A bit ago, I sat with my love talking about the state of our weeks. It was a warm day, bright and soft, and in spite of the strife and chaos in the world, we were both feeling like our lives were thawing into their spring. Then we talked about the state of our country. I told her what I’d heard in the newsfeed of my friends.
“We have to stay enraged.”
I asked her if it’s true that this is the only way to effect change as an activist. She would know, with her decades of experience as a lobbyist, lawyer, and social justice activist. The more popular resistance becomes, the more I hear about the need, no the responsibility of good citizens to be enraged. So I asked her, “do you believe the way to move forward is with, and through, rage?”
“No,” she says. “At first it seemed that way to me, but after 15 years of it, I knew that it’s not the way.” This matches the quiet voice within that says that action, integrity, and progress need not require rage. I ask her, “well what is the way?”
We have to stay enraged
This is one of many beliefs currently circulating in the collective. And when it’s terrifying, disheartening, and tiring just staying informed each day, it’s easy to see why we might lean on each other a bit more and take on the beliefs of the collective without question. After all, we have to do something? Right?
Some of the most damaging thoughts are the things that, for whatever reason, we tell ourselves we have to do. It’s easy to see how this particular belief, ‘we must stay enraged,’ might not be sustainable or actionable for everyone. But what about less charged ideas that we take on from the collective? The ones related to less harrowing times and topics?
You have to celebrate your birthday
Last year I wrote about exploring the old belief that if I don’t celebrate my birthday, it means I’m not special.This isn’t uncommon. Most of us have been taught birthday rituals from very young ages, and we all know what they mean: today, you are special, you get to be special, you’re supposed to be special.
Worth gets tied into the celebrating, the recognition, the birthday, the special. Even for those of us who aren’t into the rituals, the people, and the fuss. The introverts among us. Even so, it’s your birthday; you have to do something? Right?
When we take the time to examine the belief, no matter how trivial and no matter how normalized, we learn a lot about our sense of self-worth. In the post above I shared three questions I ask myself for my birthday to check in with beliefs.
Below I share an expanded version, inquiry to use each birthday. Journal or draw your response. Do it again next year. Do what you do. Above all else, notice and know yourself. It’s a potent start. Especially when you are wondering what to do.
7 Powerful questions to ask every year for your birthday
(or anytime you feel like you have to do something)
- What do you believe about aging?
- What did you believe about birthdays in the past?
- What did you believe about celebrating, or not celebrating, birthdays?
- Have your beliefs about birthdays ever changed?
- If so, what do you believe now?
- This year, what birthday plans, if any, align with your intentions?
How do we affect change without rage?
How do we stay motivated? How do we get out of there when we need to? Stand up to injustice? All activities commonly fueled by, or associated with, anger?
According to my love, rather than stand in opposition, you stand for your values, even if those values goes against the status quo. I can get behind values, taking action, and owning the decision about what motivates you. We can choose to stay engaged.
At the same time, there’s a place for aggression here on earth just as there is space for Mars in the heavens. There are times to defend with the best of them. Just in the long term, I know rage doesn’t work for me.
Do what you do. Notice and know yourself.