Yesterday, I wasn't feeling very good. So I took a sick day.
Now, when you're a mom, you can be sure that a sick day means that you still have to make breakfasts and lunches and dinners, do the dishes, pick up the kids from after-school activities and help with homework. But other than that, I took a 'sick day'.
Now, normally, when I take a 'sick day', I would be obsessing over all the work I wasn't getting done or should be doing or responding to my e-mails and making lists or coming up with storyboards or manipulating graphics , and wondering what was going on in the world. So, essentially this would still qualify as a 'work day', just with more guilt.
But yesterday was a little different. I refused to obsess. Instead, I rested. And, around 2:00 yesterday afternoon, the strangest feeling came over me. It was quite an unusual feeling and therefore took me awhile to identify.
I felt 'at peace'. It's true. And then I realized why I felt 'at peace'.
I felt 'at peace' because at that moment, I was 100% positive that there were other people out there, good, smart, hard-working people, the other members on my team, getting things done.
In other words, I felt 'at peace' because I wasn't 'needed'.
Now, I realize that the majority of the human race enjoys, to some extent, being 'needed', at home or at work or in the community at large. It's natural, I suppose, since being needed affirms one's relevance, one's importance in the world.
But, it's not like I'm in any danger of irrelevance. When your presence is apparently crucial in pointing out when the garbage smells, or when a head of hair needs washing, or that a project is due tomorrow, or that someone needs a hug or lunch or dinner or that we're out of toilet paper... you'd be hard pressed to not to feel pretty important.
But yesterday I was on Cinderella liberty from the war on slots. And it was OK. Because everything was getting done. And done well. Probably more than I could even imagine, too. I knew that, somewhere out there, calls were being made, meetings arranged, letters written, strategy formulated... things. Stuff. Out there, people were remaining motivated and immune to the forces of inevitability with absolutely no input from me.
And I can't tell you how good that felt. I haven't felt that way in a very long time. I've not only felt 'needed' every second of the day, I've felt 'overwhelmed' beyond the point of emotional exhaustion over this cause.
The work, the worry, the indignation - it never goes away. Not for a moment. It invades your sleep. It comes with you on vacation. It speaks to you when you're at the movies and or trying to read a book. And always, you feel like you should be doing something to make it go away.
Earlier this year I was out collecting signatures a few days before surgery. Before that it was an early morning direct action event. A couple of weeks later I was driving two hours each way and an hour in between for a traffic simulation. After that it was the Democratic convention. In between were other events, the ever present blog and my sad attempts to have a life. And I did it because I felt I had to. Someone had to. If someone doesn't do these things, they can't get done.
After the July 2007 Town Meeting From Hell, a lot of people who had been up to then, really, actively fighting did something that was referred to as 'stepping back'. No one could fault them, they'd done a tremendous amount of work in a very short time.
These weren't professional organizers but homeowners, parents, just your average concerned citizens. It was an emotionally wrenching time for many people - so naturally they needed some time to rest and regroup. But the thing is, most of those people never 'stepped back in'. Despite some bright bursts of activity here and there in the ensuing years, I've watched that original momentum, that incredible heartbeat, slow to faint pulse.
Until now. Now I could take an actual 'sick day' because I'm part of this great team - not a big team to be sure - but a great one. And that's the thing about being on a team. You're not out there by yourself, being chased by 300 lb. linebackers, just trying to get the ball to the other side of the field without being killed. You're playing to win. There's someone there to catch the ball when you pass it.
Because it really sucks when there isn't.
I met this guy last year at the CERA conference and was telling him how much I admired the work his organization was doing, and I'll never forget what he told me.
"When it started out, there were a lot of other people doing this with me," he said, "but one by one, they dropped out or didn't do anything, and after awhile it was just me. And that was just as well I guess..." Then he rolled his eyes.
And I finished his sentence, "...because you know you can count on you, right?"
"Yeah." he said, smiling. "Yeah."
This guy had become pretty much an anti-casino army of one in his part of the world. He'd almost single-handedly done what some think is the unthinkable - prevented a tribal casino from being built.
I've been luckier than him, though, because I've never been completely alone on the field. There have been a brave, passionate, stubborn few who who show up, who speak out, who volunteer, who are always doing things on their own, and trying mostly in vain to motivate others to do the same. I'd be lost without those few folks and I want them to know that.
And that's the thing about being an activist, I suppose. You're either on a football team or you're a long distance runner. And frankly, having worked the Boston Marathon and seen runners collapse at the finish line, I'd rather take my chances with the linebackers. At least you know your team is still playing as you're being taken off the field in a stretcher.
The other day I was at a party for some nice people I'd met way back in the beginning of the casino debacle. In fact, the house was filled with faces I remembered so fondly from those early days, though some I hadn't seen in years. Why hadn't I seen them? I wondered, not without a touch of resentment. Don't they want to stop casinos, too?
Later, I wondered if some of them hadn't once felt about some of my colleagues and I, as today I feel about USS-Mass.
At peace, and grateful, because because they knew someone was still there fighting, getting things done, and because they were exhausted and overwhelmed and sick and they just needed to 'step back'.
And if that's so, I want them to know that there's never been a better time to 'step back in'.
USS-Mass is a fantastic team, with inspired leadership, making real, viable, headway in this battle. And because right now there are people on Beacon Hill with maps and thumbtacks trying to figure out where to put casinos and how many. And because a conga line of lobbyists is making it's way through the State House at this very moment. Because State Senator Stan Rosenberg, the 'point-man' on casinos drinks Kool-aid and thinks a 6% addiction rate is a small price to pay. And because pro-casino-yet-anti-circumcision champion Michael Morrissey sits on the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee. Because the current Speaker confuses Attleboro with Rhode Island, and because the Senate President has privately admitted that she doesn't read anything predatory-gambling opponents send her. And because the smell of slots will brings out the greed in some people and in some Indian tribes, too... And in investors and flying monkeys and Indian gaming attorneys and inept small town leadership, and we all know where that leads.
Like I've said, the work, the worry, the indignation - it never goes away. So write a letter to the editor today. Write or call your legislator tomorrow. Send a check. Volunteer. Show up. Hold a sign. Stick a bumper sticker on your car. There are so many ways to help and to be part of this team.
Will it be a winning team? I honestly don't know. But I do know that with you there, our chances just got better.