Pacing Ourselves Towards Liberation

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I have been ruminating on the phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Ironic, I know, given that we have entered the campaign phase of the 360 ballot measure life cycle. We are within the 100 day marker and as we inch closer to Election Day, it often feels like a mad dash. But if you take a step back and think about the arc of our journey towards the equitable and just world we seek, we are in a moment in our civic engagement and electoral work that requires us to pace ourselves. 

There is no question we are on an uphill climb. We may feel like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the hill. When we get close to our goals and dreams, forces outside our control thrust us back down the hill. 

Don’t Say Gay. Buffalo. Uvalde. Overturning Roe. Inflation. Jayland Walker. Omicron-BA5. January 6 Hearings. Recession. Monkeypox. 

It is overwhelming. It is exhausting. It is too much to hold. It is as if the world keeps telling us, reaching the world over the hill is impossible. 

But I believe we will. Unlike Sisyphus, we seek to erect new systems rooted in love. We seek to treat people with dignity. We seek to use our collective power to push that boulder up and over the hill. We have each other, which means we can pace ourselves. Our marathon is a relay. We can’t do it all at once. Each of us must take a leg, support and cheer each other on as we go, and then pass the baton so we can rest and renew. That is how we become resilient. Election Day is not the endpoint of the life cycle. It is one stop in the phases we move through to build power and redesign democracy. 

So where do we go from here? How are we going to pace ourselves in this leg of the journey? What are the lessons we are going to learn and share? What seeds are we planting now for the next phase? Who is going to tell our story of resilience and reimagination? What are we going to leave behind?

This phase of the life cycle feels hard and impossible to get through. But the victories from other phases will help carry us forward. Ballot measure leaders have already been able to accomplish so much this year — Defeating HC 39, which would have weakened people-powered direct democracy in Mississippi. Kicking a harmful gig worker measure off the ballot in Massachusetts. Thwarting a power grab and defending direct democracy in South Dakota. The Colorado Supreme Court upholding Prop 118, that will bring up to 12 weeks of paid leave to Coloradans. Historic signature gathering in states like Michigan for reproductive freedom. These are the stories we must remember and tell.

Like all of you, I feel the weight of that boulder. It is heavy. I want to use the power that I do have to ease the burden for my staff, for my peers, for our communities. I feel the stress and anxiety of what lies before us. I feel disappointed when things don’t go as planned. I feel the losses when they happen. I want to wave it all away. But I can’t. The boulder is not mine to bear alone. The march up the hill towards collective liberation is not easy. It is not quick. It requires us to pause, reflect, and celebrate. If we stumble, if we get pushed back, the only way forward is together. 

While finalizing this piece, a colleague reminded me of these words from the late John Lewis:

“Use the words of the movement to pace yourself. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part. And if we believe in the change we seek, then it is easy to commit to doing all we can, because the responsibility is ours alone to build a better society and a more peaceful world.”

Even though his physical body no longer walks on this earth, John Lewis is doing what ancestors do: whispering the words we need to hear because they have faced similar challenges. He died two years ago in July. I believe his spirit is guiding me — guiding all of us right now. 

Together, we can pace ourselves towards liberation and ease the weight of the boulder to get it over the hill. Remember, hope is a practice. Rest is a right. Abundance surrounds us. We will build a better society and a more peaceful world.