An essay that I wrote about trust issues is available for reading at JWI.org.
An essay that I wrote about trust issues is available for reading at JWI.org.
To the women in your life.
Our voices are not sealed in a safe,
Or buried under a tree,
We are the envelope
Unsealed by the steam of empathy.
Once open, listen.
How does a child imagine evil
If it has not happened to her?
Creativity is, sadly/happily,
Oft based on reality.
Do not placate us,
For that suffocates.
Do not put us on a pedestal,
For that petrifies.
Why are there still millennia of assumptions to strike?
Why do men continue to hold and control
When women have been the
Foundation upon which their façade stands.
Tired of fighting merely
To be seen, heard, heeded.
Why do they insist on an unrelenting superiority?
Equality, I assume (who knows), cannot hurt.
Why weigh threats against tears,
Arrogance against heartache?
We are not the unknown,
We are their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, daughters, cousins, nieces.
Why do they feign confusion that we deserve/demand
R E S P E C T.
Haven’t we been singing about it for a while.Hello, hello can you hear me?
Have we coddled and comforted too much:
Transferring her ego to support his.
Destruction by love.
Surely it is easier to climb by helping
Easier to thrive by sharing
Do not kiss my forehead,
Sidestepping my content for
The fullness of my body.
Stand before a woman,
Imagine you are her mirror image,
What do you reflect back, what do you ignore?
Is it a suggestion or the details of a person.
I am a basket filled with severed headlines whose savage stories seep into the sweet staleness of daily life with visions of the horrors of hate.
What is there to hate in a world of autumn golds, a glowing moon, the shy happiness of a child growing into confidence, the anticipated joys of future gatherings, connections, friendships?
Why must the haters project their shriveled sense of self onto us, we who don’t demand the scepter, but simply want to share?
Perhaps I am wrong and it is not heated hate that drives them, but simply the dust of disregard. The burden of being unable to care about anyone but those within the first degree of separation.
Surely it is time for interconnectedness to battle those who thrive on division, those who stand on their own paltry hills versus those of us who have a conscience, a purpose, a path that is not single-file even when alone.
It is true, isn’t it, that nothing can be personal when there is so much sanctioned pain, when the evil of egos controls.
Emotions that raise the bile within my throat form, but I don’t want to share that emotion; thrust from me the fire pit that burns with my own form of hatred and amplify instead the voice that cries with the urgency of the invisible turned visible.
No longer will we be the onion of the metaphor, needing to be peeled to be revealed, so hidden were our voices our pains our perceptions. No longer. No.
We stand howling the rawness of truth—of so much pain handled on our own, in our minds and bedrooms; of dealing with the drip and deluge of indignities individually; of trying for strength amidst the crushing insinuation of smiles;
We must acknowledge that my interior, is yours ours, and now we must reach out alone together, a chorus to hear heed.
We will not be shunted stifled.
It has become too much, too blunt, too vast, this desire of the traitorous rulers to encage our minds our souls our selves, we will not retreat succumb enable.
Look at me and see me. I am not a reflection of your world and your desires.
Somehow (unimaginable inner strength / the basic drive to live free) we—women and men too—have survived and our rise will not be thwarted by their animosity.
During my divorce I discovered that as my mind stopped being a dungeon full of his words and images of me, I lightened and lifted into a self that is proud of being, dreaming, sharing. Once shed of his demands for who and what I should be, I was able to be—and to know that being is admirable.
No longer controlled by a man—or fighting his attempt at control, I learned that this life is not a game to be won, of winners and losers, rather it is
A cohort creating, expressing, nurturing, with the intellect to speak down the generations so that the vilenesses will always be seen for what they are. We have raised our young to recognize that we will always fight. We have always stood against the waves of tyrants; it is here, in the steel within.
Now we are a herd, women demanding to be heard beyond the tables around which we intrinsically congregate.
Succor, it is not a bad word. It contrasts with the pain too many men drag down to us.
They have called us strident, nasty bitches to demean us, but I see it as a badge of honor.
Perhaps there won’t be a reckoning and karma won’t play havoc upon their minds and lives, nevertheless we drive on, urged by millennia of women and men ravaged because they held no earthly riches. There may be religions about honoring the least of us, but that doesn’t mean actions speak louder than words.
It is on me to know that my core—both inside and out, for that is how we must be—will not be debased by the criminals who conquer even after being vanquished, generation after generation. What has changed is not the cycle of good and evil, but our recognition that rain wears away, pebbles divert, sighs howl—and that each of us is part of that process.
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am not for others, what am I?
And if not now, when?”
-- Rabbi Hillel
Plunging people past optimism
Into chasms of chaos
Where deep inside all we can spot is the light
From others, who, like us
Refuse to succumb to the lure
Of me me me me me…
Or maybe, our me is different.
