You have been reading, and learning, and expanding your awareness. And now you see the underpinnings of patriarchy and capitalism everywhere you look. If you aren't careful you may end up paralyzed by overwhelm and despair. (Been there!) But if you give in, evil wins and good diminishes. Good only wins when we take our dawning awarenesses and put them into action. Below are thirteen ways to survive this new expanded awareness.
- Take inventory of the positives in your life.
Big or small, the good things in your life are what keep you moving forward. Whether it's a relationship you want to show up for (like being a good example to someone who looks up to you), or that you love running, or sex, or walks in the rain, or counting clovers, or reading new books, or traveling. Whatever the positives are that motivate you, call them to mind when you need to remember why you keep fighting the good fight.
- Create opportunities to have good times.
Time dedicated to letting go of hyperawareness may be needed. Sometimes you need to stream old episodes of your favorite TV show from when you were a kid—and choose not to notice everything that they got wrong. Sometimes you may need to take a "process-free" vacation. Sometimes you may need to make certain topics temporarily off-limits. Your relationships may require this, and so may your inner sense of balance. It's ok. Shut off the inner dialogue for a little while. You'll feel better after your break.
- Do good works.
When you have a hard time seeing the good around you, you may need to take it into your own hands to create more good. A gardening project in your neighborhood does more actual, feet on the ground, food in tummy good than hours of conversation about how to end hunger does. Apply theory. Get your hands dirty.
- Do good works with your crew.
Once you know how great it feels to actually create change rather than just talk about it, you may run the risk of becoming an evangelist. Maybe in this case it's ok to give in to your desire to convert people. More hands in the soil during planting cycles means more food to tables come harvest. So reach out and get your friends and family involved in the projects that move you. Invite your family and friends to work with you. Yes! This is what revolution feels like.
- Talk with people who are from different backgrounds than you about how to create shift.
There is a true and present danger of echo chambers in social justice and activist communities. You can prevent this by reaching for dialogue with people whose views may vary greatly from your own. Solutions that we arrive at together with input from diverse communities will be solutions that are well-rounded. And even better, everyone who has input in creating a solution will already have a sense of collective responsibility to seeing outcomes implemented. Representation is essential. Make sure that your circle of influence is diverse, and that all voices are being heard.
An added benefit of seeking solutions with people who are different from you is that the ideas arrived at collectively could never have happened without input from diverse voices. We are stronger together, and together we arrive at more flexible, complex, vibrant, and tenacious visions.
- Make friends with folks who are on the same page as you are.
Sad but true, sometimes you grow out of relationships. If you are doing a lot of work around becoming more aware and your friends are not, you may find yourself becoming uncomfortable in your old relationships. In some cases you will be able to talk it out, and the relationships will shift to accommodate your new views. It's possible that your best friends may hear you, and see the changes you are going through, and decide to join you in taking gender studies classes, reading blogs, going to Black Lives Matter or SURJ meetings, or getting arrested at the next anti-police brutality demonstration. But some friends will instead start feeling really uncomfortable, or even judged, and some relationships will end.
When this is the case, make new friends in your new circles. Commit to building friendships with people who have their eyes open, and are into working to create change. These relationships are likely to be strengthened by your continued journey of waking up. These new friends will see your growth, and will love you for it.
- Choose your battles.
You, just like everyone else, only have so many hours in a day. You cannot do it all. There can be a lot of pressure in the activist world, and even judgment. There may be an expectation of martyrdom. Even your own mind will at times make it seem selfish to draw a boundary; like, how can you eat when three miles away kids don't have access to vegetables?
Don't give in to this mentality! It is essential that you make sure you are not over-committing. You cannot do every. single. thing. Choose your causes and go deep instead of wide. Lend a hand to other causes when you can afford to.
- Only do what you have the spoons for.
As much as you would like it to be, your energy is not unlimited. If you live with chronic pain, are neurodivergent, or have other aspects of your health that require extra monitoring, this is even more true. You know how finite your energy may be on a given day. Don't spend spoons with which you can't afford to part.
- Remember that your most essential job is to keep yourself as together as possible.
Know that you will fall apart. Part of waking up is letting go of your old self. Part of waking up is reworking your values. There will probably be a lot of crying, and a lot of self examination. But even with the falling apart, make sure you are practicing self-care. Make sure you are doing things that remind you why you are doing the hard stuff.
And, do the stuff that the body needs. Make sure that you are allowing enough time for sleeping, and eating, and working, and school, and tending to your relationships. Remember that your health and well-being makes you a better activist. Your banner issues need you to be well in order to carry them.
- And when you can't do that for YOU, do it for the people who love and need you.
Those kids who are going to be eating food out of the garden you're starting? They need you to take care of yourself. If you can't do it for you, do it for them. Your parents, your siblings, your lovers, your friends, your students, your teachers—everyone is rooting for you. They are watching you. They are listening. If they start getting worried about your well-being, don't brush it off. Listen to the feedback, see if it rings true. And if it does, accept their support.
- Ask for help.
Sometimes you will forget to eat enough, or sleep enough, or save enough money for rent. Just about every activist has been in the space where they let the cause come before their basic needs, and ended up needing help getting back on track. This is not a sustainable way to run, but there is no shame in it. If you are in over your head, reach out. Ask for help. And receive it with grace when it comes.
- Cultivate compassion.
For folks aren't yet woking up. For folks who are on the opposite side. For folks who just don't want to know. For folks who are trying their hardest but just can't do it all. Oh, wait. That's all of us. Cultivate compassion for YOU.
- Stay alive.
Some times this is going to be the only job that matters. And on those days and nights when that is the case, know that waking up to another day still breathing is an honest victory.