Granite State of Mind
I’ve thought about writing a post like this for a while now. I have written it and rewritten it ten times in my head since November 9, 2016. Each time I tried to put fingers to keys, I either felt like I couldn’t eloquently share my thoughts without blending in with all of the other millions of people expressing their anger and frustration over the outcome of the election, or I convinced myself that my little fashion/celeb/lifestyle blog (or whatever you want to call this) wasn’t the right venue for such feelings. See, I like to keep things happy and light around here. Same goes for social media. The biggest argument I tend to get into with people online are whether or not pants are appropriate attire for award show season (official stance: they are not). To me, politics are like religion – a very personal thing that can quickly ruin a dinner party. I know how I feel about certain issues, but I operate under the assumption that no one else needs to, or frankly cares about my opinion.
After the election, I was a wreck. I was overcome with emotions that I don’t think I had truly ever experienced before. I did my part, I voted in the primaries and in the major election for both national and local candidates. I read the questions. I didn’t campaign for anyone, nor did I spend months sharing my politics on the wall of my Facebook page. I just voted for who I felt was right for the job. And I lost. Well, not me personally, but the candidate I believed in. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before – there have been other elections where I didn’t pick “the winner.” But I don’t remember it feeling like an absolute punch to the gut the way this did. For a day and a half, I couldn’t stop crying. I consider myself a sensitive, maybe slightly emotional person, but I can usually contain myself in public or at the office, but not this time. I woke up thinking that the coverage I watched for hours the night before was a nightmare. It wasn’t. I had fallen asleep with tears in my eyes and woke up to find myself crying again. I didn’t want to get out of bed, to go to work and act like a normal human being when I felt such a horrible shift in the world had happened overnight. It was like I had a horrific hangover that not even the greasiest breakfast sandwich could heal.
I thought the feeling would subside as the day went on, but it didn’t. Why couldn’t I shake this? Bad things have happened in the world before. Bad things have happened to me before. Technically, a lot of this was happening far, far away from me and wouldn’t even necessarily impact my life that day, or maybe even for days after. But the hopelessness continued to hang over my head. Whenever a coworker asked if I was okay, I would just start crying again because I couldn’t talk about it one more time (also it didn’t feel like appropriate watercooler chat). I was at such a loss of what to do that I began to think of different coping methods that I don’t usually turn to in order to feel better. I sat there for a period of time wondering if churches were open that day (I’m married to a Catholic and occasionally attend services, but I don’t have particularly strong religious ties myself) and I could talk to a priest. I thought about going back to therapy, which I had done earlier in the year and had felt made a huge difference in my life. I considered going to yoga but didn’t feel like I had the energy after staying up way too late watching CNN the night before. All of those probably would have been better options than what I did, which was cry some more, watch Bravo, and shut down in my apartment by myself, assuring my husband that he should still keep our weekly Wednesday night dinner reservations at one of our favorite restaurants and just go out with his guy friends.
I know what some of you are probably thinking. Yes, I am a straight white middle class women who has lived a life with far less problems than many other people in this country. I fully appreciate the privilege that I have had in my thirty-one years thus far that so many others have been denied. I have had very few instances where I felt like I didn’t matter, like my feelings weren’t valid or that I was in some way a second-class citizen. But for the first time, I felt like my rights were in danger. I found myself in an unsettling state worrying about what the future would hold for women all over this country, for my family, for children I don’t even have, and for my friends – especially my girlfriends that had just had babies or were pregnant. Thinking about their kids growing up in world where hatred and bigotry and sexism and prejudice would be just a regular part of our rhetoric made me sick to my stomach the more and more I thought about it.
For the first time probably since I’ve had social media, I went on about a week-long hiatus, only logging into the accounts I manage for work, and always immediately clicking onto my company’s profile page instead of looking at feeds. I know we’re all entitled to our own feelings, but the thought of reading everyone’s depressing posts (and a few gloating ones as well) was too much for me. I couldn’t come to terms with my own emotions, and scrolling endlessly through the black hole of Facebook didn’t seem like it was going to help me get there any quicker.
My closest Nantucket friends and I shared our disappointment and fear with each other, which led to discussing the future. We didn’t know what we could do to help ourselves and help others in this new world that was going to exist, but we wanted to find out. Sure, life went on for us as usual, but there was always this January 20 deadline looming in the back of our minds where things were going to be different, and most likely, not for the better. So when I saw the women’s marches start popping up around the country, I immediately texted my friends Molly and Katie and asked them if they were interested in participating.
Now being on a island makes traveling for things like this extra tricky (we had originally considered going down to D.C. before we realized how long it would truly take us, including ferry time), which is why I was ecstatic to find an event right in my home state of New Hampshire at the capitol building in Concord. Instead of a “march,” it was presented as the NH Women’s Day of Action and Unity in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. Molly’s boyfriend lives in Concord, so we would have a place to stay and a relatively easy weekend of traveling.
(In case you’re wondering, our t-shirts are from Otherwild and 25% of the proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood.)
I have to say, leading up to the rally I was a little nervous. Call me crazy, but the current state of the world has made me a bit more paranoid than I used to be. I woke up before my alarm that morning (which if you know me, you know that never happens) in a panic, thinking about all the bad things that could potentially happen outside the state house. I mean, it’s hard nowadays to feel like you’re safe anywhere when mass shootings happen at schools, churches, movie theaters, office buildings, airports – need I continue? My father and my husband both cautioned me to “just be careful” and to pay attention to my surroundings. “I support you,” Steve said when I told him about our excursion. “But just remember that not everyone out there does too.”