It is a grand
That grants, bestows, recognizes
The beauty within each shade,
Each manner of bending,
It is not nice to merely pretend you care
About something that is other than
Mine and money
Because if all you care about is mine and money,
Then the rest of us,
Have so much to do.
To push back
We had hoped, hadn’t we,
That the world that has always been at war,
Had finally surpassed that expression of self.
But since it is still our sad reality,
We cannot shelter in place—
When wails reach us through walls and
Battles between continue to rage,
But, there, beyond the horizon,
Some of us still perceive what is not, yet,
Except in the hearts of those who beat
From the root to the crown
With tendrils interwoven, strengthened,
Supported by conjecture
That there will be a time
When those joined in solidarity
Can cause to cease arrogance and tyranny
To foster a Resistance
That will become the Expression of
What it means to be a person.
We/Us not supine
Because ‘tis better to Persist
This is the time, too,
To support those of us
For whom life is not a grand plan
But moments of together.
Their burden is not to change the trajectory,
But engage in the simplest acts
Of love of compassion of union.
For isn’t that the point?
To create the space for each of
To love and be loved
Until our final breath.
My eclipse trip to South Carolina with a good friend turned out to be what we had hoped for (except for the cloud cover at totality): an adventure. The adventure ended up spending the day at Green Pond Landing staring at the sky with a charming English gentleman we met at a coffee shop in nearby Anderson, SC.
Both of us are single women who don’t spend much time trying to change our social status, since we’re both living the lives we have and with enough experience with disappointing dates to know not to have realistic expectations for change. Nonetheless, having the attention of a handsome, thoughtful gentleman with an accent for the day made a small opening into my comfy closed mindset.
First off, let me state that there was no flirting. We were three people who flowed with the day: each adding to the collective experience. A platonic threesome. Neither my friend nor I subverted our intention of having a lovely eclipse experience together in order to gain the attentions of a man. No one was elbowed to the side, the conversation was not hogged, and there were no coy hair tossings and eyelash batting. We are mature women who value our friendship over any dalliance.
But we were attended to, and it was refreshing. Yes, of course we could carry the blankets and the cooler (how else did they get into the car), but wasn’t it nice that he offered to take them from the car to where we decided would be the ideal spot to experience the eclipse. We shared our sandwiches and snacks with him (he was completely unprepared—he didn’t even have eclipse glasses until we gave him our spare pair), and he took us out to dinner. The day-long conversation was a hopscotch game between bits of personal history, the eclipse experience itself (yes, you can have a somewhat thoughtful conversation wearing eclipse glasses), and, of course, the fall of the American Empire with t- at the helm.
The details of the day, though perfect for conjuring in my mind’s eye when lying in bed before sleep, have more heft when I think about how the experience made me feel as a woman. There was the smooth, relaxed interaction of a confident woman who did not undermine her personality in the presence of an unattached man in an attempt to attract said man. I was not running down Possibility Lane, and still, yes, he seemed to be attracted to me. (We did exchange numbers at the end of the day; alas, he never contacted me even after I contacted him after a couple of days—but still, the exchange at his request.) Nor was I waylaid by my shadow self who always comes to life in a date situation, wondering if I would want to touch this man, if I would want to spend any more time talking to him, and even (in the best of times) if I could imagine being naked with him. Nope. I was focused on the moment. And him, he did what many men I meet seem incapable of doing: he listened, he asked questions, he seemed to care about my comfort, and he did not mansplain. None of us were eclipse experts—and he did not take it upon himself to pretend that he was one just because he’s a man. We Googled any eclipse questions we had. We three lived the day thriving on the exchange of tidbit stories, and the casual and open way that one story leads to another when you’re not censoring your every comment.
While younger daughter joked knowingly that he wasn’t found on OKCupid, and even I joked about how it just might be true about meeting someone when you’re not trying or expecting to, there was more to the day than this specific interaction. It offered a hint at what might be possible: that my future might not only hold re-creations of past relationships in which I was Hercules to their Princesses. I had decided that a balanced and supportive relationship was an impossible achievement, so why even bother attempting to meet anyone. But now, I see that I was wrong. Yup, Eclipse Man made his appearance to illuminate the point that I need not always assume the worse. It also made me realize that, while not courting courting, you never know what can happen.
But, simply, this experience reinforced my understanding that friendships are the core relationships in my life (after my daughters and my mother, of course). Not only would I not have traveled to see the eclipse, but I would not have been in the upbeat “let’s see what happens” frame of mind if I were not with my friend. I also might not have let down my guard, at least not enough to have had a daylong conversation that gives me hope that I will meet my match.
All in all, an excellent trip. (Of course, I didn’t do the driving; the traffic was horrible in both directions.)
I’m definitely planning on a 2024 eclipse adventure!
August 1985. Married.
August 2007. Divorced.
Still using checks with married name and
PO Box (that hid my intentions).
A reminder each time I use one
(crossing out last name, PO Box,
writing in maiden name, my home address),
To note the difference that time makes.
