Care to Care

One thing that upsets me, I told the rest of the AAAN staff, is when my relatives say or believe racist things. And something that makes me happy is being outside on a nice day.

That’s how Shonettia Monique, wellness coordinator at the Chicago Freedom School, had us begin the self-care workshop she led us in last Friday. “I want you all to start by thinking,” she said, “about why you’re here. Why are you doing this work?” People mentioned their children, faith, the community, and the wonderful feeling that comes from making people’s lives easier by helping them navigate social services bureaucracy.

Next, we all write down 24 words describing what we believe in. Then we narrowed it down to twelve words, six words, three words, and one word. We shared our one word aloud. I had come to “love,” and expected others would too, but I was surprised to hear that almost all of the 30-some of us said something different. Justice, love, equality, Islam were a few.

We talked about why it’s so difficult to say “no.” We made pie charts about how fulfilled we feel in various areas, and talked about which parts of the body carry stress, anger, and fear. Many realized out loud that they don’t get much chance to think about their bodies, and they almost never do anything just for themselves, but always for their children, their families, their clients. We brainstormed self-care activities like alone time, taking walks, talking with friends, and wrote down something we wanted to get rid of (like a bad behavior or a grudge) and tore it to pieces. We split into pairs and one at a time talked for five minutes about what we need in our lives, or what we want to change. We weren’t to respond, but only to say “thank you” when the other was finished.

I was amazed at how much I felt I could learn about a person just from hearing what upsets them, what they like, what they believe in and care about. Often in organizations doing non-profit and movement work, we don’t get a chance to have these conversations. Self-care ends up being our second-to-last priority. Shonettia’s calm but assertive presence, excellent posture, and soothing voice made us feel comfortable, and to me it seemed like not only were we working on ourselves as individuals, but we were also building a sort of unity and collective identity. It was inspirational and renewing.

[post by Shira]

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