I woke up Wednesday not knowing where I was or what day it was. (I was in my own bed. It took me a considerable amount of time to figure that out, and several more hours to remember what day it was.) I think my disorientation was somehow related to how much my energy around the marriage-amendment campaign is cranking up. Around the edges of absolute commitments like work and keeping the house from falling down and pets and child from dying of hunger, I'm doing a higher number of volunteer shifts each week than I've done before. Nov. 6 is so close now!
I got back late Sunday night after a week out east for work. It was hard to be gone from the campaign, though I love my work. I was particularly sad to miss a Standing on the Side of Love worship service by all the local Unitarian Universalist congregations, though I watched some of it from the Atlanta airport. (You can watch it here.)
I'm delighted to learn that many volunteers signed up to volunteer on the campaign at the worship service. (I don't have a number yet to say what "many" means, but I hope it means almost everyone who worshipped!) I must admit that I have been less than inspired by the participation in this campaign by the people I know, especially my LGBT friends. I had thought it would be a no-brainer that we would all be very active.
The good folks at Minnesotans United for All Families say we need to have 200,000 conversations in October if we are to win, and that we broke a record by having 10,000 conversations recorded last week. So unless things ramp up amazingly fast, it appears to me that we are going to lose this thing. That upsets me, because this campaign is doing exactly the right thing to win, which is facilitating deep, one-on-one conversations. And we have tons of data to show that if people actually have those conversations, we can totally win. "So why aren't more people doing volunteer work to take us from point A to point B?" I ask myself. And I don't have an answer.
When I left Washington, D.C., and moved back to Minnesota, I bragged to my Beltway friends, "There is still a grassroots progressive movement in Minnesota." This campaign is proving to me that there is, indeed, still hope here for progressive activism. I am meeting dozens of committed volunteers every day, and they give me hope. Many of them are young. Many of them are straight. Many of them are Christian.
What discourages me is how relatively few of these folks are people I already know. I have not felt the surge of activism from the people I have considered, loosely, "my community." Sometimes I wonder who I will be when this is over. I have a feeling that the campaign will be clarifying in ways I can't yet imagine.
Tuesday night, the night I must have dreamed myself far, far away, I co-led a "Conversations with People You Know" training. I was really tired when I got there, still lacking sleep from the trip. We expected eight or nine people; 13 showed up. The energy in the room was intense and focused. We laughed and cried, heard each other's stories, and testified together. Before we closed for the night, everyone in the room volunteered to phone bank and talk to folks they know. I felt wildly alive, high as a kite, really, when I left.
One thing that I said to the group on Tuesday (and later learned is backed up by actual research) is that the people who will be the most depressed if we lose this vote are the people who didn't give it all they had, who will feel guilty after the fact, wondering if they might have made a difference. (Note to those not engaged: I'll answer that for you now: Yes! Your choice to participate makes a huge difference!) Those of us who are putting our whole selves into this hokey pokey will be tired, and sad, but we won't be feeling guilty. And guilt is a factor in depression.
So I tell myself to focus on my own mental health for the long, cold winter ahead; to stay out of speculating about other people's business; to avoid that ugly beast called resentment, which I know from long experience does not take me down any road I want to travel. Luckily I know many wonderful people who are as crazy busy as I am with this, surrendering their lives to this fight, or to another movement for justice. "Yes," I say to myself, "you are my people!"
Follow Rev. Meg Riley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MegARiley