Yesterday my friend Janet and I went cross country skiing at Foss Farm west of Boston. It was a picture-perfect snowy day in the woods.
On the way back home, we stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things. I ran into a fellow feminist philosopher (hi, Naomi!) in the produce section. I noted my ski clothing and said what a wonderful day it was to be outside. She replied that she had been at a demonstration in Cambridge to protest the Dakota access pipeline, and pointed out her very warm clothing. We parted, planning to get together for a snowy walk soon.
It’s funny (interesting, not haha) that I should run into a friend who had been protesting instead of skiing that day. Talking with Janet while enjoying the woods, I mentioned that I was really interested in going to the March for Science in Washington, scheduled for April 22. But I can’t, because I had already scheduled to go to the East Coast Paddlesports kayak symposium in Charleston, SC. I’ll be doing 3 days of on and off-water kayaking classes in warm water. It should be great, and I am/was really looking forward to it.
Was? Why was?
Maybe it’s bad luck/timing, but I now count three times that I’ve missed chances to join others in public protest against political conditions that I consider dangerous for my country, the environment, and human rights. The third miss-out was when I was at a cooking course at the Kripalu center in western Massachusetts on the weekend of the Women’s Marches. I had scheduled that trip weeks before the election– who knew this would happen?
All of these things I’ve been doing or am planning are part of my efforts at increased self-care these days. I’ve written about struggling with eating in healthy-to-me ways, and also with physical activities that I love but in which I am less adept/fast/comfortable/fit than I used to be. So I made the conscious decision to shift my focus a bit. I am teaching less (fewer overload courses, which means less money), going to fewer conferences, saying no to new projects (this is in itself a work in progress!), and doing more focused service at work and in my community (i.e. not saying yes to every shiny new opportunity). I’m also trying (really, I am) to space out my social events– I love love love seeing friends and really hate to miss out on dinners, parties, etc. In fact I’m going to try to go to both a lasagne dinner and a karaoke party next Saturday. We’ll see how that goes…
Back to the conflict at hand. Our time is limited, our energy is limited, our personal needs are real, and the needs of the world are wide and deep. Lately it’s feeling like saying “yes” to myself results in my saying “no” to the world. And maybe vice versa. What to do about it? How to find that seductive and elusive karmic balance in life? I guess that’s what I’m asking. At times like these it feels as mythical a goal as this:
It’s funny I’m writing about the difficulty of balance, because I’ve always been good at balancing. I skate (ice and roller), I ski (downhill in past, cross country from now until I expire), and I used to dance ( ballet, tap, modern) and still do recreationally when I get a chance. I’m venturing into new realms of balancing– edging a kayak is an exercise in balancing yourself and the boat to optimize on the physics of forward motion and turning. And yoga? Yeah. Don’t get me started on all the balancing that we’re supposed to do there. Like this one:
Seriously, that is not happening. But I found out just yesterday that I’m rather better than I used to be at this one:
What I wish and hope is that getting stronger and caring for ourselves will open up new energy for caring for the world, which really needs our attention. I’ve recently gotten involved in several teaching projects for minority STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students at my university. It feels stimulating to develop two new courses (philosophy courses on race and racism, and also a science and values course). Maybe I’ll figure out how to make time for protests. Or maybe protests won’t be the route for me– there’s lots of work to do to forward the causes of justice (however we see it).
Readers, how have recent world events shaped your time and energy and balance? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.