I walked today, going nowhere, and I listened to my heart beat as my feet shuffled on concrete.
I breathed consciously.
Air in. Air out.
Air in. Air out.
I felt heavy, but calm. Like the weighted blanket of our collective grief — the grief of women who know what it is to speak out and be derided and dismissed — anchored me to the earth.
My heart broke again and again as story after story filled the headlines of my news feed. Some folks stay off social media at times like this. I get it. I do. There are times I must do the same. But today, reading the headlines and status updates was a spiritual exercise. A prayer, if you will. A way to bear witness to one another. To fashion a community from our distress. To gather us in. To be ears that hear. To be eyes that see. Because there have been too few of those for the Christine Blasey Fords. And too many trying to rewrite our pain to boost their own power.
I asked how you are, which feels both trite and like the most important thing I can do.
“I’m enraged,” you wrote, and, “I’m barely hanging on.”
“I’m sick, and I’m scared.”
“I’m afraid we’re going to see suicide rates jump among women.”
Me, too, friends. Me, too. We’re weary. And hope seems a long way off. Which is why we need each other now more than ever. To carry hope for our sisters who can’t carry their own. To be free to sit in the mud awhile and rest.
And while we do — while we sit here together in the muck and the mire — let me offer this tiny piece of light.
This isn’t the end of our story.
This isn’t the end.
This is the middle, and the end has yet to be revealed.
On November 5, 1872, Susan B. Anthony voted in the United States presidential election. It was illegal. She was arrested. That was the middle of the story. It would be another 48 years before American women received the legal right to vote. We’re still seeking an equal voice.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus. It was illegal. She was arrested. That was the middle of the story. It would be another 9 years before major civil rights legislation would be passed. Racism and the systematic disenfranchisement of people of color remains a major problem in America.
In October 1991, Anita Hill testified Clarence Thomas, candidate for the Supreme Court, sexually harassed her. She submitted to and passed a polygraph test. He refused. He was elected to the Supreme Court by the narrowest margin in American history. That was an end of one story. And a shitty middle part of our current one. Harassment of women and the protection and elevation of the men who assault them is endemic in our culture.
And now, on September 27, 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified Brett Kavanaugh, candidate for the Supreme Court, sexually assaulted her. It’s the middle of her story. It’s the middle of ours. And it feels like the Dark Night part, because it is for the millions of women who’ve been harmed and not believed. Harmed and silenced. Harmed and dismissed. It’s still dark. It’s not better.
But we’re louder.
Like the whole Who village finding our voice.
We are here. We are here. We are here.
It’s the middle of our story, and we are louder than ever.
Harder to ignore.
Harder to belittle without defenders and momrades rising to speak up.
Harder to push down because together, we rise. As inevitable as the tide.
Have you heard the racket we’re making? The clatter? The din?
We are here.
Have you seen how angry we’re making the people in power? How threatened they feel? How the status quo shakes and shivers?
We are here.
No; this story isn’t done.
We’re writing it now.
So do not worry, dear friend, when you need to rest a little.
Do not worry when your feet falter, and you’re sad and afraid.
Do not worry that your race is done, because there are hordes of us following in your wake, ready to take the baton for a while. Or to offer you water. Or to hold your hand.
Mr. Rogers said, “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
Have you seen us?
The people amplifying your voice?
We are legion, and you don’t face the dark alone.
Look and see, sweet ones. Pay attention. Now you know who will listen to you. Now you know who won’t. Now you know who has the ferocity and strength to hear you and hold your words and help. And you know who’s said nothing, willing to let this pass.
So, for now, rest. And for as long as you need.
Listen to your heart beat.
Know you’re not alone.
We fight together.
With love, and waving in the dark,
“Listen to the Mustn’ts” Poem by Shel Silverstein