An Introvert’s Guide to Social Activism

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It is a very contentious time in our country right now. Sometimes it feels like there are more things to fight over than there are to agree on. But for me, personally, now is a time to stand up and get to work. I fear I have been too complacent over the past 8 years and, while many of my countryfolk were speaking up, I enjoyed the ability to retreat into my private sphere and shut out the world. But instead of making that mistake twice, I want to do what I can to be a good ally for those who need support and be a stronger advocate for myself. However, as an introvert, that can be scary.

Many non-profit organizations that work as a voice for the marginalized have issued a call to action. We are encouraged to visit our lawmaker’s offices, go to community meetings, attend events, and make phone calls to ‘have our voices heard.’ That’s all good, great, and grand if you are an extrovert. But what if you are an introvert? What if you, in your daily life, need to channel your energy carefully as to not over-exert yourself? If you are anything like me, the idea of attending meetings and making phone calls to strangers is enough to spark a panic attack. Fear may stop you from doing anything at all. This can lead to a strong sense of guilt and leave you feeling helpless to inspire change. But, I assure you, there are plenty of ways to make waves and have your voice heard without ever having to speak to another human being: 

1. Send e-mails, write postcards, and sign petitions

We are told over and over again that making phone calls are the best way to get the attention of your lawmakers. And while this may be true, sending emails, bombarding their office with snail-mail, and adding your name to petitions with thousands of others definitely helps, too. 

2. March

Joining up with a march or rally that supports your cause is a great way to have your voice “heard.” I know this may sound contradictory because you will be in a large group of people, but there is no expectation of conversation. There is power in numbers, just being a head in a crowd can send a very loud message.

3. Donate money

It is easy to become overwhelmed with wanting to save the world. And trust me, you cannot do it on your own. It is also important not to over-extend your time or emotional energy. Focus on doing what you can and donate to others who can do the rest. I highly recommend giving to watchdog groups, as well as arts and education-based non-profits.

4. Write editorials

Have ideas you want to share but don’t want to say them out loud? Consider writing editorials to your local or regional newspapers. This is a great way to spark interest in you cause without ever having to engage in face-to-face conversation. 

5. Share credible articles via social media

I know there are a lot of people on social media who are reaching politics-fatigue, but that doesn’t mean we should stop speaking up. Sharing objective, informative, fact-based articles via social media is a great way to spread ideas and information. But please, I’m begging you, make sure your sources are credible and as balanced in approach as possible. 

6. Volunteer for non-social jobs

A lot of non-profits rely on volunteers to help out with their day-to-day operations. There are plenty of jobs you can do that do not require you to be social. You could stuff envelopes, help with filing, data entry, office organization, write newsletters, take the minutes in meetings, create marketing materials, and so on. Volunteering your time and skills is always a great way to contribute to your community and your causes.

7. Subscribe to credible news sources

We often take for granted all the free material available via the internet. Major news outlets often offer readers access to a certain number of free articles each year in lieu of a subscription, and a lot of people take advantage of that. However, if you truly value the content they are providing, subscribe. A couple of bucks a month to have access to world-class, in-depth, and investigative journalism is adding value to your lived experience. Help them help you.

8. Spend wisely

I’m a huge believer in voting with my wallet. Think of how many food suppliers have changed their products over to organic because of customer demand. Or how corporations have cut ties with controversial investors because consumers boycotted their services? I am a capitalist, I believe in the idea of a free-market and this means I can influence a company or corporation’s business practices with how I choose to spend my money. The all-mighty dollar is sometimes all that matters in our system, and that gives you a lot of power. If we all become more conscious consumers, imagine what we could accomplish.

Don’t feel like you are not making an impact if you can’t adhere to mainstream ideas of social activism. Diverse strategies will be more powerful than one or two standard methods. If you are an introvert, you can be an effective activist. And no matter what your cause, no matter what your politics, I hope you find your voice in a way that works best for you. Fight for what you believe in. That’s what makes America great.

Cheers,

Amy

Battle Cry

We are currently living through a historical crux. A pivotal time that will redefine our nation for generations to come. As an undergrad, I studied 20th-century history. I studied Lennon, Marx, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Roosevelt, Hoover, Eisenhower and many other men.

Men.

I studied how men with low self-esteem called upon their inner Napoleon to make up for their daddy-issues. I studied how men bashed in the heads of and arrested women who dare fight for equal rights. I studied how men dismantled the field of midwifery so they could better control women’s bodies. I studied great men who were guided by great women. 

It’s time for great women to come out of the shadows and take their place at center stage.

Men have written our story. Men have been the players, the deciders and the revisionist historians of our American narrative. I say: no more. Now is the time for women to take the helm.

Here is my battle cry:

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Cheers,

Amy

The Women’s March on Washington: One Week Later

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An old Chinese curse laments: may you live in interesting times

One week ago today I was in Washington D.C. marching with family. Wrapped in the arms of strangers, we walked, we talked, we laughed, we chanted, we cried, and we cared for one another. I have never felt so at peace, so safe, and so understood.

1.2 million. That is the official count. 1.2 million women, men, and children descended upon our nation’s capital to show our new leader that we are here and we will hold him accountable. 1.2 million.

I left the march that day completely inspired. Ready to fight for the democracy I love. Energized.