Ten years since the decoupling
Has dulled wrenching tears into
Unwelcome, unfocused remembrances.
I am past dwelling
(is that a reason I shy away from men—
no desire to re-live
when exchanging histories?)
Though cynicism lingers.
Twenty years of marriage:
They can be perplexing to recall—
What tone do I take that
Hurts the least, yet respects
The years together?
Ten years of divorce:
A bridge between then and now—
The pain of living with wanting to forget,
But not wanting.
Disappointment in a cancelled paired-vision.
Regret in decisions and directions taken—or not.
Failure removes the sheen of romance
That had been vibrant.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the pairs, always pairs.
Even if their grass is not green, there is still
Something about those ten twenty thirty years together
That I have lost.
I took off a week from my working mind. No classes to teach. No writing to mull over as the background music of my days. I became a version of myself who filled her hours with chores and errands, volunteering and chatting, reading and watching. It went well. Very well. I finally did my will. I bought a rose bush and some other flowering plants for my balcony. I rearranged furniture and organized my space. I finally decided on a paint color for my bedroom (painting to be done with younger daughter next week). I ate healthy. I swam and walked.
Yes, it went well.
It wasn’t that I was bored, because I wasn’t. I had things to do and I did them. There was a stillness to my mind which I could probably get used to it, but I don’t want to. It was strange to be me on the outside, but not on the inside. I was only concerned with what I was doing or going to do; there were no threads of thoughts to follow beyond the moment. It was as if I was living at noon with no shadow to follow me around.
Who am I without that shadow self? How can I simply be the woman who buys a shower mat, and not the woman who absorbs observations and readings, thinking about how to convey and develop her thoughts in writing.
It was an experiment. And it succeeded. It made me realize that to be mentally absorbed with my writing is essential for me to be fully myself. That immersion is my identification. A final piece of writing is not so much what defines me as does the ongoing internal discussion that culminates in that writing. It is, I assume, the same for someone who is absorbed in any activity or topic of study: that process of focused thinking is necessary to feel whole, capable, hopeful. Inspired and inspiring.
I might not have a man in bed with me, but, boy, is my bed ever crowded. Nightly, I get into bed, ready to read literature—right after I catch-up on my phone-reading of the newest sputtering from / or mockery of t- and his horrific administration, and the r’s and their persistent betrayal of the basic norms of decency that I might have missed in the previous update, an hour ago. I exhaust myself with 30 minutes, okay, an hour, of being a witness to the unrelenting ignominies. Then, determined to maintain my commitment to reading about something other than the destruction of American Democracy and people’s persistence to not be thwarted by their elected officials, I charge my phone and finally open my book. But within minutes I start nodding off.
Why is outrage “easier” to read than a novel?
Perhaps it’s the immediacy: the shock that dystopian fiction is coming to life, the fear of where it will lead, and the need to be alert to the latest treachery and its real-life implications. To be a witness. To be prepared to resist.
A few hours after I fall asleep, I wake. The requisite trip to the bathroom is not enough to ease me back to sleep. I try looking at the trees outside my window. I try emptying my mind. I try closing my eyes and unclenching my jaw. But thoughts settle in for the night unbidden. I don’t want to relive my day or the outrages that seep in. I want to go back to the oblivion of sleep. Once up, though, it won’t happen. Surely, I am a lousy meditator since I barely give myself five minutes to attempt to ease into my breath and the now. I have hours to go before I re-sleep.
Staying like that, thinking about the thoughts and conversations of my day, inevitably leads to some level of disappointment. It’s like watching repeats of programs that weren’t very interesting the first time around. And if I add to that thinking about our reality, my jaw re-fuses.
Stupidly, I take to my phone. A form of self-flagellation. There’s nothing new, for the writers and analysts are asleep, attempting their severance before starting all over again in the morning. Still, I seek out commentary I may have missed. By now, my mind is both numb and abuzz, and my frustration with myself and the world cannot be soothed simply by putting the phone down. So I turn on the radio which plays BBC after midnight. I go in and out of sleep for hours, getting updated on what’s happening around the world, hearing in-depth analyses of all sorts of problems I didn’t know existed. There is pain all around. Hearing artists and writers speak for a few moments of calm. Finally shutting it off when soccer scores come on. Will a new pillow help?
I wake when the grey sky outside my west facing window signals that morning has finally come. I take a few minutes to be in the moment, often succeeding in resisting the phone. Daybreak, savoring the moment: the calls of the birds, the sky in its grayish blue hue, the brightening leaves on the trees, the sensation of air on my body.
And then it is time to get up and face what I may have missed in the past hour or so.
A friend called me last Friday night to go out dancing with her and a group of people from a Meet-Up. With no time to think about why I shouldn’t go, feeling weighted down by a long day of unenthusiastic summer teaching, a too long conference call, and a look at my low-count Fitbit, I decided to go. It helped that the restaurant was four minutes from my house and there wasn’t enough time to stress about what to wear.
