So, I still have a lot more to say about the Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference I attended last month, “Their Lives, Our Voices“. I have all these notes I took during the speeches and in the workshops just staring at me waiting to be written. The guilt! Okay, guilt is a little strong, but I really have meant to say a lot more. So, let’s start with one of the discussion groups I attended: Dealing with Grief & Stress.
Let’s face it, we animal rights activists aren’t dealing with super-duper-happy-topics every day. It’s incredibly difficult to see pictures or watch videos of humans abusing and killing non-human animals. It’s depressing to think about how many animals are killed every second while I sit here in my comfy chair writing a blog post. It can get a person feeling down and out, let me tell you. Lucky for those of us who attended TLOV, the coordinators planned a discussion session on how to handle grief and stress so that we can be the most effective activists possible.
The discussion was moderated by the very down-to-earth, smart, and thoughtful activist/author/blogger/eco-feminist Pattrice Jones. I’m not gonna lie: things got a little emotional. We all talked about the things that hurt us the most–sometimes it was how our veganism and our passion for animals had affected our personal relationships. Often it was about how our efforts sometimes feel futile and hopeless, like no one is listening and no one cares. Yet there we all were, sitting in a room full of people who do care and who keep trying to get people to listen despite what feels like the many failures. There was something that was just incredibly comforting about being in that room and knowing that we had a lot in common, and it was so nice to have an outlet to be able to talk about how we felt with people who really wanted to listen. I think Pattrice summed it up nicely in her blog about this session:
Activists do hard work that brings up hard feelings and have the tendency to subordinate self-care to what always seem to be more pressing goals. Over time, pent-up feelings build up, so much so that sometimes people start to cry even before the discussion gets going, just from the feeling of being in a place where it might be safe to say anything. Once it does get going, people have different things they want to hear, different things they want to say, but almost everybody learns the same thing: I’m not alone.
Speaking of not being alone, this weekend I hung out with the vegan women’s group again, and we were discussing this very issue–how nice it is to be surrounded by people who don’t think we’re crazy! That is seriously one of the best things about hanging out with all of them, in addition to the fact that they’re just a solid group of people. I think we all agreed though: it is nice knowing we are not alone!