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Winter Parent Activism: Retreat, Repair & Restructure

Season 1, Episode 9

by Ashia R.
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Episode Transcript

Hi friends! It’s the Raising Luminaries podcast. This is Ashia Ray. This is season one, episode nine.

Okay, I realized I messed up. Whoops. Because in the last episode, I wanted to talk about our winter work and the ways that we retreat, repair and restructure. And then I got off on a tangent and I realized now that that is more about a decision about whether or not to go back to social media.

And realizing oh my gosh, no. Social media is rubbish, and it’s awful.

Okay, we’ll just let that go. But we’re talking about today…. I’m going to try and stay on topic.

What is the process that… wouldn’t be really cool if we could, you know, stop running around like chickens with their head cut off?

Do they actually do that? At least one of them must have done it once. Otherwise, that wouldn’t be a saying. Right?

But thinking about those… retreat, repair and restructure: things that we tend to avoid, and don’t really incorporate into parenting, or really anything. Unless we’re talking about rich people going to spas?

I don’t really understand, if that’s accessible. That concept of retreating and taking time for repair and restructuring for anyone other than say like, super powerful, wealthy classes? Anyway.

But let’s talk about how we model false urgency with our kids and prioritize hustle culture. And also suggest to our kids or actions and model how we kind of imply a sense of scarcity with our kids. Why we’re so disordered and what we can [unintelligible] instead.

So back to what we do on winter. We have a couple of fruit trees in the backyard. They’re obviously not growing or doing anything right now. And I’ve tried to figure out… how do we take care of these things? I don’t know how to take care of fruit trees.

But apparently, you’re supposed to prune trees in the winter. From what I read, it’s just easier to see without all the leaves in the way. It’s easier to see how the tree is balanced or unbalanced and how you can prune it. Pruning is very necessary for trees, particularly if they’re not growing in their native environments and they’re impacted by human intervention.

Because if you don’t prune a tree, keep it balanced, and keep an eye on how it’s growing, then it’ll get weighed down by snow, and break and we’ll get all these diseases. So pruning trees is necessary. Especially if you don’t have deer and animals in your yard doing that work for you.

But it’s also necessary and important to do it in the winter. Where we can see through the noise. Right? See where we’ve been, where we’re headed, determining what’s true, deciding where we want to go. I guess for maximum fruit production, but also in life.

I don’t know. I found that to be a really good metaphor. Not eloquently drawing the connection there. But you’re smart, you get it.

So I’ll talk about retreat. What I mean by retreat, I mean it’s like – stop.

There’s a constant pressure to put ourselves out there. I have a habit of just doing whatever feels the most uncomfortable. I am almost uncomfortable with comfort. I realized the other day – our heater was broken. So I have these little space heaters and every time I start to feel comfortable, something kicks in in my brain that goes ‘Oh no, I’m comfortable. And I’m not trying anymore.’ I have this space heater, and I need turn it down.

And I’ve done this for almost 40 years and it didn’t occur to me until this winter that – hey wait a second. Maybe that’s not a point. Maybe the point isn’t just to keep ourselves at just below comfort and safety, but actually to get to a point where we can – I dunno, I can focus on work? While enjoying myself? Without worrying that I’m taking too much resources from the rest of the world?

So I still haven’t been able to bring myself to keep a heater on long enough to get comfortable. But you know, that’s the first step – noticing where we are overextending ourselves.

That sense of retreating in winter is a great time for that. Retreating from the false urgency of like… again, social media, endless news cycles, ambition, creating content, making more conversations. This would be hypocritical if I actually tried to publish a podcast last week during the holidays.

So I took a break. I paused! It was very hard! But that sense of – you don’t have to go, and produce, like a robot every single day, every single minute.

But you could actually retreat. Because if you think about it, unchecked growth is cancer, right? We don’t want to just keep making and making and making. And it’s also kind of burdensome for the people who care about us, and want to be a part of the things we’re doing. Because we’re setting that pace and expecting them to keep up with us.

So what if we didn’t set that pace? What if we slow down and gave our kids a chance to rest. Showed our kids that it is normal and okay. It’s just it’s fine to stop.

I get this sense that we’re all living like sharks. Also, I don’t know if this is true! Do sharks really have to keep moving? Otherwise would hammerhead sharks do they have to keep moving, otherwise they’ll fall down? That doesn’t seem right. But the metaphor, the cartoonish metaphorical is – we act like sharks.

