Because We're Still Here
Some thoughts this International Women's Day
This week my therapist said something that really undid me in ways that I wasn’t expecting.
I swore this week that I wasn’t going to cry. I was so sure that I wasn’t going to cry, that I put my makeup on before our session. We were planning on talking about my flight anxiety and while my flight anxiety really sucks, it’s not something I really cry about anymore (at least not when I’m on solid ground).
But as we were trying to work through how my upcoming flight might go and my therapist kept asking me what I could do to care for myself if the flight might get rough, I just kept drawing a blank. Mostly, if it’s a rough flight - and often even if it’s not - I just very quietly lose it. Every time, I said. Nothing ever works. What about when it’s not a rough flight, my therapist asked. I replied that you never know when it’s not a rough flight because the flight could turn rough at any second. So how can any flight ever not be stressful?
My therapist then asked me why I was so resistant to the idea that things might just turn out well.
And I answered that if I thought things could turn out well, or - even worse - were going well, and then they took a turn for the worse and I wasn’t prepared, that it would be even more disastrous.
I mean, now, as I type this, I realize how ridiculous this is for something like flight anxiety. Because, how on earth am I going to be prepared for a plane crash, exactly? And what good would that do me? How much worse could you possibly make a plane crash?
As we talked, I was able to quickly connect this to just about every other big thing in my life that I refuse to enjoy until the very end. When I would get a job offer, I would refuse to tell anyone until I got the formal job packet. Then I still wouldn’t consider it a done deal until the first day was over. When I got married, I refused to enjoy a single bit of the wedding planning. I just kept saying, “I’ll enjoy this once everyone is at the venue and I’m about to walk down the aisle and I know that disaster hasn’t struck.” I have so many more examples of ways in which I have to be 100% sure something couldn’t possibly go wrong before I believe that it’s good, and lately, it’s gotten so much worse.
This is an extension of the hyper-vigilance that I have from trauma. And it sucks. But I don’t think I realized to what extent it has robbed me of happiness, of peace.
So what does this have to do with International Women’s Day?
I’ve been looking at posts all over social media about IWD and it’s pretty clear that many of us feel under attack. And…that’s because we are. Women - especially Black women, especially Native women, especially trans women, especially disabled women - have not only been under attack basically forever, but we’ve been made even less safe in recent years. And the years coming up ahead don’t look too great either. Scrolling through posts on this day that is supposed to celebrate women and I am feeling the absolute terror and outrage and frustration that we are collectively feeling.
But my therapist pointed out something really important: when we are most under attack, it is even more important that we recognize and live in the moments of safety and joy that we have. And on this day celebrating women, there is so much to celebrate, because no matter what everyone else is doing - some of us are doing some pretty fucking amazing things.
This isn’t to say that we ignore what is happening. It’s just a reminder that the loss of hope and joy and present-ness that is caused by the rapid-fire attacks against is yet another tool of oppression.
We live in a world that has tried to destroy us for hundreds of years, and we’re still here. That’s fucking amazing. And we’re still here because we insisted on living while we fought.
This is a thing that I’m always telling people and also forgetting to apply personally quite often: We aren’t just fighting against something, we’re fighting for ourselves and our communities. And if we neglect what we are fighting for, if we decide that we can’t appreciate our beauty and love and humor and creativity until we are sure that absolutely nothing can harm it, it will be too late because the harm will already be done.
I’m so grateful for every woman who is fighting for herself and for us right now. And I hope that we can remind each other that joy is an important part of that fight as well.
If you’re not feeling joyous right now, I get it. I’m not really either. So I’m meeting myself halfway today, and I’m just trying to think about who I’m fighting for, what I want for them, and how beautiful and beloved the women in my life are. And I’m remembering that they are here - either with me in person, or with me in memory. And because they are, I am.
Happy International Women’s Day
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IJEOMA, yours is the item I immediately open as I scroll down the email of the moment, culling as much as possible. But a dead stop to connect with your insight for 5 minutes is always worth the time, giving me a reflection of life - mine, yours, other women's. So you remind me I'm not alone. You offer a compassionate look at dealing with pain directly. You remind me that pain is not an excuse for leaving the fight, and that the next opportunity to actively address that fight will come. The Irish say: "Blossom by blossom the Spring begins." You contribute your blossoms with every word you write. Thank you.
Oh my dear...Yes all over the place. It's always the icing on the cake when every/anything turns out OK. And in case this ever helps, I discovered something that helped me on the worst flight of my life: I was seated by myself on a small-ish plane and when we started bucking all over the place I started, irrationally, to hum in tune to the engine tone, and then in harmony. I don't think anyone could hear me but even if they did, so what? Once I started, I realized it was calming me down and I just kept it up for another 50 minutes (it was thankfully a short flight.) By the time we landed I was pretty much high as a kite; I thought out of sheer gratitude to have survived, but later realized (along with gratitude) I'd been super oxygenating with all that deep breathing! Thank you for sharing so much of your heart with us.