You know when you don’t call a friend for awhile, and the longer you wait the harder and harder it gets to pick up the phone? That’s how I feel right now.
But I’m doing it, I’m writing a blog post, and I’m hitting the publish button. Just because I haven’t been here, doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about you. I think about you all the time.
Here goes nothing…
Recently, I was sitting around a dining room table in the house of a woman I had never met. There were seven other women there, and to kick things off we went around the table and introduced ourselves.
Many of the women started their introduction with, “I’m not political, but….” I am not political, but I know right from wrong. I am not political, but I can’t be complacent. I am not political, but I’m scared. I’m not political, but I need to do something. I’m not political, but I showed up anyway.
Underneath this political denial are smart, educated women, with resources, academic and business experience, loving families, lives so overstuffed they can’t possibly pack in another thing. And yet, they keep coming to the table week after week.
The meetings rotate from house to house. The crowd is always a little bit different. There’s a certain hesitancy in the air. A fear of overcommitting, a constant questioning if any of it matters, a deep need to understand, to be aware, and to think critically about each of our individual bubbles and how they impact the rest of our community, our state, our country, and our world. The push and pull of wanting to be involved but not knowing how much or in what capacity.
I first felt a strong call to activism when I was in second grade. I saw on the news the belly-bloated children of Ethiopia, and I could not reconcile their suffering with my own experience. I could not accept that there wasn’t enough food and resources for everyone. It seemed that such suffering was preventable if we took care of each other. It was simple. I have more than I need. I will give you my extra. I took my impulse and went to the adults. “We have to do something.” That something was hold a craft and bake sale at my elementary school and donate the proceeds to an aide organization.
Looking back, I’m amazed that the adults went along with this scheme.Today, when my kids bring home the flyers asking them to jump for heart disease awareness or to raise money for an upcoming Breast Cancer Walk, I artfully dodge them until the deadline passes and it’s too late to participate. Having children raise money for a cause because they get a free pair of socks or some other ridiculous incentive, drives me batty. But that’s a topic for another day.
From an early age I’ve been able to recognize injustice and have an empathy for other people’s suffering. Maybe because my mother is a feminist and a lawyer at a time when women weren’t lawyers, and in my house growing up there was a certain questioning in the air, a certain defiance in the atmosphere, the opportunity to be critical of the patriarchy that says things have to be “this” way.
I wasn’t raised in a “girls can do whatever boys can do” household or “you can be whatever you want to be” household. I was raised under the expectation that you work your ass off, no matter what your gender, and you will get where you need to go. It was from my mom that I first learned about flex-time and job sharing as options for women in the workplace, ideas she fought to implement in her office to give women more career opportunity. It wasn’t until college that I learned about Affirmative Action, pay inequality, and other feminist issues.
After the 2008 election, I felt a strong call to service. They tell me our country was in an economic crisis. Though at the time, my children were 1 and 3 and I don’t think the national economy was on my mind much. As long as there were still diapers at Target, the economy seemed fine to me. I was lucky to not have to worry about losing our home or our retirement. In 2009, I was still hopeful, and maybe a little stir crazy. I went out into the world and helped start and run a non-profit that served the needs of low-income women.
I had great optimism that if we could change the path of one woman and her family, then I would be a part of making a difference. And for three years I worked tirelessly to start from the bottom up to change the economic reality for women who wanted to break the cycle of poverty for their families.
Even now, I don’t know if it made a difference. I want to believe that the work I was doing helped but the optimism I had for change when I started, by the end, had diminished significantly. I was faced with a dilemma that I think many of us come up against, does any of it really matter? When the roots of poverty, racism, and oppression run so deep, how can we give families the tools to change the course of a story where the ending is already written?
But then I remember that I, myself, in all of my white privilege am only one generation away from the working poor. My parents were the first in their families to go to college, both of their parents born into poor homes (except for one of my grandfathers who was born with some affluence but who managed to drink his share away). I’ve seen economic advancement, but I am still not convinced the playing field is even.
