Cyclical Sustainability For Year-Round Family Activism

Season 1, Episode 7

by Ashia R.
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Episode Transcript

Hi friends, this is Ashia Ray and it’s the Raising Luminaries Podcast.

Today we’re working on episode seven of season one. I actually planned out seasons now. So I think we’re going to go about 16 episodes in this season.

16 Terrible meandering ramblings. And then I don’t know, my goal is to have some sort of nonsense figured out by Season Two – or just to stop. We’ll see how it goes.

But this is episode seven. A number that says like, ‘We should have our shit figured out by now but we don’t.’ So I hope this makes you feel a little bit better about anything that you’ve done seven times – but you’re still not good at it! That’s okay. happens to all of us.

Anyway, today we’re going to talk about the cyclical, seasonal approach that we take to creating and generating discussion within raising luminaries. So as you know, most of what we do, raising kind and courageous humans involves creating space and conditions where our kids can thrive. They can encounter hardship. Can become resilient. But also a huge chunk of this requires that we model for them healthy and sustainable ways of being.

In over the gosh, many years that we’ve been doing this work …2014, six? seven years? We’ve come up with a couple of frameworks that are working pretty well. And we’ve also come up with a lot of experiments that did not work well and we have since cast off.

So what I did notice back when we’re doing books for littles is I wanted to make sure that you know when we’re talking about Christmas or *[the month of] Ramadan or back to school, something that happens once a year – it’s an event. I’d want to make sure that people have the resources they need with enough lead time so they’d be able to request books from the library, start their discussions, planned things in their calendar – because you know, I love the calendar!

*Just learned that it’s disrespectful to say the name of the month without the introduction ‘the month of Ramadan.’ Will do this moving forward!

Make it more accessible for people with executive functioning disabilities. And what that meant is if I wanna to screen ALL the books about the Lunar New Year, which usually occurs in January/February, what we actually have to do is start requesting those books in May. Start researching them start reaching out to authors whose books aren’t available at the library and start coordinating with people.

And then read them and of course, part of what we do has to come with some integrity. We actually screen them with the kids. So we’re reading books about the lunar new year in July. So that way I have time to screen them write things up, publish stuff, tweak it, send it out and have it ready by December / January when people actually need those resources.

And it really screws with your mind. If you’ve ever worked retail especially if you’re you’re selling say, outerwear, clothing. The capitalist system requires that we – the people who are working to be kind of like three to six months offset from the people who are consuming.

We have to start putting out you know, heavy down jackets in like March. It’s ridiculous. And it really messes with your sense of place and time and sustainability to go between real-life, walking outside, and then go into say a store or into your workspace and be thinking about what’s happening next season, not the season that you’re in.

Maybe there’s frameworks you can put into place to protect your mental health. But for me, I found it really dysregulating and it kind of stole some joy from my kids. Because while we would revisit say the the Halloween books that we really enjoyed for Halloween that we’ve already found, it means we’re also screening a lot of new Halloween books in the summer and it just messes with us. We don’t actually get to enjoy what’s actually going on around us in tandem and coordination with the rest of humanity and our other animal people and such.

When I first read Beaver Steals Fire that book introduced the concept to me, that some Indigenous nations practice storytelling where they actively do not read books (or tell stories) with animals and tricksters unless there’s snow on the ground.

There has to be some some limits and there seasonality to it. There have to be restrictions. If we want to make something special, similar to the way that….

I talk with my kids all the time. If there was no ending things would have no value. if we had no death, then what’s to really draw our attention to life?

So being able to pick up a book and read it any time – while that can be great because if your kids interested in a topic, we could just zip on over to the bookshelf and pick up that favorite book. Zip on over to the library. Find a YouTube video.

It removes the sacred, it removes that sense of security that this will always happen on a cyclical [rhythm]. This is a ritual that we will come back to every year.

So once I started observing that tradition out of respect – of not reading animal or trickster stories, unless there’s snow on the ground, my kids started to get this visceral squealing joy about books that they were just kind of meh about (during the summer).

