My faith is a large part of my work as an advocate. I believe that all are created in the image of God and deserve to be loved and valued. As I mark Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) signaling the end of the High Holy Days this year, I have been taking a moment to pause. According to Jewish belief, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict, so sincere prayer, atonement, and confessions of guilt can alter the course of these events. During these 10 days, I have been struggling, standing before God asking for peace and release. Asking for forgiveness for my transgressions and for my mistakes. Struggling, among other things to accept my limitations as an activist and the guilty feelings that I have not done enough this year to help others.
Hunger persists even as I am enjoying my Salt & Straw artisan ice cream. Driving to pick up my kids from school, I recognize that there are children in refugee camps desperate for an education. Oppressed groups don’t get a break from being discriminated against. Victims of abuse don’t get to escape easily through watching an episode of trashy TV. For goodness sakes, my cats get a more nutritious meal than many humans around the globe. Why should I get a break? Simply because of luck and circumstances of birth?
I see my life and how privileged I am and the magnitude of it all. I don’t let myself rest physically or mentally. The guilt of my position of privilege leaves no space for self-care. I am struggling to accept I should take a break because I need to. My body is telling me to stop and take a break. Without these moments of pause, I know I am disrespecting myself and not giving those I am working for or with my best. I know all this, yet stopping to breathe in is hard.
The thing that I am realizing is that there will always be some more work that needs to be done.
I recently read an article that spoke to me so clearly. The author said, “If activism is about making the world a better place, it’s no good if we don’t take care of our own lives. If we neglect our loved ones or ourselves, we’re not really making the world a better place – just the world outside. If we guilt-trip ourselves for not being able to do that little bit more, we’re making our own selves a worse place to be.”
This coming year, I am not interested in using guilt to fuel my activism. I am interested in channeling love as my source of fuel. If instead of beatin g myself up over what I can’t do, I can feel proud of what I have done and continue to do, that will, I hope fuel me more. If I can come to place where I can accept that I can not fix everything and appreciate my contributions to the activist community – small or large, I know I will feel lighter and more energy filled. Will you join me this year in embracing our movement and turning into a movement of love that recharges and sustains? Let’s throw away the guilt.