As soon as I arrived, I started dancing. When the band took a break between sets, my friend asked me what plans I had for the weekend. I said that my one plan for a walk and lunch on Saturday had been cancelled, and that I was plan-free to be home writing and reading. “You like that,” she commented. Yes, I do!
I enjoy these free weekends more now that there are weekends when I do get together with friends. When it was an unending stream of plan-less Saturdays and Sundays (even if I stayed home to grade papers), the perils of solitary boredom would bear down on me. It’s hard to have confidence in your ability to think and write when you can barely stand to hear your thoughts another moment.
Is this a good idea for an essay? Does anyone care what I have to say? Should I take a break now or should I continue to stare at the computer screen? Should I read a book to learn something or read one to relax? Should I eat now or wait until later? Should I eat a salad or just say the heck with it and have ice cream? Should I watch another episode of this show or finally open the mail? Should I go for a walk someplace close by or waste time and drive somewhere that has a view? Should I sit in a coffee shop tomorrow morning or stay home so I won’t feel bad that I’m alone? -- You know, the pervasive thoughts that eddy around endlessly.
Too much of a good thing (the very empty nest) has made me value these breaks from myself to be a part of other people’s lives in the day-to-day interweaving of our stories. Through my friends I participate and release the control stick. They provide an out from constantly judging and assessing myself and others (a big drawback to being a teacher). Life not in the abstract. As a bee, needing both the hive and the individual buds.
I can finally relate to extroverts who thrive on interactions, and not just the introvert’s need for solitude. I must have intrinsically perceived this dichotomy for how else could I have taught, and enjoy teaching, for so many years?
But this movement out is not just about understanding different aspects of myself, it’s also about having enough of the right people in my life to enable me to come to this revised reality. Both the friend with whom I went dancing and the friend who cancelled our plans are self-proclaimed introverts. Although they, too, have come to straddle the social and the solitary, pushing out so as not to feel confined. Perhaps this is a stage that (single) (middle-aged) women inevitably reach so that our lives will expand, rather than condense and contract. Broth and bouillon.
I wonder, though, if I have been mistakenly looking at myself through the irrelevant lens of personality label. As we get older, we come to realize, don’t we, that we are shaped more by our experiences than our character traits. (And often those experiences occur in spite of our self-defined traits.) While they surely feed into each other, it begins to feel that those labels need to be dropped. They no longer explain or excuse who we have become; moreover, they limit our ability to fully thrive in the present. I must be open to who I am in a way that is undefined, unconfined, in flux.
Maybe I'll go dancing tonight.
Sometimes when I’m walking I feel as though I’m standing in place. The joggers whiz by at their pounding pace; cyclists careen past, occasionally with an “On your left,” but generally just the sudden sight of the cyclist in front of me, already receding into the distance. Then there are the people coming toward me, once I notice them, it is as if we switch into slow motion, the distance between us closing like molasses, slowing down until, somehow, there is the nod and pass. Looking down at my feet and the path beneath me (which I do when engrossed in my thoughts or a podcast since Poops passed away in December, so that now I am no longer a part of his sniff-and-pee style of walking), I miss much of the scene around me.
Is there always a trade-off: being introspective or being observant? Do I need both close-to-home and look-at-that! solo walks to maintain my equilibrium? Probably, since we learn over time, don’t we, how to regulate our lives so we can be comfortable in ourselves.
The first walks that I took by myself were, ostensibly, to find a place to read outside, but as I realize now, they were just to get out. An un-understood drive to wander, to be in the fresh air (NYC-fresh that is), to be unconfined, to be alone—unreachable.
While there were plenty of benches and greenery outside of the apartment building I grew up in, there was no privacy. If there’s anything an introverted, self-conscious, bookworm needs, it’s not to be noticed. And sitting outside reading would not be noticed with great admiration from the neighborhood kids, especially the bullies who always seemed to be around. So onward I went.
Perhaps if I had grown up in a house where I had my own corner in the garden I might not have needed those walks; I might have been content to sit on my stump to read and daydream. I don’t think I regret that loss; how much of a homebody would I be if I were content to just sit on my balcony full of potted flowers and herbs overlooking a church and a graveyard?
There was a bay (Little Neck Bay) about a mile from my house. I generally went there on my walks. Having a view without cars and buildings and people is what, I realize now, propelled me there. While there was the Cross Island Parkway on the other side of the path, I could keep my eyes focused on the water and the sky, and I could pretend that the sound of the cars racing by were waves and wind. It was the vista of space that I needed. My destination could have been to wander my neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods, examining homes and gardens with their distinct personalities, but that suggestion of people wasn’t what I needed. It’s fascinating how we uncover what we need—and how, sometimes, that thing stays with us. I needed a water view with its hint of distant worlds. I still need a water view. It is for me a glimpse at whatever is divine in the universe; my visual connection with the immensity of existence.