And we act like if we stop for a second, just pause, we’ll end up crumbling to the ground.

So let’s teach our kids that we don’t need to be constantly chasing the next thing. Just because we completed a project doesn’t mean we need to also complete another project.

We don’t need to actually be completing two projects at the same time. We can pause from striving. We can take time and not just pause, but also go backwards a little bit.

Just retreat so that way other people can’t get at us. You know, od no-email November, or that kind of thing. Whatever that looks like for different people.

And then the second ‘R’ is repair. We think about transformative justice and restorative justice practices – we have truth and reconciliation, right. We have telling the truth before we can reconcile and make amends. How to move forward.

We have justice as healing work, taking time to heal before we can create a new process that prevents harm in the future.

Even if you’re a high level athlete or a person who actually takes care of their bodies, we recuperate after illness. Not just like as soon as we stop coughing, jump back into things.

I mean, I do but I shouldn’t and I’m gonna work on that. This is accountability here!

But taking a day after being sick where you actually feel okay again, and just staying on your butt for a minute? And not leaping out to go get the next … burnout.

Or like, you know, you’d have a big strength training day. You climbed a whole bunch of walls and maybe take a day to let your muscles repair.

So how do we show our kids that instead of going from one season’s sport to the next season, instead of going from one class to the next class, into the next social thing, the next achievement, to the next YouTube video… What if we just took a moment to repair and recuperate from the last thing that we did before we jump into the next thing?

The third ‘R’ is restructuring. Creating better structures, requires rupture and repair. We can’t build the new green building without knocking down – or at least dismantling some parts of the old one.

Can’t review what we did wrong, or what we would have wished he had done differently. So we can we grow further. We should do that. We should be reviewing what didn’t work? So we can move forward with what does work. And figure out what went wrong there.

We can’t do any kinds of restructuring unless we have some retreating and repair. So winter work for Raising Luminaries, and Parent Activist Incubator – that kind of thing, requires that we create space for perspective and we create that space through retreating.

If you think about what we’re trying to disrupt – that culture of ‘niceness’ of maintaining and not rocking the boat, supremacy culture, basically. It teaches us to avoid rupture. And it teaches us to avoid interruptions to the to the assembly line.

Don’t make conflict. Don’t make waves. Don’t rock the boat. We also have this, I dunno, do you get this? I got this a lot growing up – this contempt for care work? And maybe it was just me and my family. ut the way that we don’t value care work.

We say we value teachers, and parents, primary caregivers. We say that we we care for healers and nurses, right? But then we don’t actually pay them. And we don’t give them breaks. And we treat them like dirt. Right?

Our our government policies are not designed to support these people. Our economy is not designed to support these people. And it’s kind of like that performative ‘Mother’s Day’ and ‘Nurses Day,’ right? That concept that we celebrate them but only as martyrs as people who just basically burn themselves and set themselves on fire to keep others warm.

But what if we looked at care work more as wisdom work? More as – these are the experts who hold and glue our society together?

So, how do we disrupt that, that ‘nice’ culture? How do we look for ways to create rupture? Look for ways to create interruptions? Look for ways to build and care work and acknowledge the care work? Looks for ways to work in breaks without feeling guilty?

Or maybe we just take breaks despite our feeling guilty? And just keep doing it until it feels natural. Maybe we just keep the space heater on like two minutes longer than we feel like we should. Take those little baby steps.

And in this way, maybe we can disrupt that sense of false urgency and create more space for preventative maintenance and recuperation.

Because winter is such a good time for this. I mean this is the time deep composting. We discussed this before, years ago. When we think of a compost pile – that bacteria eating away and things returning back down to the soil.

We picture the winter as being a frozen time. When the composting stops. But what actually happens is in winter when things freeze, the cell walls burst, right? Like the deep work of composting is still happening in the act of freezing, in the act of thawing.

Even when things are at kind of a standstill. This is such an important part of returning to the earth and starting the cycle over again. So winter as a time of composting, breaking down.

When everything is frozen around me, breaking down self-denial and taking the time to honor and mourn last year’s disappointments. Like, what have I been ignoring? This is a good time to start paying attention to these things.

What am I disappointed about that I just didn’t have time to grieve about? My grandfather died at the beginning of the pandemic. We saw him like one week before locked down, and then he passed away soon after that. And we still haven’t grieved his death. You know, we haven’t had a funeral. We haven’t visited the place where he was buried. We haven’t had that time which is built into things like Qingming. We go and we you know, clean up the grave sites of our ancestors.

