Here we are, more than halfway through the year 2020.
Earlier this year, as the fires waged in Australia and people amassed behind the climate marches, I felt a complex surge of grief and optimism regarding the future of our planet. Surely climate activism would be the defining feature of 2020?
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. The initial social isolation and shutting down of nonessential services seemed like a small price to pay to support the health and wellbeing of our most vulnerable. Then the days blurred into weeks into months. Small tasks like getting groceries became tactical missions. Loneliness and heartbreak settled in as we flattened into isolated online versions of ourselves. As time wore on, I saw many people around me grapple with exhaustion. They were tired of navigating uncertainty, terrified of the possibility of a “second wave,” and feeling despair for the future. I felt another complex tapestry of grief and optimism as I contemplated the future of our social and economic structures. Surely we could use this pause to rebuild a better world?
Then we witnessed the birth of a global uprising, probably the largest movement against systemic racism in American history. Black Lives Matter became a deep call to action, shaking down any remnants of disillusion around racial equity that those with the privilege of having were carrying. This time the complex surge of grief and optimism felt more like a tidal wave. It became too easy for me to wallow in heartbreaking despair. So I have asked myself, again and again, what is my role in this moment? How am I contributing to, and dismantling systems of harm? Am I doing enough?
For those who have the privilege to (and I do not take this privilege lightly), it can be very tempting to put up a wall against the discomfort, to give up, and to default to the status quo for no other reason than feeling burnt out and under-resourced. The deep and multi-layered grief surrounding the immensity of systemic racism, climate change, and the pandemic can be crippling. Yet there is meaningful opportunity in this time.
This is the moment to dig in deeper and discover our immense capacity for resilience. Here we can change the question from “Am I doing enough?” to “What is my capacity?” (Thank you Rebekka Goldsmith for sharing this reframe in our last Unpacking Systemic Racism workshop).
We have to remember that we are in this for the long game. Running a marathon requires that we learn how to resource ourselves to keep going. The process of unraveling problematic and oppressive systems within us and around us is a lifetime of work. This has not been, and will not be an easy road. Can we challenge ourselves to embrace the discomfort long enough for real change to arise?
I think this is where the wisdom of balancing “inner” and “outer” really matters. How do you inner resource yourself to keep going when times are tough? There are many practices we can turn towards, such as embodiment, connection with nature, and spiritual guidance. At the same time, how do we stay committed to the necessary outer work? There are also many places we can engage with, including lessons and inspiration for action from social justice educators, change makers, and movement leaders. The inner work provides fuel. The outer work creates meaning. When we have fuel and meaning, we create resiliency.