This post will be too long and too short. I’m writing it anyway.
Did you read the article ROAD WARRIOR (The New Yorker,10.19.2015) by Jane Kramer?
I won’t be surprised if you didn’t. I read it this morning entirely by chance.
My tenant,* a most lovely woman who quilts, dyes fabrics from natural elements, practices the clarinet and has a cat named Mabel, has begun passing on her issues of The New Yorker once she is done reading them. I find them in a stack on the back steps.
It’s kind of a perfect scenario for me as I was a long, long time subscriber to the magazine until I moved (twice) and all those issues had to go and living through getting rid of them lead me to stop subscribing.
Plus, let’s be honest, I only read it for the cartoons.
On this beautiful Saturday morning, I finally had time to sink into this particular article that I had earmarked earlier in the week. I don’t think I had any idea how it was going to be just what I needed on this day when my heart is aching with all that is going on in Paris.
Half of my family lives in and around Paris. I have lived there. It is one of my most favorite places in the world.
And, none of that really matters.
I have never lived in Sandy Hook NJ, Syria, Columbine, CO, North Korea or any of the places where horror and suffering exceed my capacity for understanding.
What I know is that they are all my cousins, my family.
It’s all the same place. It’s all the same tragedy.
Over and over and over again.
I am nobody’s political animal. It is simply not my gift to bring to the world. I will not respond to anger and violence with anger and violence because never, has that reduced the amount of anger and violence in the world.
My daily political acts are to refuse to let someone goad me into aggression.
My daily political action is to remain open, undefended.
My daily political act is to be at peace with myself.
Do you think that is easy? No big deal?
Go ahead– try it. Do it for seven consecutive days.
Here are the rules of the no war game:
- you must notice when you criticize yourself and, instead, respond with love
- you must notice when you judge another and, instead, respond with compassion
- if a friend calls you to say another friend has said untrue things about you, you do not engage
- if a friend calls to say something unkind about another friend, you do not engage
- you release the need to be right
- someone hurts you, fails you, steals from you, you respond with love
- someone is disappointed in you, you love them anyway
- someone is angry with you, you love them anyway
- images of suffering, hatred, war, destruction & cruelty are put in front of you daily, you bring your attention to images of peace and beauty
Piece of cake, right?
Although, I will admit since we’ve been talking of magazine subscriptions, that there was a stretch in my late 20s and early 30s that I subscribed to Ms. What ended that relationship was the anger. Maybe it’s different now, I don’t know. But at the time, the essays seethed with burning outrage at the injustice and there was no humor anywhere to offset that vibration. Don’t get me wrong, every bit of that anger was deserved. More than justified. It was simply toxic for me. Anger does not fire me up, anger paralyzes me.
I would collapse after reading an issue. Useless to anyone.
The most healthy, healing political commentary, for me, was Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. That really did save me through the dark days of the Bush/Cheney administration.
All of which to say, political activism has never been my path.
And yet my admiration for people who are, Gloria Steinem in particular, is epic. In the article she is quoted as saying,
This profile, in part, is to promote a book that she has just published called My Life on the Road which she began writing in 1997, but it is so much richer and deeper than that because to spend any time with Gloria Steinem is to be in the presence of such astonishing power, beauty and grace, an extraordinary force of good on this planet.
I didn’t know anything about her personal life until reading this article. What stayed with me during my walk with the dogs this morning – which lasted about an hour longer than usual because I was so immersed in thinking on something she shared here.
This is what had me walking on and on this morning, unwilling to come back inside. This is what had my mind suffused with images, memories, thoughts, anger, sorrow and grief.
This is the heart of my story.
This is why I do what I do in the world.
It begins and ends with my mother.
I will not write her biography here. I will not focus on all the ways our matrilineal line is fraught with broken links thanks to a couple thousand years of patriarchy.
I will share a few things.
- When I had a school assignment about a ship that sank in icy waters, my mother stopped mid-step on the stairs, railing in her hands, her eyes overflowing with tears, and told me how they sang Nearer My God to Thee. And then she sang it for me.**
- She had three babies in three years. Yeah, a two-year old, one-year old and pregnant. Think about what that daily life had to feel like. And then? two more.
- At a time when women were forced into the horror of drugged ‘twilight sleep’ during labor, my mother insisted on natural childbirth (she was the first to have natural childbirth in the hospital where she gave birth to her first child) and then was mocked by the doctor during labor for experiencing pain.
- My dad traveled a lot when we were growing up. A lot, weeks at a time – sometimes months. My mom had a full-time job and was the single parent to five kids when he was away.
- When I was Mrs. Claus in our second grade production, my mother went into her closet and took out her beautiful red winter coat, cut it down, sewed white fur collar and cuffs onto it, then had me wear it with the buttons down the back.
- When my oldest sister was a little girl, she and my mom were in a department store when a woman’s purse was stolen. My mom plopped my sister on a chair and told her to stay put, then she chased the thief down and caught him.
- My mother taught me how to read, how to play bridge, how to be discerning, how to be fierce at scrabble and she typed every paper I wrote for the six years of junior high and high school.
I could go on, but I won’t as my mother is an intensely private person and I honor that. And, because she reads this blog and I know any kind of praise or recognition embarrasses her.
And that’s my point.
Women have been poisoned. They are taught to devalue their greatest gifts and worse, to actively hate themselves. And it needs to stop.
As long as we do not practice gentleness, love, acceptance and compassion with ourselves anger, violence, cruelty and destruction in the world at large will continue.
It begins with women seeing what fucking heroes they are.
It begins with women owning what rock stars they are.
It begins with women owning their power, beauty and light.
It begins when we no longer allow our spirit to be broken.
“People are always asking me, ‘Who will you pass the torch to?’ The question makes me angry. There is no torch–there are many torches–and I’m using my torch to light other torches.” – Gloria Steinhem
So. That was too long for a blog post. And, way too short for me to even begin to dive into this subject. Oh well.
c’est la guerre
*yes, I rent out the first floor apartment of my house
** although, we’ll never know if it really happened or not