Taking care of myself is an act of political resistance.
Image: Andy Katz / Pacific Press / Getty Images
Pretty much everyone I know is planning to head to DC on Saturday for the Women's March on Washington. Everyone but me, that is. And I feel guilty as hell about it.
In the wake of the mega clusterfuck that was last year's presidential campaign and election, political activism has become cool. Not just as an optional, if-you-have-time kind of thing, but in an oh-my-god-this-is-real-and-we-have-to-do-something-about-it sort of way. We're not normalizing. We're resisting. We're holding the PEOTUS, soon to be POTUS, to account.
I've read (and I'm sure you have too) countless posts like this one and this one on how to get not just woke but working in and on our new political reality. Every post I read sends me spiraling ever deeper into an anxiety loop, one I try to climb out of by sending money to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood and by calling my congresspeople (though this seems a particularly futile exercise).
But bus rides make me violently ill and crowds give me panic attacks. So I'm passing on the DC march in spite of the guilt and the FOMO triggered by people proclaiming on Facebook that "The march is this generation's Woodstock! You'll be sorry if you miss it!"
I will be sorry to miss it. But I'm not sorry to make my personal well-being a priority too. Part of long-term resistance—and we're definitely in this for the long haul—is taking care of yourself. In times like these it's easy to bounce between cynicism and idealism, to persuade yourself that either nothing you do will make any difference anyway so why bother, or that everything you do is crucial to saving the very fabric of democracy. Cue the brass band.
The truth lies somewhere between these extremes. You don't have to endure 15 hours of motion sickness and days of PTSD to register dissent or stand up for something you believe in. Everyone can find ways to contribute, whether it's donating to organizations that help elect women, letting your representatives and senators know how you feel, volunteering in your own backyard, or all of the above.
Back in October, when my despair over the campaign was reaching its peak, I signed up for a weekly shift at the Samaritan Center, a national nonprofit with a branch here in Syracuse, New York, whose mission is, simply, to feed people—white and black and Hispanic people of all races, homeless and working poor, veterans and pacifists, liberals and conservatives. It's hard work but it's meaningful. It's work that pushes back against the rising tide of selfishness and greed. And it's work I can do without making myself sick.
As the great poet of resistance Audre Lorde wrote, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." Amen to that.