Back to the dining room table and the group of women declaring their lack of political prowess. The great irony here is, as you might have guessed, the reason we have gathered is for a political action meeting.
This is not a cry in your coffee, poor liberals, poor Hillary, support group. It is also not a bitch about Trump group. It is a group that wants to activate and inspire individuals on a local and national level to have a voice in their government.
The reality is I have been asleep at the wheel. I helped elect Obama with hope and Yes We Can, and a vision of bi-partisanship harmony. Then, I put my feet up and expected him to do all the heavy lifting. I thought that our job was done. I trusted that our representatives in government would act in the best interests of all people. I believed that common sense would prevail over special interests and politics. I underestimated how difficult that would be. I did not see the division growing wider and wider.
So yes, in November the bubble I had been living in burst. It was shocking to me that people believe that the world is worse off than when Obama took office. Because that is a real sentiment. Whether or not it’s based on facts, it is a real feeling. And, yes, I was shocked and at first disheartened.
But, I also take responsibility. Because unlike some of our friends in Congress, that is what adults do. I did not do my part. I did not bring my voice to the table. I did not empathize, or listen, or try to understand. And, pop, went my bubble.
Now, in an effort to understand why our country is so divided, we show up in the dining rooms of regular citizens. Yes, we air our concerns, but we don’t dwell on them. We look to small, manageable actions, that we can share with our own networks. We prioritize the most pressing issues, we create action plans. We try to educate people about issues and give them the tools to have a voice.
In some ways, what we’ve set out to do seems insurmountable. Resisting seems futile. It seems easier to check out than to check in. But doing something is the only answer I have to the question I keep hearing, “Now what?”
For me, organizing is less about which side you are on. There will always be sides. Our present state feels like a knot that is impossible to untangle. There is only one thing that I can see clearly. The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer and there is very little accountability. For me the question remains, will we take care of each other regardless of political affiliation or will we continue to put party above people?
After working with low-income women, I’ve seen first hand the complications of the system. There is not one policy decision that is going to change their reality nor is there one President or one session of Congress.
Tomorrow I am getting up at the crack of dawn to get on a bus to Washington DC. And while there are some issues that I care about deeply, the reason I am going is this:
I have a voice, and I will not be silenced.
I march for every woman who walked through the doors of Dress for Success trying to make a better life for herself. I march for every woman or girl who questions her value her own voice and its power. I march for my mom who never, ever quits or gives up on anything. I march for my sons that they will never have to live in a world where women are not considered anything but their equal. And, I march for my husband who has never once shown that he is interested in anything less than a strong, independent, outspoken woman to share his life with.
It’s that simple. I am not going to protest our President. I’m not representing a political party or a policy or a candidate. Some might march for those reasons, and that is their right.
We don’t have to agree on the issues or on the priorities for our country. But we do have to agree that women have every right to be treated equally, with respect, and have a seat at the table.
I march to show our country that as a woman, I will not be quiet. And we will not go back.
I will show up. Because that is what women do. Even in the hardest, shittiest times, when everyone has lost hope, we show up. I will show up to the march and I will show up to the meetings around dining room tables. Not because I am right or have all the answers, but because I care too much not to.
And now for the disclaimer. I’ve posted more about politics here in the last few months than I have in the four years I’ve been blogging. This is not going to turn into a blog about politics. This will continue to be a blog about trying to find connection and purpose in our ever changing world.
But, what I’m discovering is that it feels hard, nearly impossible, to write about personal stuggle, parenting humor, and other topics that have interested me in the past, when there are so many other things going on. I want to share with you my experiences but I’m struggling to find the words, the time, the cadence, the things that I want say.
My blog is mostly for my friends and family, and more than one person has said that they feel like they know me better by the words that I write here.
And while you don’t care about what I had for breakfast (because not even I care about what I had for breakfast), I will continue to share what’s going on with me, our family, and how I’m trying to lead a connected, intentional life when the world around me is begging me to tune out.