How Lucky We Are To Be Alive Right Now

Here we are, the ass-end of another year. I sat down yesterday to write about Salome and her veils.

Then I re-read 2016’s year-end post. Apparently I had the same idea last year.

Always ahead of myself, it would seem. And forever forgetting it.

I expected I would endeth the year in much the same way as I beganeth, but….I didn’t.

Oh, I am still angry, that much is true, but I am not blinded by my rage. I can see around my anger now, see through it. I’ve spent the last twelve months honing it and sharpening it. It is an asset I carry around with me, at all times. A talisman, an amulet I wear around my neck. A sharpened stick a la BtVS to slay demons, both within and without.

It seems strange to look backward at this year and think, how lucky we are to be alive right now, but it’s the truth. I feel more alive than I have for a long time. Sure, much of that prickly pins and needles feeling stems from sheer terror and jaw-dropping incredulity, and it is also true that in my oh-so cushioned life as a migrant I do not fear for my day-to-day existence. The shit-storm clouds gathering over the United States affect my sensibilities and my ideals, but they do not affect my day-to-day life. My whiteness, my bank account, my education levels and my opportunities protect me from the worst of it. For that I am both grateful, humbled, and very, very aware.

Geographically, I’m hobbled from putting my body in the line of fire. Congressionally I vote in one of the bluest states in the country. So I’ve spent the last year turning inward rather than outward, listening and reading, essays on race, on gender. I’ve spent the last year sitting in the messy, pants staining muck of my own discomfort, challenging myself to rise above it. Failing…and succeeding.

I am a better person for it.

So how lucky I am to be alive at a time when black American activists, writers and artists, leaders and voices are finally garnering the recognition they’ve always been due. How lucky I am to be alive at a time when all of that is there for the taking. My table runneth over with choice.

For women, 2017 was a year of validation. All the churning, gut-tingling knowledge which was systematically denied and suppressed and second-guessed finally blew the world apart in a hashtag. I won’t lie. The taste of public vindication is sweet. If 2016 was the year Salome’s last veil dropped, 2017 was the year women burned that fucker like so many bras.

As painful as it is to see stories spill out like steam rising from sewer grates, it is glorious as well. I rode out the back nine of 2017 on a wave of sisterhood unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Will this time be different? I hope so. We have almost reached critical mass, the moment when enough women are in leadership roles to affect real, lasting change. We are at the damn barricades. We just need to topple them.

How lucky I feel to be alive in a world which is finally acknowledging women, our experiences, valuing our contributions not just as a substitute for men, but for ourselves. A world where we are being looked to and asked to lead.

In 2017 I  mourned the loss of a Clinton presidency. I may have been sorely disappointed, it’s true. But I will never know. What I do know is that a Trump presidency has issued in a political, social, and economic awareness unprecedented in my recollection. The safeguards many Americans assumed would protect them are failing–in some instances, rather spectacularly. For many Americans (raising hand), 2017 was the year we stopped taking democracy for granted. Stopped assuming it was something which we, as heirs to democracy with a capital “D” were entitled to. The reality of course is that the United States of America, just like any other country, must work to retain the ideals and principles it was based on.

As an American living abroad, I get a good glimpse into how those outside the US view America. If I could sum it up in one phrase it would be this: “fun, but arrogant as hell”.

May 2018 be the year more Americans check their global arrogance at the door.

2017 was the year my family started seriously contemplating a move back to the US. Each day I question whether it is an advisable one. Tuesdays it may be a yes, but by Wednesday morning, I’ve reversed my decision. But that is for another day’s discussion.

There were lowlights: a seemingly evergreen sadness at the never-ending news cycle of violence and death. Mass shootings in the United States, trucks wielded as weapons, suicide bombings that barely register in the headlines because they’re across the world. There were personal lowlights as well. Standing in my kitchen sobbing as I struggled to reconcile the vulnerability I felt with the fear of revealing it, the sheer cliff-face ahead of me raising two young boys, heirs to the very patriarchy I thought I’d be dismantling. Failure to secure a publisher for my novel, All the Spaces In Between. 

Art by Rebecca Fish Ewan

There were highlights, like reading 1001 nights to an audience of writers at my first writing conference. It’s been a long time since I did something with only myself in mind, which benefitted only me. It was powerful, uplifting, and tremendously rewarding. Having strangers ask for a hug because your words affected them is a powerful and humbling experience.

There was Wonder Woman and the Women’s March. There were the moments my sons described me as a feminist writer to their own friends and teachers. There was a trip to Washington DC, in which I literally stood and touched the stone edifice of so many buildings and felt their solidity ground me.

And of course, there was Hamilton, the soundtrack of the second half of my year. How lucky we are to be alive right now, indeed.

****

So here I am, looking ahead at my pile of new notebooks, of schedulers and calendars. At organizers and color-coded things. I know most of them will still be sitting there come December 2018, filled with the ragged edges of torn out shopping lists and scribbled notes about bills to pay. But the possibility they contain excites me nevertheless. I will persist.