We haven’t done that for him yet. And it’s been two years since he died. So when are we building in time for that? Because the rest of the seasons, I know we’re going to be going and going and going. When are we taking the time to honor and mourn the things that we were too swept up, to pay attention to.

Winter is a really good time for acknowledging loss and acknowledging that we wish we had done something that we didn’t. We missed opportunities.

And then just letting go of what didn’t work, I guess. So if we think winter is the time to pause and reflect on how the world changed around us – especially for our kids.

Who’ve only been here for such a little time. You know the the pots and pans we have in the kitchen – they feel like have always existed in the universe. So reviewing with our kids – things have only been like this for a short time. You’ve only been here for a short time. But in the scheme of things, the world is changing around us and we have to adapt.

So before we start doing the work of adapting and growing in the spring, let’s look at how things have changed over the last year. Let’s take a moment to reflect and feel a sense of loss without judging, it without getting stuck. Just noticing and accepting these feelings of missed opportunities, particularly during this pandemic.

I had goals and I had wishes for my kids. During what I consider this prime period of childhood. Where they’re competent enough to go on adventures around the block by themselves. Go out and have sleepovers, and visit their grandparents, and do all these things – but they just didn’t get that. They didn’t get the childhood I wanted for them.

And now their tween years are going to come up soon. They really did miss a huge chunk of their childhood. So what if we just take time to accept that? Before we start being like “Well, I don’t it as bad as the next person.” Or, “well, here’s how we’re going to solve it or fix it.

Let’s not try and solve it and fix it right now. Let’s just acknowledge we didn’t get the family life that we had planned for over the last couple of years.

Which is not bad. It’s not worse, but just accept it. Like huh – I really thought that we would be doing road trips. Or trips to the beach. Or my kids would develop close friendships. And we just haven’t, because we’ve been locked in this house for two years.

So we think about winter as a time to just break down, freeze and burst those cell walls, get past those defenses, get past certain coping mechanisms and limitations, and that’s painful work.

Which is why we must do that retreating because when we’re doing that painful work, there’s a lot of stuff going on in our brains. And maybe we’re not going to be completely on our game when it comes to showing up to do the work and showing up the community. Accepting our helplessness and limitations to make change or overcome the obstacles that life throws at us over the years. That’s really painful.

As bigotry and injustice morph and change, and racism and ableism and all these things show up in different ways. We’re learning different ways that we are not welcome in all spaces and communities. We’re learning ways that some people have opportunities that we don’t. And some opportunities that we have, but we don’t make enough to share. Like if we have enough to stay housed, but we don’t have enough money to house everyone.

Why don’t we take some time to like just feel that. That sucks. I don’t know what to do about that. And just acknowledge that.

And we have to think about how we as people, we see ourselves as these kind of static things. With static identities. But the truth is that our identities changes as society changes because identities are a social construct. So the same way that we can be a class migrants and move in and out of poverty and wealth. The same way our bodies change, and our perception of age and youth and our status as elders changes. The world is changing around us and if we don’t take a moment to stop and think ‘Wait a second, the way that the world identifies and divides people and categorizes people has changed over the past year.’

The way that I have grown has changed over the past year and now I need to re-situate myself within this culture. If I’m going to keep going and keep trying to make my existence somewhat positive for the other humans and the animals and plants in the universe.

Anyway, that’s what I got. It’s not eloquently stated. I don’t know if it’s coherently stated. But that’s what we’re working on for the winter.

And then what that looks like day to day with our kids is actively talking about not overextending ourselves. Actively declining invitations and setting boundaries and setting limits and then talking about it with our kids. Actively not over-binging and then talking about why.

The holidays have all the sugary stuff. It’s a really good opportunity to be like “here’s why we’re not eating that entire cake that looks like a log” Diabetes!

That got a little bit away from me. Anyway, but I will be back next week. I think.

Or maybe I’ll pause! Who knows? I’m the boss! I can do what I want.

But I will probably be back next week with more stuff for your ear holes.

Go to the website:

And leave a comment or respond on Anchor about what needs clarification. Or if you have any cool ideas? Or if you have any good observations on your own during the winter of – how do you incorporate that structure of retreat, repair and restructuring in the winter with your kids?

Okay. Bye!

Stay Curious, Stand Brave, and Stop (just for a bit)

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