Fenton Lutunatabua was interviewed by Daniel Hunter as part of the Sustaining the Movement panel at Global Power Shift, Istanbul, June 2013.
Fenton, can you tell us a little bit about your life and work?
I am currently employed with Dialogue Fiji a small NGO in Fiji, as the Communications and Research Officer. Our NGO works with engaging with others to build the capacity within Fiji’s society to creative inclusive spaces for dialogue and peace building. In my free time I work as the Media Officer for the 350Fiji taking care of most of our media work and public relations.
What does ‘self-care’ mean to you?
Self care is such a foreign term for me. In the Pacific, we are very communal, everything is done together as one strong family unit – even when we aren’t family members. We are brought up told to give any new relationship 60% and expect 40%. Everyone I know lives by that rule, so self care isn’t something that we really know how to do because we always have someone else looking after us, I guess.
However to answer your question, self-care would be the ability to recognize when it’s time to take a time-out to ensure you can operate at your best with whatever you have going in your life.
Sometimes I need to notice that I don’t have the weight of the world on my shoulders. So I need to take a break. I need to just pause and chill out for a second, because if not you’re just constantly like ‘bam, bam, bam’, you’re not really being fair to yourself. So when things get hard I’ve learnt to be strong enough, be courageous enough, to just take a break. Appreciate that pause in your life.
I’m guessing for some of us that’s a challenge. Is that a challenge for you? What comes up for you? The work is so important, so sometimes the story is that the work is more important than the pause.
For me, it’s always a question about priority. Maybe because I grew up in a communal setting I know if I take a step back someone else will instantly fill that void. But it’s also about just learning balance. Balance in life is so important. I live by a motto: Work as hard as you play and play as hard as you work. I prioritise that. Because I know I cannot 100% give myself to a cause that’s so important to me if I don’t look after myself. Prioritising and knowing when the bigger picture is important and when your splash of paint on that picture is important.
I’m hearing the voice of ‘take care of yourself’ which is such an important voice for us to listen to. It reminds me of a story that there are two dogs inside of us, one is evil and one is good. In the question of who will win in a battle between the two the answer is the one you feed the most.
I’m wondering in the hectic moments do you hear the voice that says don’t take care of yourself? What does that sound like?
To be completely honest I don’t really hear that voice. For me even having that shoulder devil saying don’t take care of yourself is something I’ve never experienced. It’s like that sense of nurturing yourself so you can be… we grow up knowing that one of our main purposes in life is to serve others. That’s a very Pacific Island thing. The way we look at it is the only way we can truly give ourselves 100% to another person is if we’re ok. That’s something inherent for us.
So it isn’t about this or that, it’s there’s one way for us to be. It’s a different framing from what’s prevalent in some other cultures of ‘not being good at taking care of ourselves’. What I’m hearing from you is that it’s not about a lack, it’s about alignment with. Are you on the balance beam or not? You’re really bringing a different paradigm.
(Question from the audience) In terms of pause versus engaging you said it was a question of prioritising. Another question that comes to me is about being selfish or self-centred vs other-centred. That trade-off can tend to eat me at times, wondering am I being too selfish. How do you grapple with that?
When I think of those things I take time to reflect. I look at how well grounded I am. I try to live a life of purpose. So when it comes to selfishness and self-centredness it is recognising that I’m grounded, I believe in what I am doing, and moving forward with that.
Thank you Fenton. I’m taking away from this conversation a different paradigm to consider – not thinking of my life as dogs, one good and one bad, but thinking of it as alignment and seeing what that does for me.
About the interviewer
Daniel Hunter is a training elder with Training for Change, a US activist education organisation. Daniel has led diversity, nonviolence and strategy training for a wide range of activists and social change groups around the world. He recently completed book on direct action campaigning, Strategy and Soul: a campaigner’s tale of fighting billionaires, corrupt officials, and Philly casinos.