#metoo

Since about mid-September, I’ve been thinking back to, “This time last year….”

This time last year, we were closing in on the US presidential election. I was not certain that Clinton was going to win. I knew nothing was a given. But I was hopeful. Having grown up in evangelicalism, I have as many conservative friends as liberal ones. I know them to be good people. Surely the majority of Republican America would not vote for this man.

And yeah, yeah, HRC got 3 million more votes than Trump. That is the tiniest bit comforting. But just the tiniest bit, because Trump still got almost 63 million votes.

This time last year, I was daring to believe that there weren’t that many people who would put up with his shit. I was wrong.

I’ve been debating whether or not to post #metoo. Because of course, #metoo. Reading the avalanche of #metoo stories, I feel as I did watching the second presidential debate, almost exactly a year ago, when Trump incessantly interrupted Clinton and paced menacingly behind her: I feel like I can’t breathe.

Over the years, I’ve heard people say, “There’s no need for feminism anymore.” I witness that is their reality, that they feel no need for it, but there are millions of us gasping for the air of autonomy. To not be interrupted. To not have our space taken away from us. To not have to contort our selves into ever smaller shapes to make room for others’ sprawling colonization of our space. And of course, to not be raped. To not be blamed and shamed.

It is part of my story, one that I tell openly, that I’ve dealt with depression since I was 13 years old. I don’t view it as a pathology so much as a completely appropriate response to having read a history book. An appropriate response to the feeling of fingers beginning to creep around my neck, squeezing my throat, threatening my breath. I was so young, but I was already experiencing the silencing of my girl voice and objectification of my girl body.

One might call what I was feeling grief. As I’ve grown older, as I’ve surrounded my self with friends and a life partner and poets and other authors who are witnesses, who get it, I’ve come out the other side of grieving. The depression has subsequently eased.

I have to admit that as I’ve read all of the #metoo stories this week, I have been scared of grieving again. So much grief. How can we bear it? Especially, how can we bear it in this world where even a man who claims to be an ally, joining our marches, has assaulted dozens of women? Where a man stalks a woman, openly, in front of God and everybody, and 63 million people say, “Yes, he should be the most powerful man in the world”?

I don’t know the answer. All I know is #metoo.

Don’t Boo, Vote

Just voted in our VA state primary.

The last time I left this polling place, my heart was full of hope and love. And I spent the next day crying.

I still love you, America. I love our ideals, and I love that I have the freedom to call out the many ways that we fail to live up to our ideals. You – we – are far from perfect, but I can hold my little girl’s hand as I walk into a local school to vote. And for that I am grateful.

Bind up the brokenhearted

Two passages of Scripture are on my mind this Inauguration morning, from the Psalms and from Isaiah:

“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry…
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted…”

“God has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

God is Love, and we are here to do Love’s work, to bind up each other’s broken hearts, to do good, to seek peace, to work for freedom. Let’s do this. Also, let’s give out a lot of hugs today. I am pretty sure Jesus said that, too. The disciples just forgot to write it down.

Witnessing and world-building

hrc-stickerReceived this Hillary sticker in the mail today, a (little late) token for my HRC campaign donation. The same day the electoral college has officially voted for Donald Trump to be our president.

Oh Hillary, what is 2017 going to do to us?

I am an activist who feels dissent and resistance deep in my bones. But there are moments when I see no beauty in the resistance. There are only sick people without health insurance. Black and brown people without access to the vote. Women with bodies subjugated to the judgment of men who know nothing about us.

Sometimes we – or at least I – need to sit with that. Sit as still as we can be, not fighting the grief with optimism or qualifications. There are moments in which we have the sacred obligation to witness the world that is.

* * * * *

And.

And I just finished reading Lindy West‘s memoir Shrill, and it concludes thusly:

“Fighting for diverse voices is world-building. Proclaiming the inherent value of fat people is world-building. Believing rape victims is world-building. Refusing to cave to abortion stigma is world-building. Voting is world-building. So is kindness, compassion, listening, making space, saying yes, saying no.

We’re all building our world, right now, in real time. Let’s build it better.”

Yes. Let’s do that.

Stars

The tears that just wouldn’t stop last Wednesday began to scare me when they still weren’t drying up by the time I put our girls to bed around 8pm. I realized that I was reacting as if someone close to me had died.

That seemed preposterous, but it was how I felt. I am old enough and finally wise enough to know that the only way through feelings is… through them, so I sat with how I felt. And I invited a friend over, because Mike was at a work dinner, and it was too much to sit with alone. As we talked and I cried some more, I realized that what died was a hope that I had, an expectation that I was going to wake up and there would be a woman president-elect. A hope that millions of women were going to be vindicated by seeing our selves in one of the highest places of power that exists. That I was going to be vindicated.

In the days since, I’ve begun to name other things that died, or that it feels like died.

Stephen Bannon has been named Trump’s chief strategist. Before joining the Trump campaign, he was best known for being the executive chairman of alt-right Breitbart News. Headlines for his stories on the Breitbart website are stomach churning. One of many examples: “Does Feminism Make Women Ugly?”

I grew up in an environment where feminists were often jeered.

It took everything I had to pull my self out of there.

Everything.