Once I learned how to drive, I would drive to Jones Beach. Depending on traffic (a phrase anyone from a city uses to preface driving information), it took about 40 minutes to get there. But it was worth the drive. I wouldn’t go in the summer when the traffic was crazy and the beach towel-to-towel, but off-season to walk, to be. The waves broke and the wind blew ceaselessly off the Atlantic Ocean, drawing me both in and out—wondering, and I was at peace. Not an acquiescent peace, rather a peace that inspires a foundational confidence that the future would hold more than the present.
When I lived in Israel I had my walks along the Mediterranean Sea, which often combined with a swim and a drive. They were not solo, they were a part of my relationship with my ex-husband, and they helped to establish our rhythm and belief that we were in sync. Maybe if we had stayed close to those shores things might have unfolded differently?
Now that I live in Northern Virginia I have my walks along the Potomac River. Although they don’t match the drama of walking along a bay, a sea, an ocean, my life, too, is more sedate, like a river. While my occasional Potomac walks settle my need for a water walk, the closeness of the opposite shore, so like where I stroll, hinders me from being inspired. That shore keeps closed something within me.
The nearest ocean walk is three-hours away, and there is always traffic.
Maybe I need the frustration, the thwarting, to stop my settling into a creeping capitulation. Maybe I don’t know what I need anymore, so accepting have I become of what I am. Maybe I reached a high tide, hoarding what I have, flourishing in my waters, expecting low tide, wondering what it will leave and what it will take.
I’m trying to figure out if I’m envious of my colleagues and friends who have recently entered into serious relationships, or if I’m just a good friend who’s happy for their happiness. The of-the-moment me, before my me-me-me thoughts intrude, jumps up and down for joy, echoing their abandon and confidence. Who could deny the sensuous pull of new love?
The cynical part of me, though, feels as would a woman in a long-term relationship (I had been in one of those; 21-years) who looks on with a haughty, bemused expression, thinking back to her own romantic beginnings and where they had led her. Wondering, as the weight of her accumulated grievances bring her down, how could anyone be so naïve.
But the part of me that’s a tad uneasy about being alone in the somewhat-distant future, when I start to fall apart inside and out, wishes that envy were at my core, driving me to actively seek out someone whom I could love for making me feel protected and adored. A stroke to the ego and a helping hand can’t be the worst things in the world, especially when I can imagine regret tearing at the edges of my days and a wobble as I steady myself for standing.
My bitter divorce (10 years next month!—unbelievable how time zooms), my brief manipulative relationships, and various bland dates should have cleared me from harboring envious thoughts, but, I realize sadly, they have not. I really do wish my thoughts were untainted, but, unfortunately, they aren’t. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to act on them, though, because my envy-penetrating walls still offer more comfort than unease.
As I see picture after picture of couples enjoying summer baseball games at stadiums around the country, I wonder, as I sit at my dining/writing table, about missing the opportunities that paired life seamlessly present. Again, envy prickles, because isn’t that, still, what I’m supposed to want. It’s hard to look past the social norm that summer vacation is to accumulate shared experiences, especially with a partner.
For a while now my purpose has been unmoored from that base, though still tenuously tethered to that ill-fitting norm, hence the creep of envy. But what if my purpose has morphed to ensure that I always have solitary breathing time and space from which the thoughts that nourish me propagate, and not for the activities and chatter. Perhaps the envy surfaces to force me to continually re-assess my stability and happiness. Perhaps it is not to unnerve me and push me toward abandoning my path, but rather to check in, to see if this is still right for me.
Looking at those paired smiles I need to invite the envy, not fear it, for I want my life to remain vibrantly my own. I need to anticipate that my perceptions may change and not shut them out, beyond my walls. For now, envy quickly fades back to sympathy, signaling that, for now, I am right where I need to be.
It’s been a while since I’ve written, and it’s been a longer while since I’ve written anything other than from a solid core of disgust, anger, and disappointment. I’ve been trying to figure out how to function in this early-stage dystopian world that is pulling us down, but I haven’t succeeded—perhaps because I refuse to concede that this is our future. Still, it’s impossible to look away (even for two days at the beach in Naples, Florida), to pause in the cycle of read, react, watch, rant. But I’m finally getting to the point when I must let other thoughts and ideas develop and be sustained. It is not an abdication of my duty as a citizen. Rather, it will enable me to continue the drumbeat of resistance without being drawn into the silence of despair and inertia.
I’m doing my part, getting involved as much as I can within the limitations of my personality. I tried stretching myself, but there’s just so much elasticity in desire. Still, I am trying to rise to the horrible occasion of so much self-serving dishonesty and greed, and a monochromatic palette of hatreds. I know I don’t have to explain anything to anyone, but I feel I must, especially since my writing mind generally veers into the personal, the contemplation of my life to understand myself and my world, and to, hopefully, help others along their contemplative paths. Since my guiding understanding has always been that if something interests me, concerns me, fascinates me, other people have those same curiosities; therefore, I feel I must state that just because my writing is not an endless howl at the pile-on of treacheries, that is not to say that I have acquiesced to acceptance. I am becoming the actions and voices that will enable me to resist and persist.
