Frontloading Joy

love script and tulips

Do you ever think about committing to activism, and about how to become more active for justice in a world so full of difficulty and pain? The assumptions that I hold about doing this really get in my way. Particularly what I assume to be true about the full-on energy and commitment required to maintain momentum and to be effective (because otherwise what’s the point?)

Properly committing to climate justice (for example) feels like a full time career, with all kinds of related demands. And then there’s the fear of exposure, of conflict, ultimately of the consequences of being courageous – of getting into the arena and engaging fully, as those I admire do so brilliantly. People like Carole Cadwalladr, Gina Miller, Greta Thunberg. Or my own TTT colleagues, Linda Aspey, Shirley Wardell, Monica Schüldt, all working on climate justice.

So listening to a recent podcast from Brene Brown speaking to activist, lawyer and writer Karen Walrond was both serendipitous and a revelation. She’s saying something so important I’m quoting her here so you can immediately get the core of what she says:

“Activism. In order to have longevity in the work, activism has to have a rhythm to it, there’s an ebb and there’s a flow, and I’m starting to believe that that is the natural order of things. 

The moon, the phases of the moon, the seasons of the year. I think it is our nature, it is nature, it is natural to have an ebb and a flow. And in order to have longevity in activism, for example, you have to be able to ebb and flow, sometimes you go in hard and you fight, sometimes you have to stop. We inhale and exhale. Everything has a rhythm. You have to be able to regenerate. 

And I think, honestly, if we do that when we’re spent, it might be a little too late, that what we do is we front-load with it, and then we gather the energy to go in and change the world and do the good things. Stopping and accessing joy and accessing gratitude is what reminds us what we’re fighting for, it reminds us what we want for the rest of the world, I think it’s necessary to do it, I think we can’t do it unless we tap into joy and tap into gratitude, and tap into appreciation and laughter and beauty, you have to do that. You have to… Because then… What are we fighting for?

I don’t know if it’s partially cultural, I don’t know what it is, but to me, if we feel guilt about the joy then the bad guys win.”

Does this do for you what it does for me? It feels like real wisdom to acknowledge that the purpose of activism is ultimately to make joy and laughter and beauty available to others – and that if we don’t deliberately make that available to ourselves by ‘front-loading with it’ we cannot have the energy to create the changes the world needs. Especially coming from someone like Karen Walrond. It’s triggering some deep thinking about where to go next…

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