Someone much wiser than I once told me “you must give from overflow.” Meaning that there is a certain amount of energy that must be reserved for oneself, it is the excess energy or “overflow” that can be given to others. I believe that this “overflow” is created from balance: listening to your body’s needs, paying attention to your emotions, and creating a space for spiritual growth. The difficult part is maintaining this balance.
In my experience, the typical organizing culture does not leave much room for self-care. Many organizers are so dedicated to their cause, their work, that they fail to take into account their own wellbeing. They live, eat and breathe the cause and often have no time for sleep. This type of sacrificial commitment is impressive, but not sustainable, especially considering the very real emotional stress such work can place on organizers.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of injustice, the frequency and the level of disregard expressed by many non-organizers. Without some type of replenishment and self-care, burnout is inevitable.We organize because we love our communities. We want better for our friends, families and the generations to come. We believe that every human life is valuable and deserving of dignity and human rights. We envision a new world in which social justice is realized. But our love of community and the vision we are working towards cannot be disconnected from our love and vision for ourselves as individuals- as pieces of the puzzle. Part of what loving and taking care of our community means, is loving and taking care of ourselves. We have to maintain our own physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing in order to have the “overflow” to give from.
So how does one create balance and maintain “overflow?” How do we create that abundance of energy and love that can be harnessed for sustainable organizing? How do we become the best organizers and best humans we can be, even when our surroundings are painful and chaotic? How do we heal ourselves, and how do we heal entire communities?These are the questions I continue to ask myself as I move forward with this project.
By Lucia Martinez