A piece of pie,
A slice of cake,
A pint of ice cream,
A bottle of beer,
A glass of wine,
It is never enough
There are never enough
How can I let myself
Even for a moment
Forget this man/these men
This ego/these egos
Their actions and policies
With glee and arrogance.
Has become fraught
for a rationality that is more than
When will it end!?
There are only momentary respites
From this reality.
How hard is it to live in a time
Of circus mirrors where everything is
The Sign was not in the signs
So insightful, humorous, painful, so
Purposeful and planned.
The moment that transcended
Sharpies, poster board, and paint
Rolled up Pennsylvania Avenue
In our voices: our voice.
Conviction is a sound.
The boom and cry that is the voice
That connects each heart.
It came up the street like a movement of air
Pulsing through the thousands.
Connecting each to each.
The beat of Mother Earth in our souls.
Moments later, at two o’clock,
We were told to sit and
Make the sound of a beating heart.
But we had already lived it through our howl
That flowed like a river from the Capitol to
The White House (empty, he could never
Feel that force anyway),
Before we lived it through our hands.
We Protectors of Justice,
Creators of Sanctuary
Builders of Democracy
Guardians of the Future
Defenders of Truth
Keepers of the Faith
Reshapers of Power
Strugglers for Our Home
Given a moment of beauty,
within the connective web
That unites our hearts with the wind.
Commitment is a sound:
People have been wondering why white women voted for t-boy, as have I. Until I started thinking about being teased growing up. Then it sort-of kind-of made some sense: this voting for a bully thing.
I lived in Queens in a fairly typical six-story, ten apartments per floor, red brick building with an identical building across a joint parking lot, making it a little enclave. Between the two buildings there was a large playground/play area. This was my immediate neighborhood and the kids who lived in the two buildings, until we were old enough not to depend on proximity for friendships, were the kids I hung out with. These included two girls a year older than me, two girls a year younger than me, and about the same number and age range of boys.
Memories of my childhood include name-calling about how ugly I was and not being chosen for teams. These two, shall I go out on a limb here, were linked. The teasing and the non-choosing were done by the boys, while the girls, especially the two younger girls, acted as if they didn’t see or hear a thing, and took their places on the teams they had been picked for. They were the cute girls. The two older girls generally acted as if they were too old to play games, besides they were too tough to be teased, and their older brothers and parents were far more intimidating than mine. Which left me as the outlet for the bullies. Lucky me!
For years my mind would revisit a scene where a pack of those boys on their bikes turned to me and told me that I couldn’t follow them, that I wasn’t wanted. Another scene that replays is being ignored when choosing teams on the improvised baseball field and my desperate retreat straight to my bedroom in our first floor apartment (where I could still see and hear them).
In all of my brief, then hastily re-buried, remembrances over the years, it never occurred to me that my friends didn’t defend me. There was no “her or us” ultimatum. There was no sacrificing themselves for me. (Were they saving themselves from being teased too?) Or, they didn’t notice. Or, they didn’t take the ignoring and teasing seriously. Or, they didn’t care enough about me. Or, they didn’t care about anyone but themselves. Now I know that they were not friends: there are no good reasons to ignore others being hurt and bullied, especially a friend.
When I was going through my divorce, I used to note how cruel my daughters could be to me, siding with their father against me. But what I finally understood was that they needed to do that to preserve their relationship with him. They saw what he did to someone who he no longer loved; they saw and heard the cruelty of his actions and words toward me. They knew, in the way we know things without being cognizant of them, that I would never seal off my love from them and treat them as unwanted outsiders, as he had done to me. Siding with him was the only way they had of trying to keep the love of their father. What a choice, even if an unknowing one.
Perhaps my friends didn’t react so that they could preserve their status as valued and protected girls. Perhaps that is what some of the white women who voted for t-boy and his ilk, did. They get to remain within that protective circle, even if it means being demeaned and demeaning themselves. For them, being protected, even by their abusers (for what else is a person who devalues you?), is safer than being on their own, with no protection. Research on abuse shows that it takes a woman seven times of leaving to finally leave her abuser. It’s hard to break a cycle of abuse; it’s hard to create one’s own sense and space of safety and security.
My friends stayed outside to play, while I retreated to my room.
I wonder now who was really safer?
Do we really wonder what happens to women who are deferential, who allow themselves to be physically comforted but morally contorted?
We must defeat those who will diminish our independence by recognizing that some modes of self-preservation do not protect the core, and that one’s moral fiber can become thickly woven with dissatisfactions and anger, rather than fulfillment and purpose. We need to recognize how we can twist ourselves to appease the internal distress that comes when we act against ourselves. And act against ourselves we do when we join with those who debase a person’s essence.
