From Vietnam Veterans Against the War, http://www.vvaw.org/veteran/article/?id=1821
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No one knows more than our brothers and sisters who have been resisting and dissenting since Vietnam that this struggle can be exhausting. Thinking about the past few months of work on IVAW's Operation Recovery media messaging team as well as other responsibilities with Warrior Writers, grad school and local organizing I feel worn out just thinking about it. Sometimes it is hard to keep on pushing but there are inspiring events happening right in our midst and some practical ways for us to keep ourselves fit to fight for justice.
Times like our face-to-face meeting at Coffee Strong, in January 2011 where IVAW campaign organizers worked nonstop through a weekend of sharing our work and planning for the future. IVAW members in Seattle, like Andrew Vandenbergh and Jorge Zapatista along with other Northwestern members and volunteers were awesome hosts. Ft. Lewis chapter member Nicole Mitchell shared original songs about her experiences as a soldier and CivSol member Siri Margerin photographed the whole weekend, just to name a couple highlights.
We've had times like March 19th when Midwestern IVAW members joined up to stand in solidarity with the people and the workers of Wisconsin. Long time IVAW member Todd Dennis put in hours upon hours of work and hosted dedicated organizers like Aaron Hughes, Vincent Emanuele and Barry Romo weekend after weekend. The Madison chapter has demonstrated the type of commitment and longevity that IVAW needs, they even inspired founding member Kelly Daugherty and her husband Jay to drive all the way from Denver to Madison to stand in solidarity.
These are the times when I know that the struggle is worth it; when I can see my brothers and sisters alongside me. The times in between however, are hard, and isolating, and nearly overwhelming. So what can we do to fight burnout? Community building and self-care are essential.
Community building means that we are learning not just to do work together but develop personal relationships. We need to learn to take the time with each other to connect in order to sustain and lift up our community. Work on your listening skills and try to build trust relationships, you may find that nurturing your relationships will make them even more valuable in your life. We also need to learn to express our values and our appreciation for one another. When we talk about values we realize that we have connections that run deeper than politics and dogma. Likewise, when we express our appreciation for each other we realize that there is so much to appreciate in our community and we encourage those who are doing good work.
We also need to make sure we are practicing self-care. We live in a crazy world that is totally self-centered but at the same time rejects self-reflection. Many of us come from military backgrounds and cultures where we were forced to ignore our own well-being and we carry that with us into this work. Not only do we hurt ourselves when we neglect our own needs but we make it impossible to help others. If we are to make a positive impact we must keep ourselves physically and mentally fit. Take the time to do the things that give you balance; get exercise, plenty of rest, and take the time to prepare healthy and delicious meals. Do the things that give you pleasure yoga, hiking or playing music are all good ways to balance the stress of organizing.
As we continue in the struggle for a more just world it is important for us to reflect on our struggles and find ways to get better and do better. Getting involved with local and national organizing where you can create community is a great way to heal, find meaning in your life, and give back; the work however can be exhausting and isolating. Because it is such trying and such important work I wanted to share some of what I have learned over the past few years as a member and volunteer for IVAW. I implore my sisters and brothers in the struggle; love, respect and encourage each other, take the time to listen and connect with each other, and care for yourself so that you can have balance and help others find it too.
Maggie Martin is a volunteer organizer for IVAW and Warrior Writers. She is a team leader for the campaign Operation Recovery. Maggie is currently organizing to start a Michigan IVAW chapter. Maggie is working towards a Master's Degree in Social Justice at Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan.
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