After the Women's March in DC, I was more energized than I'd ever been before. I was optimistic and ready to go. Then my roommate and I got back to our tiny NYC apartment Sunday and she found a bedbug in her room, "alternative facts" became a trending meme on the internet, and #45 began a daily assault on American civil liberties that doesn't show signs of letting up.
There are a lot of stressors out there, and there's a lot of work to do. If you're like me, you've been feeling overwhelmed. Here are five things that helped:
by Liz Richards (writer)
1) Finishing a good book, namely Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie has emerged over the last few years as one of the premiere feminist writers of our time, and for good reason. Americanah was such a needed and enjoyable read for me at this moment because it embraces immigration as a specific, human experience. I think that sometimes we get so caught up in these conversations about immigration and human rights that they seem like sweeping, abstract topics. This novel grounded me in the personal, the very nuanced details of a very human story in the context of bigger political and racial talking points, and that kind of human moment - that could only be captured in a well-written novel - helped bring it home.
2) The app Countable, which is quickly establishing itself as the millennial answer to citizen engagement in politics. While I don't suggest anyone get their news from an app, I've found it to be a reliable and welcome resource this week. The app links you with your senators and district representative and gives you their contact info - you can email them directly from the app, but please note of course that calling reps is always better (because that way you're harder to ignore). It also turns political dialogue into an interactive and easily digestible game. Countable highlights the day's top issues, asks for feedback in the form of a "yay" or "nay" vote, and runs articles about the top congressional issues of the day/week. Easy to chew, not by any means exhaustive, but a nonetheless useful resource.
3) Starting a new binge-able book, My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. Steinem's relatively new (2015) memoir highlights less of typical memoir experiences, and more of her countless interactions with others on campuses, in taxis, airplanes, and conventions across a lifetime of traveling and starting conversations. I've found it incredibly valuable this week to this picture of America put out before me - a picture where people with interests that both compliment and conflict with the author's want to work together to achieve what is best for the country as a whole and keep a dialogue open.
4) Attending a community organizing meeting in my neighborhood. I've popped by this meeting, primarily just to listen, at least every two or three weeks since the election. This particular group focuses on peaceful protest and civil disobedience and their ultimate objectives include criminal justice reform and eliminating police brutality against people of color and people with disabilities. Most of these people don't look like me, don't share my background, and are more radicalized than I am. Listening to what they have to say teaches me that there is an entire demographic that I have never been exposed to and don't know much about, because my experience was designed to exclude them. I felt like skipping this week's meeting because I was so down, but at the last minute felt compelled to attend. Even if some of the things that were said didn't totally resonate with my experience, they opened me up just a little bit to a new way of looking at things. New perspectives and more listening are not only essential right now for the sake of minorities and preserving civil rights, but opening our own minds and hearts a little bit at a time.
5) Binge watching Black-ish on Hulu. I've seen episodes here or there, but never sat down and watched this show before. Lawrence Fishburne appeared on The Daily Show Thursday night to talk about his role as Mandela on the BET mini-series "Madiba" and his other role as the patriarch on the popular ABC sitcom. Fishburne and Trevor Noah has a conversation about what makes the show successful. It's a funny, light-hearted sitcom that is of course saturated in mainstream American perspectives, but it does something pretty new. It opens the floor for conversations about race in America, cultural identity, class mobility, womanhood, and notions of "maleness" in American families. It's a show that I don't would have been successful even ten years sooner, and that's progress. It's important right now to see that.
These things helped. They fix anything, they didn't change the reality I lived in, but they were a necessary part of my self-care this week. Reading, watching, listening, engaging - not to antagonizers but in an open dialogue - is how we grow. These methods are how we heal, they're how we know we're not alone in what we're thinking and feeling, they're how we understand what others are thinking and feeling, and that community and togetherness is so very necessary right now. We don't rise alone, we can't. We have to nurture one another. We rise, together.