Volcano Waking: A Guide to Living a Joyful Life While Fighting Fascism

Part 1: The Eruption …An Abortion Ban Leaked

It was as if lava coursed through my veins. Could this leaked draft from the Supreme Court be true? Is this the end of Roe v. Wade?

A tweet went out. People were planning to gather in front of the Supreme Court early the next day. I was definitely going, and whipped out my markers to pour my frustration onto a sign.

You are waking a volcano.”

I meant my sign as a metaphor for my own body’s reaction to this news, but I also hoped that this news would awaken the volcano of the reproductive rights movement, of the anti-fascist movement, of the volcano that should exist in each of us—erupting in activism and spewing lava down the face of fascism. 

After an awful sleep, I woke and left for the courthouse. I was early. So I stood quietly in front of the barriers to the steps of the Supreme Court holding my sign with a few others.

The Washington Post snapped my picture and the Guardian and NPR sought me out-quoting my anger. Later, I was joined by thousands, their anger and frustration mixing with my own. The heat of activism coursing through us.

On my way home, I was greeted by encouraging texts from friends and family:

“OMG Rowena!”

“I was driving home tonight and just heard you on NPR!”

“You represented us well.”

“Thank you!” 

That night, I slept soundly.

In the morning—with the lava inside me quieter—I thought about what it means to live in a world fighting fascism, opened my laptop, and out poured this piece. The ideas below are not just mine, they are the product of hours spent reading smart people. We are all attempting to figure out how to cope with the epic fight against fascism we find ourselves in. I wrote this piece to help myself but I hope that it might help you as well:

Part 2: Fighting Fascism…While Living A Joyful Life

1. Pick a cause, join a local organization, & take action

What keeps you awake at night? What change in the world do you most want to see? Figure it out, then dedicate yourself to that cause. (If you have more time you could consider two or three causes, but make sure not to spread yourself too thin.)

Find a local chapter of an organization that is doing the kind of work you want to see done and join it.

If a local chapter doesn’t exist, perhaps you are the one who is destined to start that local chapter. Maybe it is your destiny to start a pro-choice group in your church or community.

If you’re not the kind who does well in organized groups, create your own independent studies project. Identify areas of interest, arm yourself with knowledge, and create a list of projects to do. This is the option that works best for me. The important thing to realize about the independent studies option is that arguing with people on social media is not a project, nor a way to gather knowledge. Actually do things: go to protests, help with elections, write stories, talk to people, draw or paint pictures that inspire, make phone calls for groups, etc.

2. Understand your strengths and figure out what role you will play in the movement

The beauty of our world is that we’re all so different. Some people are fantastic with generating new ideas but couldn’t create a decent plan to save their lives. Some people are geniuses at creating structure and spread sheets. Others are natural people connectors, while some are good at seeing the hard truths a cause needs to consider to be effective.

What are your strengths? You know you have them. What are you naturally good at? If you can’t identify your strengths, ask a family member or friend.

Now figure out how you can help your local organization in your cause.

Are you good at leading people in meetings or running for a local office? Are you the kind of person who welcomes everyone who attends an event and makes them feel needed and appreciated? Perhaps you have a talent for writing up the notes of a meeting in a clear, visually pleasing way that makes it easy for everyone to see what was discussed and what the next steps are. Or maybe you’re a tech whiz and can help with setting up presentations. Perhaps you’re the one who has ridiculous ideas, which on second consideration have something to them. Or maybe you’re the one who sees that this “ridiculous” idea isn’t actually so out there. Or perhaps you’re an independent agent who flits in and out of groups and pinch hits.

Now…go forth and use your superpowers for good!

3. Take your own needs seriously

Fighting fascism and creating a fertile world to pass on to the next generation is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself and take care of your needs.

Make sure you get at least 6 hours of sleep a night, more if you can. Feed your body wholesome unprocessed foods. If you don’t have the time to cook, invest your money in a service that does. Figure out a way to exercise your body with joy, then do it regularly. Identify the activities that recharge your batteries and do them for at least a short time daily.

4. Use social media for connection, not doomscrolling

Social media is a tool. Like any tool it can help you or hurt you, depending on how you use it.

Think carefully about what platforms works best for you and why. Also, what people on those platforms feed you and which people sap your energy? Learn to use lists, unfollow options, blocking/muting, and/or other social media tools to curate a social media experience that works best for you. Figure out what time of the day and the amount of time that works best for you to be on social media. With this knowledge, make a simple social media plan with a clear set of rules customized for the unique person you are.

Stick to your plan.

If you find you’re having trouble sticking to your plan, find a buddy and help each other keep on track.

5. Find a way to be informed that doesn’t overwhelm you

We all want to know what’s going on in the world but it’s impossible to know everything.

Find one or two news sources to keep up with the world in a general way. This could be a podcast, newspaper, TV news, etc. Then, figure out if you want to keep up with it daily, weekly, or some other schedule. If it’s daily, keep it to 5-10 minutes at most. Do the same for local news sources, possibly this could be a local paper, a curated Twitter feed, or a website of your city or town. Then check them out a couple times a week to keep informed locally. Next, focus on media that feeds your topic of interest. Find a publication or curate a social media feed that covers this topic. Check in with it at a schedule that works for you.

Once you’ve created this plan, stick to it. Don’t overwhelm yourself with all the news. Be reasonably informed about the world in general, your local area, and your topic of interest in just a sliver of your time. Use the bulk of your time for living your life.

6. Find time to revel in being alive and learn to enjoy the fight

I once saw a quote on social media that said something like – we are in an epic battle with fascism and we can either let that get us down or we can learn to love fighting.

I plan to figure out how to love fighting.

At its core, fascism is a belief that only a select group of people deserve to have a good life and everyone else is worthless and deserves to struggle. By reveling in life you defy fascism.

Take time to dance, play racquetball, cuddle with your pets, paint landscapes, tell knock-knock jokes with your kid, write steamy fan fiction, do yoga, climb boulders, make sourdough bread, have deliciously wicked consensual sex, etc.

Having fun is a political act. It tells the world that we deserve to have a good life and shows others that they deserve a good life, too.

7. Give your sense of hope the space it needs to grow, instead of smothering it with cynicism

Being right is not the same as being effective.

The left has a terrible habit of inner fighting. There are a lot of really smart people who are able to pinpoint mistakes. Yes, that celebrity didn’t make a smart voting choice in 2016. Yes, it would have been nice if that Supreme Court judge realized how vulnerable her own health was and retired. Yes, it’s frustrating that two of our Democratic Senators turned out to be corporate shills and we have to once again work hard to get a real Senate majority instead of giving up on a functional government. We cannot undo the past. Make a note of the lesson learned and move on.

Let your sense of optimism fuel you to be part of the story that begins with “no one thought it could be done but…”

We are the creators of our own story; let’s create a volcano movement that generates fertile soil for future generations to grow and prosper and let’s have a damn good time doing it.

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