All of us—women and men—need to recognize the place within that concedes, appeases, and fears. We must crowd out those hesitations and use that internal struggle to learn to vie against those who seek to hurt or weaken any of us. Strength is not a show of force; strength is overcoming fear so that we can act in compassion for me, for you, for us all.
A meal without a woman.
Who knew that’s a thing?
Grabbing them by the p*ssy.
Who knew it was ok?
It’s all too much for me. I want to be snarky and witty, but I’m too angry for that.
Apparently, the non-eating with a woman alone thing is standard practice with Evangelicals and other Conservatives, which, I guess, would be merely mind-boggling if those guys weren’t directing the government, as in instituting policies that affect women who they refuse to see as their equals. (Unless it's equal to temptation.) They subscribe to the “protect them for they’re too weak” and “protect us for we’re too weak” outlook of gender. It’s clear that Thing 1 and Thing 2 have absolutely no respect for approximately 50% of the population. It’s hard to believe that minds don’t progress. Men and women who believe in Patriarchy have taken the reins, and are using them to undermine and belittle those of us who have no patience any more for their War on Women.
These guys are simply a suited version of the guys in a construction site who think it’s grand to grade and degrade women as they walk by. These men may not be catcalling, but they sure as hell don’t have a more sophisticated outlook on women. Maybe that’s how we have to perceive them: a bunch of immature bullies. Gosh, isn’t it fun to tell a woman what she can do with her body.
But we know, in spite of their hold, that the world was not set in motion to continually stroke men’s egos.
Clearly, there is no talking to people who are incapable of seeing a woman as anything but a giant apple on a tree. And you know what, their presence frustrates, it does not intimidate. We are still on the march.
This afternoon I went to a meeting of the organizers of local groups who are actively engaged in Virginia 2017 elections and beyond. There were about 40 women and 8 men present. These are not women who are waiting for someone else to take the reins and make decisions. These are not women who are asking for help from a party or an organization. These are women who are creating and redefining themselves—and our world. Self-preservation is a powerful motivating tool. We are in it, forming whatever it is, because it is not futile to fight for the future. The only thing that is futile is defeat and there is no way that any of us will acquiesce to misogyny.
Dress like a woman. The head reels from the insults of the little man in the White House. It should be hard to believe that a man still feels he can tell women to wear skirts and dresses, but we’re talking about a man who’s friends with guys who want to forcefully put an ultrasound wand up our formerly private parts and he wants to go there without a wand—and he’s buds with guys who think a rapist has more rights than the woman he raped. We’re talking about a man and his guys who know better than us weak women what to wear and what to do with our own bodies. What’s with the insatiable need to control people? Can they all be so very insecure and consumed with their own importance that they can’t give a woman a smidgen of respect?
This rant is on a loop.
Dress like a woman. The images in Twitter of female scientists, astronauts, doctors, soldiers, Supreme Court justices, and simply women walking are inspiring. Ah, the biting humor. Reminds me of the Women’s March on Washington two weeks ago, and those signs, which, clearly, didn’t have an impact on the small-handed/minded man. Or maybe it did. Maybe he needs to lash out to make sure that at least he can control the women in his little sphere, because outside of the White House (which, by the way, is ours) none of us is putting on panty hose or spanx for him. (Maybe he wants to wear them himself?)
Dress like a woman. Growing up I had to wear dresses all the time. Dressing like a girl back in the 60s and 70s. How I hated tights and the suffocating feeling of my body being encased in plastic. Dresses just made me uncomfortable; I’m naturally of the Pantsuit Nation. Is it that a woman appears to be submissive when she wears a dress? Or is it that she’s conforming to a norm? Enough already. Its 2017. Conformity has taken a hit.
Dress like a man. What’s with mean man telling the men who work for him that they need to wear a uniform: solid color suits and ties, and (this must be a rule too) white shirts. (Are brown shirts next?) Is no one allowed to be an individual around him? Does he need to subvert all sense of self to himself?
Dress like a woman. Which is doublespeak (finally America has an official second language) for act like a woman. Why? What’s in it for me? I was married to a man who knew he was smarter than me and was always trying to tell me what to do. (I thought we had discussions; I was delusional.) When I couldn’t take it anymore and finally said NO, he was stunned. But the mutual shock of that moment flipped the order of things. I was in control (okay, I won’t exaggerate four years of agony after that moment), but it stopped the fall of my self-esteem. This is our NO moment. We have taken it for far too long to back down now. There is no place to go back to. It’s not safe there because it led us to here. Only ahead, into the future we create may we each find what we need. We tried to play the game, we played nice, too nice, but we have been stymied at every turn—and that last glass ceiling that’s been cracked and artificially held in place, that’s temporary.
Dress like a woman. I have a friend who wears the tiniest of thongs. I’m partial to cotton briefs. Is she more of a woman than me?
