We are so tired. We are tired of hard conversations, of finding nuance, of the equal parts angst and adrenaline that fill our bloodstreams when we pick up our phones. We are tired of trying to find that impossible balance between calling out injustice and maintaining relationships. We want to attend potlucks and go dancing and hold each other close, yet here we are, doom scrolling and dreading that next interaction that will set our heart pounding and our ears ringing. The honking is getting hard to bear. Oh my darlings, this is so so hard.
I find myself jealous of the convoy members still (still!) on my street. It some ways, it would be so nice to be demonstrating agency, to feel like I am making a difference and connecting to other people who share the same cause, roasting hot dogs on a fire outside Parliament Hill and swaying to the music of a thousand loud speakers, consequences be damned. I really do want one of those free hugs. But here I am, alone again, watching earplugs become a hot ticket item on my neighbourhood facebook buy-nothing group.
To be honest, I think the secret that the protestors already know, as they high five each other and vow never to leave, is to make the work itself life giving and less of a slog. What makes it worth it to sleep in your truck and brush your teeth at the corner of Laurier and Metcalfe? It is seizing a sense of control: the way things currently are isn’t the way that they have to be. There is something I can do to make my life better for the people I care about and I’m doing it with other people.
What does it look like to have agency if we aren’t out protesting? When we quite literally, cannot give out hugs, yet still feel enormous pressure to do things the right way, save democracy and all that jazz, while at the same time want nothing more but to spend a month sleeping?
Is there a way that we can lower the stakes for ourselves?
What if we focused less on perfection and more on learning? When I choose to engage with someone, did I learn one new thing about the other person or myself? That is the goal. It’s not winning, it’s not convincing, it’s not debating, it’s not even negotiating. Did I learn something? That’s it. One step. As tired as I am, those aha moments give me joy.
As well, be strategic. Being curious doesn’t mean having crucial conversations with everyone. Who are the people where it it is important to maintain a relationship, who have influence, who matter deeply in our lives, and where do we just let things go? Or instead of having endless conversations, reach out to your member of Parliament or other elected official. Encourage peaceful negotiated solutions and national dialogue that uphold dignity rather than talking points. If we are creative enough, we can get out of this.
There is no perfect solution, perfect person, perfect action. I generally advocate for a big vision as space to work towards, but these days I’m focusing less on hope and more on grace. Hope is acting towards a future where things will be different. Grace is a reminder that we live in the present. Things may never be different, but the scandal of grace, as Philip Yancey would put it, is responding to each other as if they already are. Hope is a prophetic voice crying in the wilderness and grace is the invitation to walk together. Hope pulls us forward and grace allows us to be wrong. Hope paints a beautiful image, grace reminds us of the complexity of being human together, today. Grace is the practice that allows us to hold on to hope and to forgive ourselves.
The best social movements I know are less about the movement, but about the people figuring out how to move together. Self-care is collective care. We do not know ourselves outside of our relationships with others. In my work, we often talk about mutual transformation. It is through relationships with one another across differences that we are all changed. More than ever over these last years, I have been reminded of how we need the tools that allow us to seek accountability for structural issues and also uphold the dignity of those involved. That includes ourselves and it includes taking naps.
When Jorge was arrested and everyone was receiving death threats, I made an altar. I did the same thing at the beginning of the pandemic to remind me that I was not alone. What would you put on your altar, as a visible symbol of what you love and cherish? Can we be each other’s altars?
There is so little we can actually control. We will mess up, we will cause pain, we will be trapped in cycles of trauma and horror, we will be exhausted. We will have the best intentions to be curious and end up shutting down a conversation, furious. I did it myself the other day. We will also, for good and for bad, always have one another and the world we live in.
Perhaps it is not love that wins, but grace. Perhaps the question is not about winning at all, but about paying attention. Everything fell apart last year. Death, cancer, failure, heat dome. Yet last summer the bees produced more honey than ever before. There it was, in the midst of all that loss, abundance.
We can uphold dignity, we can be kind to one another, we can fail, we can seek wonder. I continue to learn to cherish the way the sunlight falls on the kitchen table at breakfast, the feel of my niece’s body curled into mine on the couch, the way we greet each other with “Can you hear me? Can you see me? Are you still there?” as we gaze through our screens at one another. This is what we are always asking: to be seen, to be heard, to be accompanied.
There is no master plan. There is only us, bags under our eyes, waking up for today, one day at a time. We are so beautiful.
Tell me what you would put on your altar.