I’m about a third of the way through novel #2, young adult speculative fiction. I hope in 2018 I’m three thirds of the way through it.

I will continue to write about women, to speak out about women, to fight for women. My words are slowly reaching more people. Bust Magazine reached out to me and has published a few of my essays. A fellow writer and editor asked me to pen a craft essay, which I used to highlight how I use my sex to enhance my writing, not hinder it. A parenting site reached out to interview me about raising feminist boys. As I joked to my husband, if I keep going at this rate, in 30 years I’ll be famous.

I am solid, finally grasping on to that quivering mass of rage-woman. I can actually grab a handful now. Actually much more than a handful, but again, I need to save something to write about next year, don’t I?

I know who I am. In fact, I’ve never been more sure of who I am.

How lucky we are to be alive right now, eh?

Bring it on, 2018.

 

 

Advertisements

It’s My March and I’ll Wear Pink If I Want To

railing-chainedI just read an op-ed about pink pussy-eared hats. You see, after the election, a few knitters suggested a show of solidarity for those marching in the Women’s March in Washington D.C.  It is a little yarn nod to the now famous line about a different kind of pussy.

The author’s opinion was they were silly.

Before that op-ed was a spate of articles opining the pointlessness of wearing a safety-pin. In the last few weeks, more news articles highlighting the rift among the four million strong Pantsuit Nation.

What the fuck?

Some of us are trying to form a freaking coalition here, people. A super coalition of women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ, Environmentalists, Dog Lovers, Vegans, Vaccinators…anyone who feels their voice is drowned out by the voices currently in power. Why would news writers and bloggers, some with huge audiences, think it’s a good idea to get all uppity and start shaming people who are trying to get involved, in ways small and large?

I’m not talking about the people who are going to shout “Snowflake!” regardless. That’s a given. I’m talking about people who claim to be progressive.

Shut up already. If people want to wear a safety-pin, it’s not, as some posit, simply because they desire visible proof they aren’t a racist. Could it just possibly be because a lot of people feel hopeless and scared and this is a small way to do something? If there are those who are offended, wouldn’t it be more helpful if they could point folks in a direction where help is needed rather than shaming or mocking them?

Golly, we’re always telling folks to get involved and yet when they do, we shame them by telling them it’s the wrong way or not enough. On what moral high ground are we shouting from here? Because the view must be pretty damn good.

Knitting thousands of pink hats is not, by itself, going to stop the incoming administration from running roughshod over women’s rights. But it is certainly not going to do any harm. What good comes of adopting a holier-than-thou attitude about it?

This is why we never get anywhere, folks. We’re too busy arguing and shaming one another to actually do anything. Who the hell cares if a thousand women attending a march in DC, many of them marching for the first time in their lives, want to show a sisterly solidarity by wearing a pink hat?

There are articles theorizing that marching does no good. That protests do no good. Calling, letter writing, Meryl Streep. None of it is any good. Or it should be better.

What’s the alternative? Curl up in the fetal position and hope that the world doesn’t implode in the next four years? Not everyone is going to run for office. Not everyone is going to disrupt town halls, start a grass-roots movement.

woman-arrested

Activism is not always chaining yourself to a railing or getting arrested. Sometimes activism is as simple as acknowledging something is wrong. Or reading. Or checking facts. Not everyone has the time, the freedom from economics, or even the courage to throw themselves in front of a moving administration in the name of protest. Yes, we need those people, we need them desperately. But we also need everyday people who are wiling to show that they are there to make a stand about something they strongly believe in. Whether that stand is a safety-pin or a pink hat or boarding a bus and traveling down to Washington DC to march with a hundred thousand others who feel similarly. Whether it’s writing a letter to their Congresswoman or making a phone call, boycotting a brand, or yes, even sharing something on Facebook.

Why would anyone want to throw a wrench into that by acting too cool for it all?  Why would you want to sabotage those baby steps into something that could blossom into activism? Who knows if the girl who put a safety-pin on her backpack, knowing that she’s going to get teased mercilessly at school for being a snowflake, isn’t going to grow up to be a Senator? Who knows if the women who started the knitting project won’t take their next project global and donate the proceeds to women in need?

Back the fuck off, people. Perhaps then instead of shaming someone for trying to do something good we should collectively encourage them to take the next step on a journey of doing good.

If we want to encourage people to take part, the last thing anyone should be doing is making them feel silly, shaming them, or telling them those small acts of micro-activism don’t matter. Of course they matter.

woman-chained-to-fence-with-suffragettes-85705In a world in which some days we are struggling to find something good, why would we shit on it when we come across it?

We could all do better. White women need to listen to women of color because we are failing them, miserably. Feminists need to listen to civil rights activists, need to listen to Native American activists, and so on and so on. But we are never going to get anywhere if we don’t start somewhere. And it’s certainly not up to me to tell any other person where that starting point should or must be.