Escape Into The Present
On the importance of connection
I want to briefly follow up on my post yesterday to do two things. One, I want to be sure a handful of things weren’t lost in my newsletter. I want to be sure that I emphasize how rest is necessary. My belief that our rest and self-care are not the revolution makes it no less vital both for our survival and for our ability to persevere and not succumb to burnout. Please take breaks, please do what you need to do to be revitalized, to be able to be present and endure. But I also write to you to clarify and reiterate that what we have been told, overtly and implicitly, about what rejuvenates our minds and spirits is often unhelpful, at least for me. I can never claim to write for everyone, or to everyone. All I hope to convey here is my thoughts, and also my experience.
One thing many of us have been taught is that we must retreat into self in order to find peace, and find calm. And I think there is tremendous truth to that. I do need quiet time, alone time, and I know that many other people need it even more than I do. There’s a huge range in our needs, or in what allows us to function at our best, most regulated, most in-the-flow of life states. But meditation, journaling, practicing gratitude – time where we can be at peace and reflect helps most people tremendously. What can get less attention is the crucial role that getting out of ourselves can play in our mental health, our spiritual wellness, our connectedness with others but also our inner peace.
When I say “getting out of ourselves” I do not mean a protest or activism or anything like that, necessarily, although these actions can sometimes lead to moments of transcendence. What I mean, most often, is engagement in relationships and connections and service for others that allow us to be so present with someone else that we are no longer focused on ourselves, our worries or feelings or the thoughts that consume us. For me, these interactions are, by their nature, fleeting. They may be 10 minutes or they may be one hour. Sometimes they’re phone calls but more often they’re face to face, sitting across from someone I care deeply about or standing outside in the cold talking to a stranger, who I also care about because we’re united by what has brought us together in that moment or by our simple humanity. This phenomenon, broadly, is one of the reasons I love organizing. I know for some we organize online, others in person, but it is the creation of bonds between one another, the building of something together, and for me the spiritual act of briefly getting out of myself to be present and caring with others that reanimates my spirit and keeps me engaged with these communities I participate in.
I say this all within the context of the larger point I’ve hoped to emphasize this week, which is that despite how many of us are feeling, we must persist. We owe Gaza our endurance, and if that means resting or stepping away sometimes, we should recuperate with the marathon we are pursuing in mind. If we step away we should do so with our return to the struggle for peace and a cessation of this genocide in mind. We should also be mindful of the broader struggle for a just world, one where events like the ones we see today are unfathomable and non-existent. I know this will look different for everyone. And I certainly know I cannot coerce anyone into any particular behavior or mode of struggle. Nor would I want to. What I hope to do is help those who, like me, are struggling during these dark days to continue putting one foot in front of the other. In that vein, I’ll spend the rest of today’s writing in conversation with supporting readers about what I do, how I cope, and how certain concrete actions are often the most spiritual and rejuvenating response of all.