Distraction From What Matters

Hi Friends,

I hope spring is finding you (it’s slow here in Denver as we just had over a foot of snow last week). I find that March can be a mix of excitement and new growth, coming out of our winter burrows and stretching towards the sun.

I also find a franticness, a rush to do things, to get things done, to push into high gear as though we’ve been lazy or unproductive during the slower winter months. I notice people driving more erratically or impatiently, our schedules filling up with even more activities, a rush to pack everything in before the school year ends and summer arrives. There’s almost this constant push to get all the things done so we can rest…. but do we ever actually rest?

I’m reading Rest Is Resistance by Tricia Hersey, founder of the Nap Ministry, and it is another significantly impactful book. She rightly points out that rest is a human right and is essential to our survival. She notices the way “grind culture” prevents us from resting and is intrinsically part of the way capitalism and white supremacy keep all of us in a state of oppression and distraction and exhaustion.

Have you noticed how exhausted you feel? How distracted and overwhelmed and BUSY you feel? Why do you feel this way? Take a look at what our society asks of you (especially moms out there, and any caregiving person) and how little support you receive. And if you experience intersections of identity that add layers of oppression, society asks even more of you, just to “keep up” and provides even less support.

BUSY is not a badge of honor. It is a distraction, an effort to divide us, a tool of oppressive systems to keep us from having any time or energy to fight against them. Social media and constant access to technology contribute to the distractions we face, creating distance in our relationships and connections to each other even as it supports the illusion of community. Our news cycle and political shenanigans also serve as distractions, overwhelming us and contributing to a feeling of helplessness.

What would happen if you had a truly vulnerable conversation with another person, face to face, about what each of you care about, are affected by, and want to do something about? What if you made that a priority? What if you made a conscious choice to let go of the things external forces are telling you you have to do and made decisions for yourself based on your values and priorities and said NO more often? What if you made time to take action on the things that matter most to you?

We are surrounded by and inundated by a constant flow of do this, buy this, say this, host like this, live like this, look like this, raise your kids like this — all ostensibly to make our lives better, more comfortable, more satisfying, more successful. Is it working? Do you feel fulfilled? Or do you feel frantic and empty and wanting for something real? Listen to that feeling, to that internal knowing. Somewhere deep down, you know the truth of what you value and need. Block out the noise and rest and LISTEN.

Imagine what we could accomplish if we were less distracted, more connected to our communities, more aware of our basic needs and how to meet them. I understand the pull of productivity as self-worth and I can tell you that there really is a better way. What could we accomplish if we rejected the need to be busy and stood up in the streets, in our neighborhoods, in our state houses, in our schools, and fought for improvements to the things that are harming us?

I can hear that this could sound like “DO MORE!” In fact, we need to do less for a time until we can hear our inner knowing and then use our time and energy differently, more intentionally, so that we can maintain momentum and action for the long-term, taking turns to rest and act, rest and act, collectively. Taking time to heal is an essential component of this.

Jessica Valenti wrote recently about abortion rights:

“Anti-abortion lawmakers and activists are counting on us being too overwhelmed to stop them from normalizing this madness. They know that being sad, angry and exhausted all the time is difficult — if not impossible — to keep up. They figure if they can keep hitting us with horror after horror, the next time we read a story of a woman going septic we’ll respond with a resigned head-shake rather than energized outrage.”

The things happening in our country that are further decreasing our rights and putting more people in grave danger is not normal. Despite the fact that many types of oppression have been around since our founding, and that they regularly put people’s lives in danger on a regular basis, the dangers are increasing and our freedoms are decreasing. We must not accept that this is normal or that there is nothing we can do. We must not give up or turn away, thinking we are too busy or too tired or too small to do anything about it.

Naomi Klein wrote in her book Doppelganger about Jewish re-traumatization vs collective grief,

“Remembering puts the shattered pieces of our selves back together again (re-member-ing); it is a quest for wholeness. At its best, it allows us to be changed and transmuted by grief and loss. But retraumatization is about freezing us in a shattered state; it’s a regime of ritualistic reenactments designed to keep the losses as fresh and painful as possible. Our education did not ask us to probe the parts of ourselves that might be capable of inflicting great harm on others, and to figure out how to resist them. It asked us to be as outraged and indignant at what happened to our ancestors as if it had happened to us — and to stay in that state.”

We must have opportunities to heal, to grieve, to find our way to resistance and solidarity. This requires rest, space, time, and each other. We have more choices than we think we do about how we spend our time, energy, and resources. We will be most effective in our quests for a better world if we are rested, healed, and whole.

Being stuck in a trauma or frantic state can be just as damaging as apathy and resignation. Many of us have experienced a heightened state of vigilance during the pandemic, a state that felt unsustainable (and was) and still we did not feel safe resting or letting go of our need to control and prevent. For our community members who experience layers of oppression, this has been even more constant throughout their lives because of the ways our systems threaten them.

And yet, we must find a path in between, a balance of rest and action, to both survive and to thrive, as we change the systems and refuse to allow oppression to be acceptable. Be reminded of such efforts as Revolutionary Love to inspire and guide you. Shelly Tochluk recently shared,

“Amidst the cancelation of sociology as a requirement in Florida’s university system, there is a call for historians to stand up in solidarity. To my mind, we can all be public historians, shining lights on contemporary societal inequities and their link to our nation’s history. To that end, check out this beautiful example of how we can all do something in our local community to push against the far-right’s highly motivated, organized, and well-funded force, as it tries to force the maintenance of a “colorblind” view of the world.”

There are so many people engaged in this work and we need you to join us. Find your niche, make time to rest, and take action.

Listen. Amplify. Follow. In Solidarity.

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