Two days after my fifteenth birthday, yet another boy at church made yet another comment about my weight. I was too chubby. The next day, I stopped eating. Within months, I dropped from 145 pounds down to 70.

The boy’s comment was the tipping point, but it wasn’t the whole reason for the anorexia. I had been too big for a long time. I took up too much space. I had way too many opinions, and I insisted on defending them. Obviously, I ate too much, when other women were able to contort their selves and their bodies to whatever thoughts and size were acceptable. To not take up so much damn room.

I couldn’t be a real woman until I could do that, too. So I did it.

A year or so later, I overheard adults at church talking about feminism, how shrill those feminists were, how wrong. I went home and wrote a poem that included,

ESA/Hubble
ESA/Hubble

“I am beautiful
Though I do not believe it myself.
But I must be,
for God made the stars
and they shine, and I know
His hand made me.”

Along with the crystal-clear message that I was taking up too much space as a woman, I had also internalized the message that God loved me and made me. We humans are so messy, capable of holding contradictory beliefs.

Thankfully, as I was perilously close to permanently damaging my health, the latter message won out. When the choice was most acute, I had just enough faith that God’s love made me worthy of being alive that I started eating again.

It was even harder coming to a place where I owned my own thoughts and beliefs, without apology. It wasn’t until I was 25, living in another country and working on a master’s, that I would say I owned my self. All my choices, all my mistakes, all my responsibilities.

To do that, I had to let go of religious beliefs about women’s places, which I had been told were essential to the salvation of my soul. Women being pretty and pure and deferential were a big part of that salvation, reinforced by cultural mores.

I threw off the patriarchal mantle under which I had been born. I married a life partner with whom I am an equal. I made my own choices about my body and life. I gave my little girls my own last name.

What has died this past week is my belief in how much of the mantle’s reach I had been able to throw off in my own life. There is more of it, and I cannot stand it. I remember it. It makes me feel like my throat is choking. It is that against which I would expend every cell of my body to fight off from overtaking my children. It will not cover them. It will not. I will work against it until my dying day.

“Fat Shaming Works”
“Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive & Crazy”
“Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer”
“There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews”

These are just some of the headlines of Breitbart News, and just examples of the sexist ones. There are also the racist, anti-Semitic, and nationalist headlines. And now the man behind Breitbart is chief strategist for the President of the United States. His power to shape policy and thus the every-day lives of Americans is real and potent.

Thus, I grieve.

(Don’t worry, I’m going to get to work, too, but first, grief and self care.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ~Andre Lorde)

Thanks

For a friend who comes over at the end of a long day to sit with me while I cry and talk and cry some more, I give thanks.

For friends and family who don’t even vote the same way but still care for and hold my heart and grief with gentleness, I give thanks.

For a pastor and community of faith that is far away in geography but close in spirit, that is right now lighting candles for ALL the people in our country who are hurting, I give thanks.

For little girls who ask, “Why you eyes wed (red)?”, then put their small hand on my cheek and draw me in for butterfly kisses, I give thanks.

Future President

president-emmaYesterday the temp was going to be high, so after our Election Day photo op, my oldest daughter took off her long-sleeved Future President shirt and said she’d wear it the next day. It broke my heart to see her put it on this morning. I am so sorry we couldn’t get it done, couldn’t shatter that ceiling.

I don’t have any fight in me today. I am tired. So damn tired. I’m going to be ok with that. Tomorrow, or maybe in a few days, I’ll be ready to fight again. I’ll be ready to be, as Glennon Doyle Melton says, a Love Warrior. Today I’m a Love Puddle.

At least I am not alone. When I first identified as a feminist, I was the only feminist I knew. Now I have a wealth of soul sisters. Who have taught me grace and fierceness and compassion that knows no end. Love is forever tries, to again quote Melton. Give me a few days, and I’ll be ready to keep trying.

My heart feels wrapped in love

election-day-2016Just voted. As I walk away from the polling place, I can feel my heart in my chest. It feels like it is wrapped in love.

There is an old, deep wound that I carry, that I’ve carried for almost as long as I’ve known my name. It is a girl child in a church pew, in a church where there could never be a woman pastor. The church believed in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so I didn’t understand why the Holy Spirit in me wasn’t as qualified to lead as the Holy Spirit in boys, but apparently it wasn’t. I wasn’t.

I grew up, read and traveled and lived both in and beyond the church, and there were more, similar woundings.

I’ve largely made my peace, mostly by saying, in actions & words, “That’s bullshit.” Today I said it with my vote.

My heart feels wrapped in love.

 

Inheritance

On Election Day tomorrow, I am wearing a yellow rose to remember the suffragettes, who wore them 100 years ago. Let’s not sugar coat it: the suffragettes were called whores and destroyers of families and morals. They held their heads high. They won the vote, then they continued to work for full political and legal recognition and inclusion of women. The vote I make tomorrow in this historic election, I make with them as my witnesses. I bow before the long line of women who have had to make hard choices to do the necessary thing, women who have birthed in their bodies and their spirits a better future, who have grabbed hold of the moral arc and with strong mama arms bent it towards justice, and I say with all my heart, with every part of my being, “Thank you. May I make you proud.”

inheritance