But it was like magic. As soon as I arrived and entered the lawn amongst a sea of women, children, and yes, even a few men – all holding signs and wearing pink hats – any feelings I had of fear dissipated, and never popped back into my head at any point throughout the day.
I don’t remember the details of all of the things that were said by the roster of absolutely amazing speakers (but fortunately some videos and transcriptions have been posted in the event’s Facebook group) but I can tell you that the feeling of camaraderie is unlike anything else I have ever experienced. I can’t tell you the last time that I was that moved or inspired or at peace with a group of strangers – 5,000 strangers, to be exact. And there were so many different types of people represented who spoke so beautifully about what they fear but also what they love about this country and the people in it – even though there were many times when they were not shown the same respect. We heard from politicians, students, refugees, union workers, trans activists, authors, mothers – all who came together to share their concerns for the future under this new administration.
I’ve seen some refer to these gatherings as protests, which I don’t feel accurately describes the event that I experienced this past weekend. Sure, there were some signs poking fun at our new commander-in-chief, but I didn’t hear any talk that was vicious or violent or filled with hatred, even for a man who has in just a few short days has offended and threatened so many. In fact, his name was barely even uttered. For us, it truly was about coming together, expressing our frustrations constructively, and beginning what is hopefully going to be a productive course of action for the future. I left feeling empowered and proud to be from this little state, where for the first time in awhile, it felt like I mattered. WE mattered.
When the day was over, my friends and I couldn’t stop talking about our favorite parts of the demonstration. We kept referring back to the stories that made an impact on us, the signs that made us laugh, and the moments that made the day unforgettable (like when some guy climbed atop the Daniel Webster statue and pulled an “Equality” t-shirt over his head – still not sure how he made it through that one unharmed!). But most of all, we couldn’t believe just how nice everyone was. Like the second a wheelchair needed to come through, the crowds would immediately part. Or if someone bumped into you, they apologized profusely and then smiled at you. It was a nice reminder that even in a country where your president spouts off degrading insults to different groups of people and individuals on a daily basis that there are still some kind souls out there. Another positive about attending this event as compared to say, the one in Boston, is that we could move about freely the entire day. At no point were any of us shoved up against each other or felt like cattle in a herd. We moved up to the front when we wanted to without a single push. When people refer to peaceful demonstrations, this is what they’re talking about.
I think the biggest question that myself and many others have had is “what now?” There were over 600 marches in this country – that’s a lot of fired up, mobilized people that seem primed for action. We started by signing up for the Women’s March “10 Actions for the First 100 Days” initiative. It’s super easy, you just provide your email and they send a prompt every ten days to remind you of something you can do to take action on an issue of concern (the first is writing postcards to your senator – they have easy to download PDFs right on the webpage).
The next thing is to get involved. This can mean different things for different people. This article has some good basic steps on where to go from here. I know a big thing that’s not going to happen overnight is for women to get more involved in their local governments. The fact is, there just aren’t enough of us fighting our rights. And regardless of that, women make up half of this country, but with such a small percentage of females in political roles, we are way underrepresented (exhibited grossly during moment like this). I was excited to find that someone had just started a special group for this right here on Nantucket, and on Tuesday evening I attended their first event, a panel discussion with various women who have held public offices in the community (which is run town government style – think Gilmore Girls town meetings). It was the perfect follow up to the events of the weekend.
So what does this mean for me? Don’t worry – I’m not saying that posts like this are going to be happening on the reg from now on. There will still be plenty of celebrity gossip fodder, reality television, #ootds, and all the other things you’re used to seeing from me. But this is my space on the internet, and if I feel really strongly about something, I may just express it here. And you can read it or not, you can agree or disagree, and frankly, it doesn’t matter (to you or to me). Because the world is going to keep on spinning, but I’ll be damned if I don’t do my part to make it just a little bit better for the people living in it.
One more thing: I wanted to share a few resources/articles that I have personally found helpful in this post-march world (some of which came from the meeting I attended here on ACK):
SheShouldRun.org – A non-profit organization aimed at helping girls aspire to run for office. When was the last time you heard a girl say she wants to be president? Or a representative or town clerk or something? (Okay, so probably never on that one. But we need to let them know it’s a possibility!)
Countable – This app keeps you up to date on what votes are facing your legislators and lets you to message them through the app with just a few clicks.
Female Empowerment Playlist – My friends and I were commenting on how awesome the music was at the rally (we meant to make our own girl power playlist for the ride, but alas, ran out of time), and thankfully the event organizers shared the playlist, created by a Planned Parenthood NH Action Fund intern.
VoteRunLead.org – Another one that helps women aim for political leadership by providing webinars, trainings, and other tools.
How to Be an Intersectional Feminist Ally at the Women’s March – I know this is from before the marches this weekend, but it’s a good read if you need help understanding how to be supportive and sensitive in our current political climate.
Best Signs from Women’s Marches Around the Country – I loved attending our smaller scale event, but it also gave me the warm fuzzies to see other women all around the United States and how amazingly creative/thoughtful/witty they are.
And on that note… – Even more signs. But the Betchy ones.
And now, we bring you back to your regularly scheduled programming. After all, there are tons of other issues facing us today. Like does Corinne have narcolepsy or is she just following the pattern of successful figures in American history? Did Meryl Streep really deserve her twentieth Oscar nomination over Amy Adams, whose slumming it at a mere five? Is Selena Gomez just using The Weeknd to get back at Bieber, or is it possible for a young woman to do something for herself and not a man-boy she hasn’t dated in two years?
Only time will tell. But you know I always look forward to finding out.