For the first time, I was actually able to look forward to winter because winter in New England wants to kill you dead. Wipes out your power. Wipes out your heat. You’re worried you’re going to die. I don’t know that’s probably just me because I have weird anxiety but – there was nothing to look forward to in winter.

But now that we have this observation of – there are some things you can *only* do in winter.

Similar to, I imagine, how people feel about snow sports – which I do not do. Because I do not do any sport where you have to strap something at your feet? It’s disconcerting.

So we get to look forward to these stories. We get to look forward to these activities that we only do in winter. Say like meals and things like that.

[throat clearing] Sorry. As I said before, in previous episode, you’re going to have to deal with my weird throat clearing tic.

So it’s really hard to resist the false urgency that comes with the dominant culture. Especially with social media and email and text and everyone wants something from you and they want it right away. And I can understand that urge. Because if if you don’t fulfill a request right away, what you’re going to do is get distracted by the next request. So I understand people wanting my attention and wanting me to take action immediately. There’s a lot of fear based in that.

But if we just keep reacting to things mindlessly if we keep behaving as if we are in a forest fire, and every tree is on fire. And we’re in say a social media space where everyone’s pointing out your privileges and pointing out how it works…

And I’ve heard this from so many people across class and race in space, where they’re saying “I have massive amounts of privilege. I have this huge bucket of privilege. I have *all* the privilege and I need to be putting up these fires.”

But this is coming from people who – if they weren’t saying this to me, I would see them as having very limited resources and very limited bandwidth, who are raising children who are doing advocacy work, who are working full time. Who are staying home full time with like five children with different needs. With people who are struggling with food insecurity, housing insecurity, and we’re all – as targeted people – when we’re focused on our targeting, we’re looking towards the people who have it worse.

And we’re forgettin – sure, maybe we have a bucket of privilege, But it’s just *one* bucket. And sure we can weaponize that and use that as power to put out some fires. But if we don’t acknowledge that we have limited amounts, if we don’t acknowledged that we have limited energy and time and spoons and resources – Then we’re gonna distribute our bucket and it will do nothing.

So what I ask of us is that while we while we do pay attention, all the leaves and all the trees are on fire. We need to start looking down at what is causing the fires. What’s at roots – what is drying out the trees and leaving them vulnerable to fire.

And if we don’t have anyone doing that work, if we don’t have anyone watering the roots, and if we don’t have anyone addressing and searching for the spark, then all we’re going to be doing is reacting and chasing fires.

So part of this work in cyclical distribution of our energies, of our time, of our attention is setting aside on reasonable amount of time each year. So we know that it happens on a calendar cycle it’s going to come again even if we don’t get to everything.

Setting aside some time each year to do that deeper work. And it’s one thing to say “I’m going to go to” I don’t know “a spa?” What do people do when they want to rest, go to a spa, get your hair done, go do something that is restful, but if you don’t know that it’s going to come back? That time and that opportunity is going to reoccur?

You’re going to be stressed and worried and clutching trying to get every single thing done because you don’t know when the next rest period is going to happen. Which makes it very hard to prioritize and very hard to decide. What do I direct my limited amount of fucks onto?

So what we do for raising luminaries especially as we move forward beyond just monthly resources and calls to action and books – is what if we took everything that someone would need as a yearly revisiting?

You know, like, I love a good checklist. What if we had all the things a person needs to do, packaged into one year? Divided up into four season? Or even divided up into what is it 24…26 solar cycles.

And we took measure of our environment. We took measure of what does humanity want to do? What is what is our body calling us to do? And aligned specific actions with that energy.

So what I’ve been doing over the past four years or so is paying attention to…when do I hit a wall? When do things that used to be easy seem hard? When do things that used to seem fun seem boring, and vice versa?

And I’ve come up with kind of a roadmap for that. I don’t know if it applies to everybody. But I am noticing, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, at least at my latitude? is it? The up-down one? We do seem to kind of share some level of the same energy cycles.

And this is not to say that this is across ability. I mean if you have chronic illness, if you have other disability issues, if your body is subject to the whims of barometric pressure, you have other variables that you have to deal with right?

