On wintering as an activist

I have been quiet on here, not posting in over three months. Busy schooling my four acorns at home once again, and navigating lockdown life as best we can.

It has been hard to retain our sense of adventure. Making sure that the acorns go outside every day has become another chore on the never-ending to do list. Especially when met with a barrage of protestations at the mere mention of yet another walk down Greystones’ seafront.

At the weekend, being confined to within 5km from home feels suffocating. All the more so knowing that every spot we could try to visit will be mobbed. And so the weeks have rolled on, each relentlessly the same as the last and the same as the next.

I have been wintering.

I was turned inward. In need of rest after finishing 2020 burnt-out yet again. In need of reflection to understand how and why I ended up physically and emotionally spent once more. In need of healthy boundaries to make sure it won’t happen again.

Until recently, I wasn’t ready to come out of hibernation nor to answer the insistent calls of the outside world to do, question, fight. It was all a bit too much and I needed time and quiet and sea swims to recuperate, process and reset. I am an introvert after all.

I have been wintering. Writing and thinking. 

I see now how 2020 was a year of sifting, a year of crisis – which, in ancient Greek, means ‘the act of separating’. I have been shaken, tossed, rocked by the crashing waves of this pandemic. And those waves washed away the layers of busyness, confusion and excuses, giving me clarity at last.

I don’t want to do activism like this anymore.

All-consuming activism

For over two years, I had been spreading myself too thin, taking on too much, saying yes too often. Ever since becoming a Cool Planet Champion, I tried to raise awareness of the ecological crisis we face and to inspire people into climate action. Being a newbie both in environmental activism and community involvement, I tried to find my place within existing groups and established networks. I tried to fit in and prove myself and make a difference. Campaigning, networking and mobilising, while still juggling my blogging and family life. Urged on by a sense of dread and urgency, I pushed through thick and thin in an effort to honour my commitments. Until I crashed. Once. Twice. Three times. 

This depressing cycle of boom-and-bust had to stop. 

So I stepped down from a volunteer role with Wicklow County Council. I pulled back from any commitment that, instead of eliciting a wholehearted yes, only ever felt like a “should”. I started saying no. It felt icky at first. But I chose to trust my intuition.

I knew the kind of all-consuming activism I didn’t want, but what alternative did I actually want

What if there was no one way of making a difference? What if, instead of conforming to some vague idea of what an activist is like, I embraced my unique skills and strengths to become the activist I’ve always wanted to be?

Related / Similaire  The magic of native Irish woodlands

Suddenly I realised that my calling lay not in supporting local projects nor in joining in with national campaigns, but in winning hearts and minds. Not in demanding top-down climate action from a political establishment riddled with vested interests, but in bringing about the next Renaissance from the bottom-up. Not in endlessly pushing back and fighting against a broken system, but in awakening people’s longing for a better world. 

I want to be an activist creating the future my heart knows is possible.

I think a different kind of civilisation is possible. It is not just visionaries who have seen it. You, dear reader, have surely seen it too, bobbing in and out of sight as you struggle to keep your head above the choppy waters of habit and doubt.

J.B. MacKinnon
This Once and Future World

Now that there are signs of spring all around, I feel ready to step up again, on my own terms. Starting with a vision, bold and inspiring, a sense of possibility, a glimpse of the future we could yet create. This longing for a better world is not an activist urge. It is my imagination waking up. 

What if the future was still ours for the making?




5 Responses to “On wintering as an activist

  • That’s a really interesting read. Activism for me is as much about the way I choose to live as anything else. As another introvert I find engaging with people difficult and so am more comfortable trying to lead/inspire by example than open engagement. Keep up the good work anyway 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind words, Ian. I’ve been involved in “outward” activism for over 2 years now, since waking up to the ecological crisis, and I must say it’s been a great learning experience, and also draining. It’s only now that I’ve understood what I really want to do, so it is not so taxing. Inspire and leading by example are a big part of it, but I also feel the need to start creating the alternative I know is possible 🙂

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