I attended the Women’s March on Washington on January 21.
I had so many reasons. I posted them on my personal Facebook page in the days leading up to the march. I thought and prayed on it.There seemed to be so many reasons and motivations floating about in my head. I thought I understood it.
But I didn’t. Not truly. Not in my bones. Not until I was there.
Somewhere, in the sea of humanity that morning, pressed between people on the Mall, the sweet voices of a group behind me singing “This little light of mine” to calm those of us who were starting to wonder where the fresh air was when all I could see in every direction were people, as I clutched the arm of my friend or she clutched mine and we both fought back tears, one simple word bubbled up out of the depths:
Out of those hundreds of thousands of people:
Some marched for science.
Some marched for equal pay.
Some marched for black lives or Muslim lives or gay lives.
Some marched for abortion rights.
Some marched for health care.
Some marched for the environment.
Some marched for respect.
Some marched for impeachment.
Some marched to be funny or to be serious or to be humble.
Some marched for their grandmothers.
Some marched for their granddaughters.
It didn’t matter if we didn’t completely agree. We all marched. As women, we stood up and said enough is enough and we came together to give power to our voice. It didn’t matter in that moment what the group had to say. The group gave the power to whatever you needed to say.
We don’t all have to agree. We don’t all have to assimilate. That’s the very point. Or at least the one I came away with.
I left feeling powerful. Finally. There are so few times I can say I’ve ever felt powerful in the four decades of my life. That’s a long time. A very long time. I can, however, name dozens of times I felt powerless. It was a seismic shift to feel that change.
And when it was over. I was jazzed. I was inspired. I was motivated. I cried for nearly the entire first hour of my four hour drive home. I was overwhelmed by what had just happened, what I had been a part of. I was joyful and sad and all of the other things.
Then I came home. I hugged my boys and let them stay up well past their bedtimes as I told them about the march and what I had seen and what I had heard and what it meant to me. I posted pictures. I rested. I tried to process all of it.
And then Monday came. I started to see the wedge. The criticism. The put downs. Other women trying to tear it down with flippant dismissals. Men trying to stereotype the kind of women who marched.
I wanted to rail. I wanted to fight fire with fire. I wanted to battle back with logic and facts and statistics. I wanted to try to explain. I had this voice now. I wanted to use it.
But none of what I wanted to say – the carefully crafted posts I had tried to write last week, the thoughtful responses to social media posts, the attempt to explain and explain and explain – would have mattered. Not to those who don’t want to listen or who aren’t curious to understand the other side.
So I started to lose my voice.
In one short week.
Powerlessness began to seep back into my soul. And I felt uncomfortable. I could feel the battle waging inside.
Here’s the thing. I’m not a boat rocker. I’m a people pleaser through and through. I have a very hard time standing up for myself. And when I do, I replay every moment over and over to make sure I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings in the process.
The problem? These feelings from the march, the motivations, the momentum, they are still there tickling at my edges, clarifying my vision, keeping me awake at night. The power hasn’t left. I had simply stuffed it into a corner in order to keep on with my regular life.
Until I finally had a realization: Fuck it.
(The people pleaser in my wants to apologize for the use of language…I’m still a work in progress).
I will write. For myself. For this blog. For Facebook. For whatever. It’s how I process. Sometimes that might get shared and sometimes not. But I will write.
I will stand up for what I believe in. In big ways (I have called my senator’s office about senate confirmation hearings that mean the most to me to voice my opinion. I will call today about the Muslim ban and encourage the creation of effective and clear immigration and refugee policies that help, not hurt, those that need the most protection) and small ways (I have emailed my church to amend one of our weekly prayers of the faithful that felt exclusionary, not inclusionary).
I will teach my children our most treasured values – hope, peace and love – and how to protect them not only for our family, but for all families.
I will be curious. I will read books, I will watch documentaries about lives different from mine, I will continue to learn and be an educated citizen of this world.
I will volunteer my skills and time. I have offered pro-bono writing services for women running for local offices.
I will use my voice to protect my values. Not my politics. It’s time we blew up the party lines and spent a little time truly searching our souls for the values we hold dear and then protecting those.
That’s how I plan to use my voice. How will you use yours?