Self-Care as an Act of Resistance
It’s one of the bitter silver linings of the current political climate: a lot of people suddenly find themselves in a similar situation to their pop-culture heroes. Suddenly the word “Resistance” is not talking about a Princess-General struggling against an evil empire in a galaxy far, far away — no, instead it’s in the form of thousands of protesters filling the streets of Raleigh, NC to protest the draconian and anti-democratic measures of their state legislature. It’s in the form of friends held or turned back at the border, or in the form of surreal commentators saying “Well, yes, they’re Nazis, but let’s hear them out…”
Suddenly we (and yes, make no mistake, I’m part of the Resistance, and if that means I lose your readership, I’m ok with that) are faced with the realization: Being part of a resistance to a totalitarian regime is not much fun.
In the movies, you see the highlight reel. You get fictional narratives that end the way we want them to: with focus on the people who survived. Storytellers usually won’t give us as much attachment to the characters that won’t survive the tale, Whedon and Martin aside (Rowling kills characters, sure, but she usually makes sure their deaths mean something).
In reality: there is no storyteller. So people who you are attached to get hurt, and people who don’t deserve it end up on top. Rather than some machiavellian plot, the world is run by a whole bunch of people who either don’t know what they’re doing and are faking it or (worse) think they know what they’re doing but really don’t.
In that kind of world, being part of a Resistance is a weary place to be.
It’s OK to Be Tired
Here’s the good news: if you are part of the Resistance, then what the Evil Empire wants to do is wear you down. It wants to make you give up. It wants to dishearten you, weaken you, and erode your resolve until you effectively disappear.
That means anything you do that frustrates that plan is an Act of Resistance.
- Did you look at cat pictures today and smile? A blow against tyranny!
- Did you tell a friend you appreciated something they accomplished? Strike for freedom!
- Did you manage to get a workout in today? Reinforce our defenses for they shall never break through!
- Did you make it even slightly harder for them to keep track of you? Operational Security is the Key to Victory!
Even if the best you can do is get to the end of the day and growl out “I’m still here!”, you’ve scored a victory.
But if you want to do better than that, there are some ways you can make it a little easier:
The Logistics of Resistance
Armies run on beans & bullets
— every smart military commander, ever.
Here’s some things you can do — this week, today, right NOW — that will help arm you against the sea of troubles we’re in (and by opposing, eventually end them):
- Join Something. There is strength in numbers. You don’t have to do everything, but pick out one group that resonates with your own purpose. For me, that’s EFF.org, as well as a local conservation club.
- Support Something Else. I’ll repeat it: you can’t do everything. So look for that thing that you wish you had time for, and throw money at it. Doesn’t have to be a lot of money, but you can definitely make a deliberate practice of it: I want to get a cheeseburger deluxe meal. But I’m going to have a plain burger instead and donate the $5 to the ACLU. You just gave one of their lawyers the extra cup of coffee that inspired the thought that successfully overturned an unconstitutional Executive Order! Way to go!
- Limit the Bad News. It’s a pretty depressing time to be a news junkie. The Gravy Hose can fill your brain with an awful lot of stuff that keeps you awake at night. This is a good time to decide that you are going to limit your sources of news to those you trust (the NYT has my vote) and then limit your intake to a set time every day. I’d recommend cutting yourself off a few hours before bed, just to improve your sleep.
- Do Preventive Maintenance. Personal development bloggers often would promote the idea of morning routines as a way to be healthy, or to succeed. Now there’s another reason: to stay strong in a world which is designed to weaken us. I didn’t do yoga, meditate, and journal this morning so that I could make more money or find enlightenment; I did it because it will better prepare me to face the onslaught of demoralizing and terrifying news and events of the day. Find your morning routine — or begin to develop it — and do it for the Resistance.
Most of all: find joy. Find the thing that feeds your soul, no matter how frivolous, and do that. It is not a waste of time, and it is not less important than anything else. Think of it as the oxygen mask in an airplane: Secure your own before helping others. Because if you let yourself get used up and burned out, we have one less ally to help us through these times.
If you’re going through hell — keep going.
— Winston Churchill