What’s stopping you from stepping back?

This week’s blog is by Leora Ward, creator of Healing in Service. Leora has worked for many years in the social justice, women’s empowerment, and humanitarian fields.

I recently had a baby. There is nothing like a baby to throw a wrench into life’s pace and plans (at least at the very beginning). I am still trying to get my head around how much longer it takes to “accomplish” anything, or leave the house, or do simple things for that matter. Everything just feels so much harder now and requires more effort.

Last year, I was building a lot of momentum. I was engaging in community meetings and events. I was contributing to important conversations in the humanitarian sector. I was taking courses, attending workshops, and learning from those I most admired. I was speaking, teaching, and facilitating about topics that mattered to me. I was actively in conversation with other women about collaboration on new projects. I was moving forward, with loads of momentum, and purpose.

I was also in the midst of a deep, meaningful, and sometimes confusing, internal conversation about where to situate myself in the women’s movement. Where was I needed? Where did I add the most value? Where could I make a REAL difference?

And then, baby came. I made a conscious decision at that time to pivot, to step back, and give myself space. I needed time to move through my transition into motherhood, process the last year (basically all of 2017), and listen to my intuition.

But, I was nervous. As a white, Western woman, I recognize that people of color, and displaced people, particularly women and girls, experience vast and systematic violence. I also acknowledge that I bear a tremendous responsibility to challenge regular abuse of power and the status quo. So, how could I step back? Among other things, I worried about what others would say. I imagined how it would look on the outside.

I was scared of disengaging from the things that held value to me. I could only see where things might falter or fail if I paused. Plus, I wanted to be involved, to grow, to contribute, to educate myself, to be accountable, and surround myself, as an American, by those who had clarity about the direction we needed to head as a nation.

The internal battle between doing, fighting, pushing, and advocating—or NOT—was a constant in my head, even if I would only be stepping back for a few months. And then, the #metoo movement gained momentum, and from that momentum grew #timesup and #aidtoo. This was our time to make change in the humanitarian sector. It was an opening in which we could speak loudly about the need for systemic transformation.

In the midst of all the news stories, I noticed a shift in perspective that was subtle yet powerful… my own wisdom. Listening to myself, I came to view my choices as simply a new and different path for me.

My stepping back was not a “bad” thing. And, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t doing my part.

What I have found, in the last 5 months with baby, is that I am not as active in important conversations, or as engaged as before, aside from attending a few rallies and trainings. What I have also found, is that this PAUSE has been vital for me. It is an important part of the work, essential to making a lasting and meaningful difference. And it is not forever. I plan to re-engage, even more fiercely, before too long.

This is not about forgetting.

It’s not about being passive.

It’s not about turning a blind eye.

It’s about listening.

It’s about being strategic.

It’s about placing ourselves where we are most influential—based on our privilege, resources, skills, etc.

What I discovered when I stepped back is HOW best to be of service. I was able to discover where I belong in the resistance. I also came to understand, and better prioritize, where to channel my energy, anger, and money in order to be most impactful.

In the end, stepping back allowed me to find where I could be most effective. It’s helped me move out of reactionary mode. Supported me to be more creative in how I approach conversations and the obstacles ahead of us.

I am hopeful that stepping back (temporarily) will make my work more sustainable. That there is long-term value to stepping back when I hold the intention of making bigger and bolder change in the world – and in my community.

*   *   *

Do you want an opportunity to step back, to take some time out of your normal routine to check in on where you’re most needed? Join me for 3-days in the woods with other caregivers, activists, and changemakers to re-group, self-connect, and ready yourself for taking on more risks in service of yourself and others. The stepping back will allow your heart to be heard in ways it couldn’t before, and show you clearly HOW to take brave action in the world. Come and rest among like-minded sisters while getting the support you deserve.

If you yearn for a pause, to rest and re-asses, you can find more details about this retreat from April 5-8th in Maryland, HERE:


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