But as a whole, as molecules in a wave, we kind of move up and down in time with the seasons. Which makes sense because we are (and we like to forget this) we are animals who are designed to store energy, to rest and conserve. To mate and have babies and and explore and build. And we have evolved to do this in tune with what’s available at at the time of the year.

So in keeping with that concept of reserving your energy – instead of just pushing and pushing, and going and going,and publishing to a calendar, and publishing to a new cycle…What if we actually took stock of the energy around us?

And what if we just let other people hustle and miss out on catching up on that? [FOMO] does hurt!

What if we actually schedule time for rest? And I don’t mean like ‘3am to 7am, you’re allowed to put sleep in your calendar.’ I mean, what if we had entire seasons to rest and sit with the discomfort of not producing for a reasonable amount of time?

What if we had time to compost? What if we had time to cut down and let things die that need to die? And then not immediately start reflecting and planning for the next thing but just to let that stuff dissolve and compost. Let the small changes eat away at these actions.

And this is… I think year 4 of doing this and it’s still uncomfortable. I still hit a wall around October/November where things are starting to slow down and freeze and die and I just can’t really get out of bed unless a child is on fire.

And I beat myself up about it. And luckily I have, you know my in the Luminary Brain Trust, like Alison, who says, “You know, didn’t you talk about composting? Didn’t you talk about there needing to be a season where you don’t do something?”

And I’m like, “Right, sure that sounds smart. But it’s really hard in practice!”

But then sure enough, a couple of weeks pass and… it’s not hard to get out of bed anymore. And it’s not hard to think about what we’re going to be doing in the future.

Whereas a couple of weeks ago if you asked me to plan something, even if it meant I would actually take action on it in July… I just would have groaned and hid from you.

So the other part that I really like about having a cyclical approach to education. I’m sure that there’s fancy words that teachers use but you know, you don’t go into school teaching kids about calculus, right? We go into school teaching kids about small things, and we scaffold upon that. We rebuild upon it every year.

But for some reason once we leave a structured classroom setting we forget to allow ourselves the grace to actually not learn everything in one sitting. It’s kind of understood that you take a class, you master something, and then you move on.

Well, why not… learn a little bit about say religion, up to your comfort zone – if it’s triggering. For me religion is a is an uncomfortable thing to research. We have a lot of generational trauma and history and my own upbringing where there’s a whole bunch of baggage that comes with religion.So researching religion comes with a lot more strife and emotional exhaustion than say, researching anatomy.

So what if instead of trying to learn everything – read *the [whole] Quran* – what if we just learned a little bit every January?

Part of what we’ve been doing for books for littles is testing out – what details what topics strike a nerve with people? What are people interested in at different times of the year? And I measured this through clicks, visits, likes, comments, and there’s definitely a cyclical rhythm to people’s interests in things.

Whether that’s created through consumerist ads and marketing, or whether that’s created by… some topics are for slow thinking and some topics are for taking quick action – I don’t know!

But it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we meet people where they’re at. So we revisit these topics, and we build upon them, and that frees us up a little bit.

Because if I don’t talk to my seven year old and teach him *absolutely everything* I know about residential schools, and how we can prevent that kind of systemic cultural genocide in the future, and how we can hold space and support people who were targeted and victimized by the system… we can come back to it next year. And we also don’t have to talk about that, and only that, for 12 months straight we can take a break.

I found that that is a pretty sustainable way of managing. I don’t feel guilty anymore about not covering every single thing, or watching every single YouTube video, and reading every single book about it.

We can meet kids where they’re at. Talk about it until we start to notice the rhythm turning down, and then come back to it next year.

The key there is we have to set reminders and we have to be intentional about this and not let it completely fall off our radar. Because topics of oppression – no one wants to bring up really hard topics.

Like January we have the whole Holocaust Remembrance Day. And it’s a remembrance day for a reason. It’s not a fun topic to talk about it. And it’s something that we as Gentiles, as non-Jews could very easily just never talk about. So if we don’t have a time in our calendar, a time where we’re like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna sit down we’re gonna do this,’ then it would be very easy to just forget.

Or let the busyness of life and going to school, and getting homework done, and getting the laundry done – would be very easy to let that get blanketed by a nice thick cover of snow.

