Years ago when I was more active in the peace movement I had a day where I was feeling like it was just all too much. I was too angry, too sad and I felt too small. We'd organized rallies, made speeches...nearly a million of us marched on Washington and it seems to make no difference. I felt helpless
I reached out to a friend who had been an activist for around 40 years. I always admired her drive and her passion for peace and justice. I told her I felt like it was too much, that I wasn't sure I could keep doing this work. How did she manage? How had she kept it together all of these years?
She told me three things...
She told me three things...
1. Be grateful for the gift of having your eyes and your heart opened. Even in today's hyperconnected world there are still people who are unaware of the suffering of the world. And there are those that are aware but choose, for whatever reason, to keep their hearts closed. We are designed to feel empathy and it is because of that empathy that the knowing hurts so much, but it is in knowing that we can act. It is in being able to relate to suffering that we move beyond our minds and our hearts and use our bodies to take action.
2. Wanting to save the world is a wonderful thing, but accept that you won't be able to do it; at least not alone. The world is a giant place, and each of us one have but one pair of hands, one body to do the work. Yes, collectively we have immense power, but as individuals we have no power over the collective.
What you can do is be responsible for your own actions. What you do and the way you live your life does have an impact on the world. It means thinking about the things you buy, the words you speak and the example you set. It means being aware of your place in this world and acknowledging that your actions, or your lack of action, make a difference.
3. Know it is okay to take a break. My friend told me she and her husband took two weeks out of the year to go to a cabin by the lake and disconnect. They took the time to go into retreat and recharge. While not all of us are able to take a break from our lives, we can do things like take a break from social media. We can nourish our bodies and our souls so that we have the energy to go back out into the streets, to take that shift in the soup kitchen, to write those letters, to put our bodies on the line for justice.
This post was inspired by a call from a friend who was feeling overwhelmed with things, so I would also add this:
Connect. Reach out. If it gets too be too much, call someone, get together for coffee or dinner, go for a walk. Don't keep your fear, your worry, your anger or whatever you are feeling to yourself. Know that you are not alone. And if you are the one receiving the call - pause your life and listen, you will likely find out you feel a little less alone too.
Finally, rejoice in the community you have and celebrate the victories no matter how small. We have not crossed the finish line, and I doubt most of us will live to even see it appear on the horizon, but we've passed many mile markers. We are moving forward, however incrementally it might be.
And we are doing it together.