Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Make Your Dissent Sustainable



I’m feeling overwhelmed these days. At a time when my energy and focus is needed most, I am scattered more than ever.

And I’m an expert at self-management! I’ve had over 15 years of practice as a sole-practitioner, a soul-proprietor, an indy, writer, coach and SeeChange president (wink-wink). I am my own boss. I don’t take orders from the man. Every day it’s up to me to set the agenda, construct my day as I see fit, balancing my creative, business and social interests.

But right now, beneath this darkening sky of oppression, I am unsure, thrown-off my game. My vision is blurry.

I awaken each morning and wonder where to turn, how to focus my energy. I am lured right onto social media to check-up on the latest Trumpian drama and trauma, to post and comment and scream at my screen. I refuse to be in the dark. I’ve committed to get out of my liberal arm-chair and into action.  

I’ve marched, I’ve protested, I’ve sent emails, made phone calls, written letters to the editor and gotten on the TV news. While I live in Taxation-without-Representation DC, I’m finding ways to be heard. I co-organized and facilitated What NOW? An Evening of Drinks, Dialogue & Dissent event. Now we have a Facebook page with 150 members sharing, supporting, being dissent. (Please join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/whatnowdc/) I’ve taken non-violent direct action (NVDA) training and I’m committed to getting arrested this year!

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Okay, I’m not like some friends who have turned activist PRO overnight!  Who have made this fight for freedom and justice their full-time job. These people are amazing and admirable and I honor and thank them.

But I am doing something.  It may not be enough, it’s never going to be enough. 

And herein lay the problem.

Even as I’m being pulled out of my work routine (and for good reason), devoting some time and effort to the cause, I’m ridiculing myself. 

One of the tricks of the time-energy-management trade I’ve employed for years is My Morning Pages. I’ve been a devout journeler for years, since high-school.  And more recently, in adulthood, I’ve been further encouraged by Julia Cameron (of The Artist’s Way and The Right to Write fame) to practice a daily routine of pouring it out on the page - first thing, first thoughts, each morning – and sometimes at night just before light’s out. 

It’s my way to get centered. It’s like having a status meeting with myself each day – accomplishments, challenges, next steps.

My morning pages include memories that pop-up as I’m brushing my teeth or washing the dishes that can lead to whole chunks or chapters of my memoir-in-progress.

I muse on ideas for my SeeChange clients, a new workshop for creatives, and the importance of finding your incubator within.

My journal pages can degenerate into to-do lists, and that is fine, as long as the writing doesn’t start there.

The idea is to let my brain run free, uninhibited, like a child tearing through a field or finger-painting with reckless abandon.  Unsensored. 

But guess what? 

I’ve been skipping my life-saving writing ritual of late. I’ve been drawn directly into email and social media to get my fix of what’s going down under this new, scary regime.

I have to know – I sometimes participate in actions – sharing posts – commenting, encouraging, raging, emailing or calling officials to get my voice heard. But more often than not I’m simply trying to keep up with what’s going down.

It’s fine, it’s okay, I try not to make myself wrong for it.  I’m buoyed by the blossoming, burgeoning activism among my friends and fellow-citizens. It IS the silver lining.

But the truth is, by 10 or 11 am, after forcing myself off the internet, I’m left scattered, discombobulated, unclear where I’m headed for the day. And worse:  adrenaline-infused and angry.

My creative juices have been sapped.  Sometimes I get up and grab something to eat to fill the directional void and hope I get some clarity as I stand over the counter cutting bananas into my hot cereal.

Like this morning. It’s a gray day.  I’ve just read an article called Trial Balloon for a Coup. Don’t click here if you don’t want to be distracted and so very upset. https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/trial-balloon-for-a-coup-e024990891d5#.5dbwrwf8d

I know, I KNOW, this getting scared and pissed-off is just what they want. Their aim is to wear us down. I know it and I still let it happen.  Because the other side of it is also true:  We need the information to spur us into action.

But right after reading the article and sharing it around, I took a pause. I shutdown Firefox and turned my phone on airplane mode. I opened my AMP 2017 Journal file and paged-down to the bottom and typed: February 1, 2017 at the top.  Then I got writing.  