So as we move away from books for littles, away from social media, away from the attention economy, I tried to think about what is the opposite of everything wrong, and everything that we do that upholds the kyriarchy?

False urgency. White supremacy culture. Capitalism. Gatekeeping. All of these these things that drain us.

I thought what I want instead of social media is, I want a small conversation with less than eight people. What I want instead of broadcasting information and then having to deal with trolls, and people who want to pick my brain and have me explain the same basic principles over, and over, and over again – is I want to build strong, trustworthy connections with people where we can feel safer, admitting what we don’t know. And feel safe admitting what we were raised to believe.

And then I want to build upon that. And I want to keep doing it all through the year and every year. Not saying that it has to be a closed group. I think there’s value and danger in that, but saying – What if we set up a system that had …

We come together in winter, and we revisit these topics. And we try and push a little bit further than we did last winter.

And then you come together again in spring and we start new projects together. And we hold space for each other.

And then we come together in summer. And maybe this isn’t the same group. Maybe this – is we have summer people that we get together with. And we have spring people that we get together with.

But the point is that we know we have someone to come home to. And we know that we have an itinerary that’s steeped in our bones. Where we know that even if we didn’t get it this time, we will get it eventually. And we have someone by our side who’s kind of making that progress along with us.

So we’re doing our first parent activist incubator. I feel bad making it only parents but I don’t know what educators need. And they’re very smart. They have their own resources. So I do know how to parent. And I do know how hard it is to focus on the balance between activism and then showing up and like, getting your kid to wipe his butt. And I also have learned how incorporate them and integrate them so it’s not these two responsibilities of like smashing kyriarchy and ending child imprisonment camps alongside teaching your kid how to read.

How do we… how do we integrate these two? How do we stop being frantic people holding buckets and just spraying water everywhere into… like concentrated fire hoses. And the gardeners who come into the forest and use fire stewardship and sustainable practices to preventively protect.

Which is… that’s a lot of metaphors. And I feel like I got away from the point? It’s fine! You can leave now, or you can stick with me. I’m not gonna say anything that you can’t live without.

So in keeping with those seasonal incubators where we meet, we have specific discussions, we leave space for whatever life throws at us. So we can swerve and discuss current events or life experiences that we’re wrestling with. That’s all part of the work and we need to make space for that. We need to do it in a sustainable way.

And we need to really focus on grounding each other and creating that radical *from the roots* that radical change and those radical things that we don’t have time for if we’re scrolling social media.

Because if someone’s saying, ‘Sign this petition. Show up on Sunday at 7am with a sign!’ we’re not doing the deeper work.

Like we were talking about racism – and so much of it is focused on… especially people who are new to it – so much of it’s focused on ‘How do I help? How do I stop the harm against brown people? What are the activities that black and brown people are doing?”

But very few people, particularly white people, are turning around and looking at whiteness. Looking at – what are white people doing? What assumptions or are we making in our dominant culture, that prioritizes whiteness and makes it something we don’t even speak about?

So when are we talking about the unspoken rules? When are we talking about the small tiny changes about our own assumptions and the way we were raised?

If we’re so busy running around with squirt guns through the forest, and then posting it on social media so people can see how much ACTION we’re taking!

What if we took some action that didn’t need to be broadcast and shared with everyone else? What if we just did some introspective work to understand positionality?

Where do we stand in a culture that has a power structure and a hierarchy? And how does that affect our role?

I think a lot of people who kind of barrel into anti-oppression work anti-racism work, that sort of thing, are not stopping first to look at the fact that different people have different roles depending on their power structures, depending on their intersecting identities, and depending on their own personal bandwidth.

So that’s what we’re doing this winter.

Let’s start with the end goal in mind, we want to smash the kyriarchy. All of us do. If you don’t want to smash the kyriarchy, this is not the place for you.

To do that we need to model courageous activism and kindness while also raising children at the same time. And to do that seemingly impossible feat, we also we have to really prioritize our fucks. And we have to prioritize and be very crystal clear about our values. Because we don’t have a lot of time. We don’t have a lot of energy. And this country hates parents. Hates mothers in particular.

