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In the process of survival and struggle we have to learn to love ourselves as much as we love the causes we fight for

Pratibha Parmar


The week before Easter I came to a screeching halt, my body just totally rebelled, said in no uncertain terms "stop, no more, I need a rest" I'd been pushing myself way too hard and not building in down time or time to nurture myself, time to weave myself together. I work in two youth projects, one of which is extremely hard work and has very challenging kids, one which is relatively new so is taking a lot of planning, I'm training to be a brownie leader, I'm heavily involved in my church community and I am involved in another community building project which is an off shoot of the church but is purposefully secular so all members of the local community feel able to get involved with it, and I have several other possible community projects that I'd like to launch percolating round my brain. i love what I do, I get a hell of a kick out of it and there is often nothing I would rather be doing.

But I can't do everything, or I can't do everything all the time, until last week I was out every night of the week at work or meetings, which gives me no evenings for seeing or talking to friends, which makes me feel I'm at full tilt all the time. I wasn't switching my brain off properly, giving myself time to do things that I knew would recharge me, that had nothing to do with community issues or activism.

We can only do what we can and I suspect that many of us who care about community weaving, who care about activism, about making the world better for others and ourselves actually have less energy to give than most. I suspect the reason we care the way we do is because we have been wounded by the shape the world is, we have been caught in the cross fire just because of who we are. I live with complex post traumatic stress disorder, depression and I'm non neurotypical so I'm a definite spoon counter and it's really important to me that I do use a lot of those spoons in making the world a better place but I have to remember to keep enough back for me, so I can nurture myself, can look after myself.

Community weaving is important because people matter and those of us involved in community weaving are not, or shouldn't be outside of the communities we are weaving, we should be part of them and so we matter too.

As a woman, as an adoptee, I've received messages all my life that my purpose is to service other people, to put other peoples needs and feelings before my own and balancing my own needs with both these lifelong messages and my passion for community is not always easy, I often feel guilty taking time out for myself and even when i do have down time I often waste it because I don't feel I deserve to look after myself. I'm working on those self worth issues but in the mean time just from a pragmatic view point looking after and nurturing myself makes sense because if I don't refresh and recharge myself I can't do my community weaving work.
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one thing that people dont talk about, dont think about, often don't take into account is that large chunks of community weaving processes are boring as hell, and often when people realise this, and realise that there is no instant gratification involved in this (especially people my age and younger) they walk away, they give up.

Filling in funding /grant applications, which I can't actually do yet but will learn, is so boring that my brain slides out my ears, then filling in the attendant paperwork to show you have spent any money received on what you said you were going to spend it on is also time consuming and boring. Setting up meeting after meeting that no one comes to and then the people who do turn up promise things they never deliver is incredibly frustrating. Listening to people complain either about what you are doing or what you are not doing, when they are not even trying to do anything is also incredibly frustrating.

Working with people who come from different backgrounds, different generations, different faith system is tiring, hard work, like dancing almost, but its important, all these people are doing it because they care, because they think its important, even if they all have different priorities from each other, and they all have an insight into what different parts of the community need. And if the Tories are elected this year, a they probably will be, communities weaving themselves is going to be vitally important because we are going to loose government support and funding for all sorts of things that are vital to communities, so we need all these people working together.

But all of these things need to be done, these are the foundations. If we don't do these things the rest of it wont work, the bits that people see, the bits that make a difference to peoples life won't gell together. And for me personally there are moments of absolutely sweetness when I see that I have made a difference to someones life that would never happen without the long view, without all the hard graft ground work.
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so much of the discussions we have as left wing Christians are about what the religious right are doing. It's as if we define our selves in opposition to them. I think critiquing them is important as is just blowing of steam about the things they say and do that really bother us. And I think defending ourselves, those of other religions, and secular culture from them is really important but it shouldn't be central to our christianity. Our theological and political praxis should not be defined and set by the religious right. it should be defined by our interpretation of the gospels

But also maybe we could stand to interrogate and critique ourselves occasionally. the left wing christian movement is far from perfect and I kind of feel that a lot of the time instead of criticising the religious right we could be doing more productive things, we could find out what we are called to do, we could find out how we could work better amongst ourselves and with other left wing groups.

For myself I know I have a long way to go before I will be where god wants me to be, but I'm working on that. i really feel that community building is a really important part of left wing Christianity, not just christian community building but general community building. especially in these days people need people. i really feel the the commandment to love others as ourselves has practical applications that involves, within the best of our ability making sure people are, clothed, fed, housed and educated, and that we support them in whatever oppressions they are fighting against.

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