I wrote all over the place about this feeling of confusion. In the stillness, it got quiet enough to hear my thoughts. Ah-ha, I’m not making the space. Gradually, I could feel my weight settling into the chair, my body getting grounded.  I resisted the vague urge to get up, make another cup of tea or check the heat or grab a snack out of the pantry. 

I wrote this.

This is about sustainability.  How do we participate in this newly blossoming democracy, develop these new activist muscles, effectively?  How do last not just days or weeks but persist for months and years, maybe the rest of our lives?

The Buddhists call it Right Effort.  Not too much, not too little, just right. 

Shoot, I faced this in the Peace Corps, in pueblito Mexico, where the needs were so great, the unknowns so huge, the game of community development so new, the language and culture barrier so high…and most daunting of all, the expectations of myself out of whack.

I survived (and eventually thrived), though: I stood up for the women, learned the language, had some kind of impact. And they had an impact on me.

How do I find that here, now, the space and grace for sustainability? 

First by taking this pause in the regularly-scheduled programming to recognize:  I’m flailing around.  Then by writing this piece admitting to it.  Then by sharing these ideas and inviting input. 

Are others going through this too?

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Most Important Office in Democracy: Citizen



One week and counting to the anti-inaugural and Women’s March on Washington, friends. And the prez-elect’s antics continue.  Got hope? 

He’s hired his wheeler-dealer son-in-law as his chief advisor. On what? How to make the most hay out while the sun shines on the Trump White House? He spends his time tweeting like a twit about Schwarzenegger’s performance as host of The Apprentice. Presidential much? I can’t help but think of Trevor Noah’s Trump the Toddler routine, balling-up his little baby fists and stamping his feet to demand attention. Even mild-mannered Biden said on a PBS NewsHour interview last week, “Grow up, you’re President now.”

To add salt to the wounds, we all watched Obama’s farewell speech Tuesday night with a box of tissues handy. Or we didn’t watch because we couldn’t face saying goodbye to that guy and his lovely wife and all the loveliness that surrounds them. But if you did watch, as did I, shedding a few tears along with Podus, you had to catch his main message.

It’s time to…

“Hitch our trailers to something bigger than ourselves.”

 Take-on with aplomb “the most important office in democracy:  citizen.”

“Lace-up [our] shoes and do some organizing…and if you don’t like who’s in there, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.”

This is great, I’m thinking, as I’m scribbling furiously in my notebook. Obama as coach. And as a citizen himself very soon, he assured, he is “staying in the fight.”

Okay, dear Obama, si se puede, yes we can, and yes we are.

And yes we did.  Please indulge me as I take a veer down memory lane…back to this time in 2009 when I was knee-deep in preparations for the Samba-O-Bamba Inaugural Ball. Was that a hoot, driving through the streets of MtP with my friend Gigi, dressed in our ball gowns, 11 frigging degrees out and we’re freezing because we have our new black President in the back seat, a larger than life cutout so big we have to roll down the back windows of the Toyota so he head can poke-out. It was a Bacchanalian celebration of democracy with a Brazilian twist, samba music and dancing and a piƱata bashing of W’s head to top-off the evening. 

This year things are going to be a little different. I’m leveraging my organizing power and facilitation skills for What NOW? An evening of drinks, dialogue and dissent! Not so much dancing, but it’s going to be a ball, transforming anger and dismay into action –taking active part in “the joyous task we’ve been given – to continue to try to improve our country.” 

So please come out, friends. Move past Denial and Resistance and into Exploration. Come fueled with march energy. Come tired. Come with rage and joy and hope and hopelessness. Come with ideas, even if they are messy and muddled. Come open to the possibilities. 

My colleague and I, as your facilitators, will come with the questions, the power of questions, to help you clarify the ideas and make connections.  And once those flip charts come out, you’ll know we're ready to make shit happen.
 
As Obama said in his farewell, “The constitution is just a piece of parchment …We the people give it meaning – with our participation.”

Start now. Post a comment, reserve your space, let your voice be heard. For tix:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/what-now-post-march-evening-of-drinks-dialogue-dissent-tickets-30892613639