So if you’re going to be a parent, who changes the world and heals the world, and transforms systems that are entrenched, while also trying to raise a kid in a place where childcare is completely unaffordable? And maybe you’re raising kids who have disabilities, maybe you can’t do your activism work while you have a screaming child in your ear!

What do you need for that? Wou need to spend a good deal of effort prioritizing. Which in itself is going to be difficult if you have say, executive functioning disabilities. Which means we have to start looking at ‘How do we change the world in a way that is life affirming, not life threatening?’ That is a quote someone made I’m sorry if I stole it and I don’t know your name.

Which means we need to find what are our responsibilities – but also what are our roles? Because every time someone tells me to show up to a live event… I understand the need and the importance, but I think a lot of people don’t understand that as a family with Autistic members…. that’s not just one hour invested in our time.

That is two weeks. One week of prep for the change in our routine. And then one week of really painful recovery for the change in our routine, the sensory overwhelm, the unpacking a lot of us autistics do afterwards – where we kind of go back and retroactively analyze every interaction with another human to make sure that we did it okay…

So once we’re changing the world, once we find a way to change the world in a way that’s life affirming, not life threatening (which by the way, is what I would like to focus in spring. I think.) We have to think about sustainability.

To do that, we have to identify – how can we be the most effective as a contributor for collective action? Particularly if we don’t work well with others!

But to identify how you can be most effective, you have to identify what are your responsibilities, what are your own personal limitations? What are your actual values? And then clarify – who are you and what are you actually capable of?

So what we do in winter, is, it’s going to be that introspective work. And I know this culture does not like – especially even through the more toxic activism networks – We do not like self-introspection. We want to see people go-go-going and working for others and setting ourselves on fire to support others.

And there’s talk about resting. And there’s talk about lighting candles and facials and stuff like that. But – outside the disability rights movement, there’s very little window for what self-care is allowed to look like.

My self care as an autistic person, trying to navigate a world that is overwhelming, does not look like the self-care of someone who doesn’t have the same disabilities as me.

So, keeping in mind, what does that look like spread out over the year?

Say in spring, that’s the time when we’re kind of like up and itchy to start something new. In summer, that’s when we’re most able, and I found at least personally, it’s easier to take quick and decisive action than it is in other times of the year. In autumn that’s a great time for evaluation. Wrapping up reanalyzing and even shutting up for a moment.

Which after a full year of talking or many years of talking nonstop and publishing nonstop – is very hard to do.

And then winter would be about positionality. Examining cultural conflict. Examining the ways that we communicate and how we can butt heads with other people who want to be in community with and we want to collaborate with.

It’s about identifying the obstacles that we have personally, and getting them out of our way. So that way we can take care of our own shit – so we don’t make our shit someone else’s problem.

So winter would be for grounding and resilience and for resisting false urgency and consumerism and hustle culture.

It’s almost like capitalism and the dominant culture has built in a way to get us to forget how important this is. Right when we should be finishing our harvest, right when we should be settling in with family and taking nice long naps – is when the holiday shopping season starts. There’s this push to get out. Buy stuff. Prove that you appreciate people almost like gratitude and appreciation become a competition to outdo each other. With Christmas lights, to show off, to go business parties and school parties and go out and spread yourself thin at the time when you should be the most able to rest.

When you deserve rest and you need rest. That seems completely out of whack to me. I don’t know. It seems messed up. And it seems like that is when hustle culture is pushed the most – almost to distract us. Almost intentionally.

And you wonder i the holiday season – the shopping season – started as a result of people not buying as much in the winter, right?

Because we’re not going out and playing in the woods and scraping up our knees. We’re not buying band aids. So the the manufacturers and the stores who want year-round sales have to invent these holidays and – not invent the holidays, but commandeer these holidays that should be about being quiet and reflecting and togetherness and turn them into shopping sprees and competitions.

So if we’re thinking through the lens of the winter as a way to ground ourselves and build a foundation for the rest of the year through our activism. Resisting that urgency to keep going so that when we DO go, it’s effective and strong and it’s life-affirming and not life-threatening.

