A Tired Activist: “Please Don’t Invite Me to Another Meeting”

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Internal Beautification Over Institutional Gratification

My whole life I have been working hard, and “catching up”. Whether “catching up” meant making up lost time I spent in a low- income prison excuse of a high school, or fighting to stay in college as a working class, first generation woman of color.

Everyone always told me to “work hard” and “never give up” because I had strength and ambition. Nobody ever told me to stop, and be still because I also have weaknesses and I’m human. Nobody ever told me if I did absolutely nothing for ten minutes—the world would be okay. People have told me to take breaks and relax, but watching a movie, eating, and hanging out with friends are nothing like consciously sitting still and doing nothing. Actively sitting with the discomfort of not being able to control everything I want to, confronting my discontent in having to deal with shit I never asked for, and letting other people down to make myself happier, are the only things that have helped me survive the new year. I’ve recently found this kind of stillness and inner peace with all my life style changes and I have come to terms enough with myself to realize what I need to do next.

For the rest of the year I’m going to be really selfish and make it all about me. I’m quitting all my involvements, quitting my meetings, and quitting my positions. This is something I tried to do earlier in the year but I was never at peace with myself enough to do it. They’re looking at me with admiration for being “so involved” but not questioning why I desperately want to distract myself, and complimenting me on all my tattoos and piercings without asking why I wanted to decolonize my body in the first place.

I’m holding positions but not finding contentment,

I’m going to meetings but not making real connections,

I’m worried about how many people attended an event instead of what we learned in the planning process.

I’ve wrapped myself in a bubble that only consists of UCSB, IV, and student organizing. I’m missing art, poetry, connection, and non- institutionalized ways of expressing my concerns. I don’t know anything about Santa Barbara because I’ve limited my experiences to two square miles of “college kids” who are among the 1% of people in the world that actually go to college.

My point is that it is a big fucking world and while I consider myself experienced I haven’t seen any of it. It is possible for someone who has traveled abroad or vacationed many places in the passed to still be in the same place as me, because I’m talking about more than just traveling or seeing more of the world in a tangibly measurable way.

I’m talking about meeting real people who make change in our communities without a college degree,

I’m talking about growing my own food instead of going to the store,

I’m talking about making real, meaningful connections with people instead of knowing their org, year, and major through a ten minute ice breaker,

I’m talking about my body feeling good and close to nature instead of in a desk chair, stiff with stress,

I’m talking about actually feeling like I made something beautiful

Sometimes I sit back in my chair and think to myself “What the fuck am I doing?”
A lot of people don’t understand why I would want to do THIS when “ I’ve worked so hard”…

This is not me being a “quitter” or me “giving up”.

This is being honest and real enough with myself to admit I am not the person I want to be, right now.

This is openly acknowledging the systematic and internal problems with depression, anxiety, addiction, sexual assault, and self-doubt that I have dealt with the past year.

This is me not giving a fuck who knows about everything I’ve tried to hide and “be strong” about.

This is not taking the responsibility of explaining myself to people.

This is me taking the breath you’ve always wanted to take, but have never given yourself a break to do.

This is me being happy and okay enough to look at myself in the mirror without having to convince myself I’m not lying to EVERYONE when I say I’m happy doing what I’m doing.

THIS is me making the conscious decision to surround myself with beauty and love instead of bureaucrats & rules.

I’m not completely done organizing, I’m just done doing it with the system, & I’m done doing it for institutional gratification.  

I’ve tried to reach out to people, and my family has been amazing but a lot of folks who’s I’ve met at UCSB definitely did not meet my idea of “solidarity”.

I’m surrounded everyday by people who measure their success with numerical measurements of what the system has told us we should care about  instead of happiness and well being. I’m surrounded by over-worked, stressed-out, harmfully-busy souls who always talk about putting themselves first and never do.

I’m surrounded by people who look me in the eye and tell my they’ll be there for me but the only texts I get are about a proxy for the meeting I’m going to miss or a doodle response I forgot to complete.

This is me taking my wellness into my own hands and not expecting others to always be there for me. It’s not an entirely bad thing—no one will ALWAYS be there for me in the ways that I would need them to, so creating my own ways of being there for myself is one of the most valuable things I can do with my time, and that is exactly what I’m doing.

So please do not invite or expect me at any more meetings and know that if you EVER feel the same way—I’m here.

Most of my time will be spent around the beach, the mountains or the meditation corner on my balcony doing yoga, painting political art about drugs and inequality, poetry and spoken word, connecting with people who are on the same journey to internal beautification rather than institutional gratification, and simply taking really good care of myself. Hit me up.

 

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When My Mornings Started Changing My Life

According to Ayurvedic philosophy, choices that you make regarding your daily routine either build up resistance to disease or tear it down and the way you start your day is incredibly important because it is an opportunity to set your intentions for that whole day.

Having Fibromyalgia makes my mornings the most difficult part of the day. I physically cannot sleep more than 7 hours even if I really wanted to because the longer I sleep the stiffer and more painful my body gets. This is how my mornings used to be:

I literally dealt with  stay up really late and sleep in till the last possible moment. Waking up was painful, if I hoped out of bed within the first minute or so of waking up the whole room gets blurry and I get nauseous and feel like throwing up.

