood than you. We are all made from the same stuff as each other; we are all made from the same stuff as the Universe. If you don’t acknowledge that and act that way, how can anyone else? It’s your responsibility.
4. Acknowledge your privilege. You don’t have to feel guilty about it. It doesn’t mean you haven’t suffered in life. We all have pain and suffering. But some of us have started off on a higher playing level than others. If you’ve never had to fear for your life when you’ve been pulled over, or feared not getting an interview because of your name, you’ve had privilege. If you’ve never had to worry about whether or not you’ll keep your job because you’re having a baby, you’re privileged. If you’ve never had to worry that a whole group of people who don’t have the same color skin or identify as the same gender as you are making all of the decisions about your body and your rights, you’ve had privilege. If you’ve never had to worry about a handicapped accessible ramp, you have privilege. If you’ve never had to worry about who you kiss in public, you have privilege. If you’ve never had to worry about what you wear in public, you’ve had privilege. No one is saying you’re a bad person because of it. No one is saying you shouldn’t have those rights. Just be aware of it, and if you’re in a position of power and privilege, do what you can to help those who have less of it than you.
“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality can feel like oppression”. Oppressed people have been fighting for their rights since the beginning of time. If you’ve never had to fight for your rights, it’s time to start helping fight for the rights of others. Care about the rights of those who don’t look like you and who don’t live in your neighborhood. Because on the outside, you may not think you’re the same, but you are.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Now it’s your turn. What do you do to take inspired action on important causes without burning out? What advice do you have for someone who wants to do more or be an ally? Thanks for sharing.