Dress like a woman. When you figure out that women are individuals intent on being their own selves and not a prop for your ego, you can find me in my hot pink sweats.
I know there are other offenses that have been tweeted, spoken, and signed this past week, but this insult to women is such a button to me. The verbal appeasement of Vlad and the throwing under the bus of every American who has tried to protect this country is so astonishing that it’s hard to figure out what to grasp onto other than: this man is his ego, and that’s not a solid thing. For all his bluster, we must be relentless—until he begs us to take him to the place where they have a nice pair of solid-color fuzzy pajamas with very long sleeves waiting for him.
"Hello 1955? Please hold for the Republicans."
What a day of celebrating women, especially our feistiness! You’ve got to love the creators of the clever signs and hot pink pussy hats that turned the streets of DC Amazonian. Ladylike subtly had no place on those streets that reverberated with pent up frustrations of women of all ages, and the men who respect us. We might have burst out in smiles and humor and camaraderie against the sexists we’re fed up, but underlying it all was the giving and taking of support and understanding for what we have put up with to reach this point. We are fed up and fired up! Our votes weren’t enough, so now it will be our actions, starting today, as so many of the speakers stressed.
At 8:00 Saturday morning when a good friend and I met up with a woman I worked with this summer to register voters in Northern Virginia and a close friend of hers, we were two pairs of friends. Six hours later, when we hugged goodbye at the same Metro station where our day had begun, we were March Friends who stuck together through the chill, the confusion, the crowds, and the certainty that this was an historic moment we were proud to be part of.
At various times through the day, one of us was cold and needed to sit, tired of standing in one spot and needed to walk, wanted to get closer to the speakers to hear clearly, and just wanted to go home. We were a team that took care of each other, balancing our needs so that we each had the march we needed. It wasn’t just being nice, it was true womanly solidarity, and it came from how we helped each other, and how everyone around us supported each other too. There were hands to help us climb over barricades when we couldn’t enter into the mass of people in Independence Avenue and there were shared cheers that helped momentarily expel the gnawing shame and pain of the new president. Those cheers! Apparently, I have quite the voice to be heard, as my newest friend in the group noted during one early rising wave of cheers that rolled down the avenue. I heard no beginning and no end. It kept rolling.
When it was time to go home, we walked quite a bit (making it another part of the march) to find an open Metro station. But just as we were about to go down the stilled escalator, a Metro rep said that the station had just been closed. A woman called out to ask him what was happening and when would it open again. No response. He was mute, taping away on his phone. Then, when a man called out and asked the same question, there was a response. It could have been the timing, and it could also have been the fact that the officer's ears were attuned to hearing a man’s voice and answering it. The woman who had asked, all of us women, was having none of his dismissiveness—not on our day! Feet away from a march for women and the same ole was happening. We know why we march!
It’s funny in a sad, way-of-the-world sigh that as I sit here thinking about the day, I realize that there wasn’t a moment when I felt unsafe walking around the march area or when I felt that I couldn’t look directly into a person’s eyes without being assessed, ranked, rated, catalogued. My goodness, it was ennobling not to have to look down or away after meeting someone’s eyes. We could meet and be met heart-to-heart.
My first realization of this insight came when we stood jammed on the street waiting to go down to the Metro. I said aloud, to understanding nods, that I didn’t have to worry (about being groped or pushed against—we all knew what I was talking about) with so many women crowded together as I would have been if there were more men around. So that’s what men must feel every single day: unintimidated and unsexualized. A feeling that all women deserve to experience every single day. A powerful reason to march and keep on marching!
The march certainly was in stark contrast to what we’re fighting against, which was pretty darn clear in the signs: a misogynist, p*ssy grabber who would have us go back to the 1950s when white men ruled the roost, from home to House. But we are not going back there! Didn’t you see us march around the world in protest to that!
We March Friends, the four of us and beyond, will not be divided from our mission. Our hopes for our first woman president were stolen from us. We see that we have each other to depend on—and we need to act on that, and reach out to the women who could not envision what a positive thing a sea of pink could be. And you know what they say about women: their place is in the House and Senate, and White House too!
Onward, marching to action.
Marching for love!
Marching for justice!
Marching for equality!
Marching for the environment!
Marching to be accepted, safe, free to be!
Marching for big words that keep a heart safe and secure.
Where is a place of stability
within this swarm of anxious fear?
I need a rock to stand upon
so I cannot dig into myself
finding blame for what I tried to change,
drilling into good intentions,
hoping to find a fault—
wishing to find a simple reason
or cause other than
not being heard
not being heeded
not being enough, somehow.
When will we ever be enough?
Perhaps when we recognize that
you, man, men,
are naked beneath your
bleak, blustering bitterness,
but we, we are always
fertile crescents each and every
We will no longer be conquered
above or below
will create a bedrock
for each of us, all of us, together us
and sure and