When I finally got the stability to get up, my entire body is stiff and in pain. Extra inflammation in my muscles may have been caused by processed foods I ate the day before and I am definitely not happy.  I can put both feet behind my head but in the mornings I can barely bend half way to my toes. I used to mindlessly wake  up and the the first thing I did was turn on my computer and probably go straight to my email or facebook.

I wasn’t mindful of anything in my body, didn’t notice the weather, and never even thought to take 5 minutes to ask myself “How do I feel today?” and sit with that. Doing these simple things in the morning allows me to come to terms with how I feel- weather it’s good or bad, and allows me to acknowledge that that these feelings are temporary, as all things are.

Creating this awareness instills a responsibility in making every moment count so that I feel the way I want to feel, and there are no excuses for having a “bad morning”. I don’t have time for that shit. Nobody does.

Now, I get up anywhere between 7:00 am – 8:00 everyday, (it varies because I don’t use an alarm). I’ve trained my body to just do this on its own but it ultimately depends on how much sleep I got the previous night.

Getting out of bed takes about 10 mindful minutes to wake up all the muscles in my body. Practicing yoga has taught me how to isolate my muscles and awaken them one at a time. I wiggle my toes, twist my ankles in circles, flex by calf bones (one at a time) and flex in my knees and thigh muscles. I begin bending my back, extending my neck and flexing my arms. This feels lovely.

Once I am ready to actually get up I do not go on any social networking sites, I do not look at my phone or even turn on the music. If it’s not too cold outside, I will go out to my balcony (where I have my yoga mats and a peaceful meditation corner) sit for a few minutes.

This is more practical if I even set a distinct time like “at 7:55 I will sit for 5 full minutes and do nothing.” I try not to talk to any of my housemates and just worry about myself. In this state, I can really hear the ocean calling back at me and the birds singing in the palm trees.

Depending on the morning, and how my body feels, at this time I sometimes pack a small bowl — not enough so that i actually really get HIGH but enough that my muscles don’t feel so stiff anymore.

Sometimes I’ll do a “mind dump” and write all the things that are on my mind in an effort to tangibly and actively clear my mind. If it turns to be a list of intentions I’d like to follow through with I keep it. If it turns out to be things I wanna let go of, I burn it. ( I have large candles and glass bowls here too) Then I do a few Sun Salutations appreciating and honoring where I am in this moment, because despite ALL that I’ve been through, I’m still HERE.

Taking time to do these things in the morning cultivates mindfulness, a sense of patience and self- discipline, and an appreciation for myself.
NOW my day begins…..

  meditation

Regular Tuesday 2:00 pm Meditation

Today while I was practicing some unwinding poses on the balcony I meditated as usual on my large bed of mats. I lit the incense, sat under my red sheet hanging from above swaying with the ocean winds, on top of four different sitting materials surrounded by good vibes. About an hour later when the whole practice was coming to a close I blew out my last candle and challenged myself to list three things that I was grateful for in that present moment: (an exercise I learned from the UCSB Psychology Program)

1. I’m grateful I have the ability to sit at 2:00 pm like this. This is something many people do not do and I feel eternally grateful for specific incidents, opportunities and people that have influenced my passion of being still and being at peace with myself through slow, meaningful practice.

2. I am thankful to have a place to sit, to literally have a place to sit. As I spend time in my corner every day I try to mindfully recognize the fact that having access to a space like this is very privileged, and I know many other people may not have the luxury to sit on their self-decorated balcony near the ocean and ‘listen to their hearts’ at peace at 2:00 pm on a Tuesday. Some people don’t have balconies, some people have to work, some people have shit to do that I will never know the struggle of having to do, I know. So for that I am grateful and promise to seek peace and solidarity in every space I’m in no matter how hard it will be, even if it’s within myself. A safe space for a still mind is not physical, it can be completely within. This makes me want to promise to seek time every day, whether it’s on a balcony with a meditation corner or in the front seat of my car in an empty parking lot, I will seek time every day to be still and to have trust that the world will be okay without me doing something in it for twenty minutes, making me even stronger to deal with it tomorrow.

3. I’m thankful for all the ‘stuff’ that surrounds me and although I have tried very hard to further separate my attachment to ‘stuff’ the past few months I have come to notice a pattern in all the stuff I still do have. I have stopped shopping for ‘fun’– buying things I don’t need and shit just because it’s in a different color. All the things that surrounded me at that given moment when blowing out the last candle was all stuff from other people, given to me through some type of experience. I didn’t realize I had created my little meditation corner in this way until this moment but it made me feel justified in trying to stop being such a consumer. Most of the shit I buy I don’t keep past a few years anyway. I spent money and energy being attached to things that were only temporary…

when I think of some of my most meaningful possessions they are mostly things given to me by other people—with a story. Not just something I ordered online or bought walking by. If this is the case then why buy anything at all? Furniture, appliances, clothes, all kinds of things. I’m going to just trade, gift and accept as many of these things as possible and stop buying shit for a while. It’s much more in my best interest to spend money on investments. I am thankful for all the people that gave me the memorable things that now contribute to this beautiful space and what it all has taught me in this moment about attachment to material things vs. having less, but creating memories of real experiences.