But as Monday turned into Tuesday, turned into Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I began to grow genuinely afraid for my country. It became more clear to me that the minority of my fellow countryfolk did not, in fact, vote for a leader I disapprove of, they voted for a rich man who wants to be a king. Our new president has relinquished all responsibility to his neo-Nazi advisor, while he binge watches Fox News, dines on Lays potato chips, and obsesses over inaugural crowd size.

I go to bed each night and have nightmares of what is happening in our government. I awake each morning afraid of what underhanded undoing happened to the country I love while I slept. I have never been so afraid in my entire life.

And yet, there are still people who refuse to admit there is anything to worry about. Our government is orchestrating a plan to strip hard-working Americans of their much-needed healthcare, are gleeful at the opportunity to tell women here and around the world that their uteri belong to the United States government, are exuberant at the prospect of allowing Big Oil companies to desecrate tribal lands, pollute our rivers, our soil, and our air for profit, and they laugh as they deny refuge to Muslim women, men, and children who are victims of wars we started, we perpetuate, and we ignore. Trump supporters stand by with a smug smile on their faces and say “just give him a chance.”

I have never felt so helpless to stop something in my entire life. I spent my years as an undergrad studying Russia’s fall into a Dictatorship and Hitler’s rise to Fascism. This week rang all-too-familiar in my ears. When I hear White House advisors slandering the media, putting religion before country, and outright lying over and over again to perpetuate their agenda, it’s like I’m reading my history books. This cannot be real. This cannot be the country I love. This cannot be 2017.

The only solace for me is to know there are millions of people out there whose voices yelled in solidarity with mine last week. Whose cheers rolled through a crowd of 1.2 million people like an infectious wave. Whose hearts were open and kind to me.

Yes. I have hope. I have hope that we will not only be voices for ourselves, but voices for those who cannot speak, who won’t speak, who have to hide in the shadows, and who need strong shoulders upon which to stand. We will be together and we will fight for each other. With our elbows locked and our feet securely grounded, we will inch closer and closer toward that more perfect union . . . not for some, but for all. We are a message. We are an answer. We are a people. We are all brothers and sisters, we are all flesh and blood, we are all kindness, and energy, and love.

We.

Are hope.

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Love and peace to you,

Amy

We Need to Start Standing Up for Artists, Here’s Why . . .

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When I started working professionally as a writer, just over four years ago, I was elated. I finally found myself in a place where I could pursue what I love to do, and as a job no less. It didn’t take long, however, to see the downside of such a public career path: the amount of unbridled criticism and cruelty you are exposed to.

My first experience with this came after my essay on infertility was published, there was a huge backlash of cruel criticism and aggressive attacks directed at me. I was stunned. It was the last thing I expected. I didn’t know what to do.

People judged me, called me selfish, called me stupid, berated me, insulted me, and shredded my piece. This was an essay I poured my heart into. I struggled against every instinct to censor my story because of how vulnerable it made me feel. In the end, though, I published every last embarrassing detail. And I paid for it. But I stood firm because it was my story. And if even one couple felt less alone after reading it, all the criticism in the world was worth it.

I understand that people expressing opposing viewpoints are part of the job. I don’t have a problem with respectful and constructive criticism, it helps me learn. But that’s not the kind of feedback I’m getting. And over time, as I face more destructive aggression over my work, I begin to wonder whether or not what I write actually helps anyone. I’ve been called an ignorant bitch, a feminazi, a libtard, a moron, human garbage, a piece of shit, a cunt . . . I could go on, but I don’t want to.

Putting myself out there for public scrutiny is not something that comes naturally or easily to me. And there are times I cry. There are times I question everything and wonder why I keep doing this to myself. Why I keep granting strangers access to the most intimate parts of my life, my perspectives and experiences if they just want to use that vulnerability to attack me? My ability to convince myself to “shake it off” and keep writing has become less and less powerful with each cruel insult.

Being a writer (or any artist for that matter) is a paradox. In order to do your craft well, it needs to come from a place of vulnerability. If you truly want to reach your audience and elicit a genuine response from them, you need to put yourself into everything you do. In contrast, you also need to find a way to close yourself off from the pointless criticisms you are exposed. It becomes a necessary form of self-preservation. But this puts you at risk of not being able to be vulnerable in your work.

In my experience, and as many of my artist friends can attest, the negative feedback we receive about our work far outweighs the positive. And when you are constantly bombarded by cruelty and aggression, over time, it can bully you into silence. We cannot let our world become overrun by bullies.

So, I ask you this: the next time you read a piece of writing that moves you, tell the writer. The next time you view a painting that fills you with emotions, tell the painter. The next time you view a piece of photography that makes you question your preconceptions, tell the photographer. The next time you hear a piece of music that helps you make sense of the world, tell the musician.

Please, I am begging you, take the time to give positive feedback. I do not want to live in a world where artists won’t share their work because they can’t manage the negativity anymore. We need artists now more than ever. We need people to create beautiful things, to share their uncensored experiences, to help us see the world for what it really is, to shatter stereotypes, bigotry, and racism. They need you, I need you. And we all need artists.

Cheers,

Amy

A Wintery Walk

It’s snowing so peacefully today, I couldn’t resist utilizing my lunch break to get outside and take some pictures. Strolling around my neighborhood in wintery silence is just what I needed; a little bit of beauty to help balance out my emotional scales.

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May the stillness of winter bring you peace and balance.

Cheer,

Amy