And then we also think of it through the lens of: We are modeling this for our children. We’re trying to raise resilient kids who are going to face horrors that we can’t conceive of yet. Who… we also need them to understand the horrors that we face now and the horrors that have come before. And that’s a lot to pack into a little body and a little brain! Right?

Part of doing that is we need to create them… foster… steward them? With a little bit of identifying what regulates us. So that way, they can see what regulates themselves. Give them you know, a little menu of… ‘How did my parent do this? How can I move forward with doing this?’

Doing a lot of research into play therapy for aggression, right now, because there are very few therapists available and I have a kid who’s got some wild temper tantrums. And it goes down into the granular – What is it like to be a parent who’s raising a kid with a temper tantrum? What does it like to be an activist raising another activist?

How can we teach our kids to do their own identity work? If we haven’t done our own? If we’re disjointed from our ancestry of ancestor worship, how do we reintroduce that without a feeling…manufactured an… appropriative? Almost even if that is a part of our own culture?

But if you think about the benefits of having a kid who’s had a parent and a family and who has done identity and heritage and ethnicity work with their parents to understand their history…

Imagine raising children who are so firm in who they are. So confident and resilient – that when they’re attacked, which most of our kids are targeted in some way – when they are attacked, because they will be – when they are overwhelmed, when they are burned out:

They’re still secure and rooted in who they are. And they still remember that the aggression coming towards them is not about them. It’s about the bigot who just has an axe to grind.

And we think about kids with privilege those kids who grow up thinking ‘I have all this privilege. I have a bucket of privilege, and the forest is on fire!’

Imagine – because all of our kids do have some level of privilege, there’s some identity, where they get to move through the world unencumbered because of that identity – Imagine these kids with privilege who aren’t vulnerable to supremacist propaganda about their inherent supremacy.

Imagine kids who can identify that on their own. Without someone else pointing it out to them. Where they’re like, wait a second, I don’t deserve this. How can I level the playing field on this?

Imagine raising children who aren’t shaken as they grow up – that feeling that I keep hearing, especially from white people who are doing anti-racism work of: Having the rug pulled out from underneath them when they turned 20 and 30. And they recognize that racism still exists?

Because that’s going to happen. Even people at the intersections of many identities. If they’re not familiar with the supremacy of ableism – if they’re not familiar with the fact that it’s still legal to electronically shock a disabled person, even though it’s illegal to do it to animals and to non disabled people. If they’re still, you know, moving through the school system, okay with the fact that we have ABA in our schools, designed to groom and target and leave our disabled children vulnerable to predators.

[Realizing that] is a horrible feeling. And imagine if we proactively prepared our kids for when that does happen. When they do start to recognize that they hold a space of privilege, without the fragility and the violence that often comes from someone with privilege getting provoked. Or drawing injustice to their attention – because you know, those people they get dangerous.

I want to say ‘those people.’ Me! I’m sure I would get dangerous too, like, fragile and avoidant, and full of… I don’t know white tears or something.

Which is all a whole bunch of words to say – this is how winter work, and our upcoming winter parent activist incubator is going to integrate with how we move forward raising kind and courageous children.

And I’ll keep you updated throughout the rest of this season (I guess we have another nine episodes left of this season) on the progress that we make for the winter incubator.

Because we have really smart, awesome, cool, funny, kick ass people who are going to help me pilot this and test it out. And this is not going to be something where we just hold all the good stuff to ourselves. We’ll hold the stories and we’ll hold space for each other with privacy. But if we come up with any good ideas and actions and new ways of looking at the world, you can bet that we’re going to share it with the rest of everybody else.

And then we’re going to focus on: how do we make this inclusive? how do we make future incubators inclusive for everybody? While also doing work that is life-affirming, and not life-threatening. Because you know, I want to make it free and help 1000 people at a time. But it turns out that just doesn’t work. It’s exhausting.

Okay, I really like you guys. And I hope that you’re finding space to do some of that composting work. And working out how to say ‘no’ to too many demands on your time. Which is…gosh! So hard!

Okay, bye!

Stay Curious, Stand Brave, and Sit Down For A Bit

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Igniting the next generation of kind & courageous leaders