Friday, May 2, 2008

Caution to the Wind

PFLAG’s mission is a three legged stool of support, education, and advocacy. In many ways they are hard to separate. Right now I want to focus on advocacy. Our next program speaker is Josh Friedes, Advocacy Director for Equal Rights Washington, who will talk to us about upcoming legislation in Washington that is related to the GLBTQ community we are a part of.

For more information about how this works and what we are allowed to do and not, you can read these documents (all in PDF format) from Alliance for Justice:
Permissible Election Activities Checklist
for more information as to how this relates to candidates, and
When Does Your Activity Become Lobbying?
and Public Charities Can Lobby: Guidelines for 501(c)(3) Public Charities
as to how it relates to lobbying on issues.

If you are not sure about how this works, ask us – the PFLAG-Olympia board. If we don’t know, we will help you find out, which will also educate us.

And remember that when you are not speaking for or acting as PFLAG, those restrictions do not apply.

So what about caution?

Self care is so important. Burnout is palpable and it is to be avoided. I experienced it once – before moving to Olympia and long before Bill’s death. But what I went through was complex, and it is defined both with the word burnout and with a word I didn’t know at the time: compassion fatigue. What’s the difference? Burnout is from working too hard and with too little - sleep, money, etc.. Compassion fatigue is from caring too much. It has been said it is the cost of empathy, but that casts empathy in a bad light which it does not deserve. Rather I believe it is a possible effect of losing too much of yourself to a cause – to the point where you don’t know when to say no, and you misplace other parts of what makes you whole. In doing so, while you probably do this believing it is necessary and a good thing, you lose sight of the fact that it means you bring less to the cause you are working for.

Why did I call this “Caution to the Wind?” While the wind can be frightening, it is a powerful and renewable source of energy, as are we. We need to take care of ourselves – AND each other, and sometimes we may need to pick up each other’s pieces. We need to know it is okay to say no sometimes so that we are able to also say yes, and so we can be in this for the long haul because while the changes we strive for are happening, it is not going to be a short sprint to reaching our goals.

It can be scary to take a stand and be vocal and visible on the issues PFLAG works on. Absolutely. And I am quite aware that ‘even’ for allies there can be safety concerns.

However, doing nothing is what really scares me.

When talking to people about this work, they say to do self-care you should “pick your battles” but I prefer to use words that don’t have a war connotation. So pick your strivings. Yes, do something!

Remember that none of us are acting alone. We have an amazing community to strive with, and we can lead and carry each other along the many paths to our goals.

And while we are doing that we should take the time to celebrate each other and our accomplishments, no matter how small they might seem, because they all add to the better world which we are still imagining.


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