International Women's Day
I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting in this one spot in a green chair at a kitchen table with a view of two south-facing windows in a second-floor apartment of an old yellow house. Without a proper office, I flit between this spot and the desk in our bedroom that holds a printer, piles of notebooks, and files for both me and my wife. In a word, we're busting out of our little space here.
To my right, in the kitchen spot, a small ledge. Is that molding, or wainscoting? I'm not sure what it's called, but it's just wide enough to hold a small row of cards and prints. As I look at each one, I realize that I've unwittingly surrounded myself by a small collection of words and images from some of the many women in my life.
A print in a small white frame, with a salt and pepper shaker, one says "y" and the other "me," with the words "you and me" below and some happy little hearts above -- the artist and I have a friendship that dates back nearly 35 years. (I had to do the math to make sure that could be possible. It is.)
A postcard that says,"Use Joy" and features a joyful-looking dancing elephant next to a card that says, "Thanks again & again & again & again & again -- both of those from beloved, long-term writing and coaching clients who have come to live inside of my heart.
On the fridge, a magnet from yet another powerful woman whose writing and ways of being infiltrate my consciousness -- this one says, "Thinking about you is like remembering I have ice cream in the freezer."
This is but a teeny-tiny sampler, but I have to smile as I see that even in this makeshift work space, I've managed to do the thing I've done for as long as I remember, stretching back at least to my early teen years: Encircled myself with women whose presence, no matter how far away in space and time, makes me feel connected in this world, known, supported, seen, carried, held, encouraged, loved.
As a child, I used to say my friends' names out loud to myself, taking a kind of mental inventory. There were many lonely times -- I was not a joiner and would later be voted by my high school senior class as "most likely to make you look and wonder." Many friends have come and gone from my life, and I find that I still think of the ones with whom I've lost touch, even as I've tried to remind myself that that's a natural thing, not a failing on my part.
I spend much of my time alone in this kitchen, writing, reading the words of women and a few good men around the world, coaching women around the country and globe, and taking both comfort and courage from the fact that there are so many women living wildly different days on this earth. I get sad that I'm not the best at staying in touch sometimes, or letting folks know what they mean to me. The days whoosh by.
At worst, I get lost in my head and feel disconnected, isolated. At best, I feel blessed beyond measure by thinking of the women in my world who teach me, often unknowingly, what it is to be still, what it is to speak up, what it is to listen, what it is to forgive, what it is to say no, what is to belong to myself first, what it is to trust, what it is to reach out, what it is to wait, what it is to leap.
I first learned of International Women's Day in the context of studying Russian -- it was a big deal in the former Soviet Union, after all. Международный женский день. Today, I want to remember that this is a day of celebrating women -- and a day of protesting misogynistic and transphobic policies and laws that hurt women and children worldwide. I also want to remind you, my comrades, that no single one of us can carry the weight of the world on our shoulders alone, though I don't know a single woman who doesn't know that weight in her bones.
My fierce love of women surges through me, as it always has. I'm not talking about my sexual orientation here, but my world orientation. I see women first. I love our bodies, our stories, our scars, our hearts, our growls and whispers and cadences and capacity to hold so much.
Happy International Women's Day, my friends. Keep being brave. Keep seeing your own beauty -- right there in the mirror. Keep reaching in and reaching out and showing up. I love us.
One additional, if incomplete note, spurred by these words from Audre Lorde: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
We all know that 53% of white women voted for Trump. Are these my sisters, too, who said yes and continue to support our pussy-grabbing (insert stream of other expletives here) president? Ugh, ugh, ugh. It's difficult territory to consider, to make any room for, but I feel I must ask: Is their freedom is bound up with my own?
Not asking and looking hard at this is to indulge the blindspot where my own racial and economic privilege live. White feminism is not the path forward for women, or for anyone.