2018, a year for more love and compassion & less martyrism
Posted on January 5, 2018
The new year is a fresh start and brings a bunch of feels for me at the same time. Some of you may know that every year I have a self-retreat to reflect on the year. Nothing fancy. I just sit down at a coffee shop and review my year, what I did, where I grew most, my greatest challenges, etc. I wrote about this a few years back.
Here are five reflections from my self retreat and what I want to bring into 2018. I usually don’t share but I’m trying on new things this year.
1. Time matters: Time matters for almost everything we do. Time matters for building relationships and trust. Time matters to our little ones. Time matters for building an organization, experimenting and winning. All of the time I spent I spent the last 15+ years gave me a strong foundation so that I could let go when I needed to last year and become laser focused on my best contribution at home, at work, and in the movement.
2. Doing “less” is more: Being able to do “less” allowed me to be more purposeful in my role. Like Bruce Lee said, “It is not daily increase but daily decrease, hack away the unessential.” Everyday is about getting closer to our core purpose. Doing “less” also creates more room for leaders for a more expansive movement. Imagine if we all did this! The question is how do we know what to do more or less of? How do we do this collectively?
3. Knowing self is wealth: Borrowed from Emory Douglas’s “Health is wealth,” I think last year was about me learning how to speak my truth as a BOLD, PRESENT, BABA. Starting my blog and having continuous reflection (and action) was powerful and gave me more clarity of purpose. I was able to reflect on my strengths and where I need support from others. If we all know ourselves a little bit better, we will know our strength collectively. This is the kind of wealth we need to fuel the movement.
4. Purpose over process, purpose over everything: I have less to say here; it is becoming a mantra for me. We can spend a lot of time on a project or task at hand but without clear purpose, none of this really matters. Purpose comes from having a grounded assessment for our actions. Too often strategy and tactics are not grounded by assessments. Or too often we over think assessments and become paralyzed by own thinking.
Caveat: It goes without saying that none of the above is possible without stretching, making mistakes, and sometimes just simply failing. To get better at making assessments, we need to practice, take action, reflect and REPEAT. We need comrades and trusted folks who we are building with over time.
“Caveat: It goes without saying that none of the above is possible without stretching, making mistakes and sometimes just simply failing. To make sharper assessments, we need to practice, take action and reflect and REPEAT. We need comrades and trusted folks, who we are building with over time.”
5. More love and compassion, less martyrism: This is the main one I wanted to focus on and it comes with a story. As 2018 intensifies, I think we will need this the most.
In college, I was a tutor for a writing program for working class students of color. The coordinator was a fierce revolutionary Chilean, Cecilia Ubilla, who escaped Augusto Pinochet’s coup in the 1970s. She took our role and task very seriously and said that we were training working class people of color to use their writing (and minds) as sharp weapons against the system. Deep stuff.
She always told us that if we were sick, not well, or not fully present, we should NOT come to work. “Don’t get the other soldiers sick!” she would say, and “there is no need for martyrs in this revolution!”
She continued by asking me, “what kind of revolutionary do you want to be? A martyr who dies for the cause OR do you want to be like Fidel (Castro) and take a small island and build a nation with other comrades?”
Obviously both are needed in our movements and this is true throughout history. But, this story helps me think about the roles we play and what we need to do in the current moment.
In this period of resistance, where we are fighting Trump in the short game and Trumpism in the long game, I believe we need less martyrism and more love and compassion for ourselves and others. We need to break through the alienation, fragmentation, and the anxiety heightened in this moment.
The other unintended consequences of martyrism is that many believe that we must be martyrs OR many believe they themselves are martyrs and are the only ones “down” enough to be in the struggle.
It is as if capitalism has inadvertently made us more individualistic, siloed, and isolated from each other. Instead of turning towards each other for support, we turn against each other. All this is toxic; it paralyzes us and keeps our movement small. We need to stop letting the system turn us against each other. More love and compassion is possible and necessary.
For me, this comes out in all kinds of ways. If I didn’t have self-love and compassion, I’d end up in a pit of martyrdom trying to be the “best” baba, the “best” executive director, the “best” organizer, the best everything, with no room for support or mistakes. I’d self-isolate. I’d make it about me. We can’t be everything at the same time, it is inhuman and quite impossible. We need love and compassion and build with close comrades to help us become our best selves.
“We can’t be everything at the same time, it is inhuman and quite impossible. We need love and compassion and build with close comrades to help us become our best selves.”
But learning how to love and have compassion is not easy. As Bell Hooks said, “If you’re tired of being loving, then you haven’t really been loving, because when you are loving you have more strength.” So true and SO not easy. As part of my somatic practice, I’ve learned to access this strength through my love for Collin, which is just scratching the surface of the power I (and we) ultimately have.
As 2018 begins, let’s be grateful for the people and comrades we have around us. Let’s practice love and compassion with ourselves and each other. Lets stay on point and focused as much as possible and not get paralyzed by ourselves and others around us. We have a long road ahead and 2018 is a big year to throw down on.