It’s crazy to think that I haven’t written in this blog for over a year.
I could make an elaborate list of excuses. I’ve been busy, I’ve been focusing on other things, I’ve been so frustrated that words have failed me. The thing is, it doesn’t matter why I haven’t written–what’s important is that I am ready to talk again.
What a year it has been, truly. In the realm of current events, it’s been intense (and that is even a drastic understatement). There isn’t much left for me to say that hasn’t already been said, but I’ve been waist-deep in the conversations surrounding women, racism, and human rights for the better part of a year, and while in the past I have become exhausted by the constant attack on things I care about, there is something valuable in sustainable resilience. You would think I have said everything I can about white fragility or immigration rights, but you’d be wrong. Every day I get a little bit more informed, a little bit wiser, and I’m ready to hold my ground my ideals. Things have gotten uncomfortable, but that’s how revolutions go. There’s no ease when you’re trying to inspire change–it comes with a force, not a quiet whisper.
Personally, this past year has shown me more growth than I thought possible. I have learned the glory that is truly setting boundaries. As an eternal people pleaser, I’ve spent a good part of my life apologizing for things I didn’t do and jumping to the chance to avoid confrontation. And while I’m still not perfect at setting boundaries, this year has shown me that I can do it and stick to my word. I have learned that what I need and my own comfort is just as valuable as anyone else. I have learned that speaking your truth doesn’t have to be gentle, it doesn’t have to be perfect…but it does need to happen. And I have learned that it’s not a painless process…it really, really hurts sometimes to set boundaries. However, it’s always worth it.
It feels good to jot some thoughts down. I had more, but I don’t want to give it all away at once. So for now, I’ll smile that I did a thing and wrote some words and feel a little bit more elated. Writing does that for me, and I shouldn’t forget that. No matter what excuses I can come up with to not write.
I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Surrounded by lush greenery and quaint homes tucked into mountainsides, the picturesque nature of my hometown has captured hearts and the attention of many for decades. A rural town that lives on football games on Fridays and church on Sundays, it would surprise few that it is smack-dab in the heart of Trump country.
Despite growing up in this town (and getting away from it the millisecond I could), I was still shocked by the support I saw for the soon-to-be-President-elect. Looking back, this shock seems naive in many ways. Although there is old money tucked into the pockets of many townspeople, my hometown is full of poor white people. Men who have spent their lives working at a nearby paper mill, women who supplemented their husbands’ income by pulling extra shifts at a local grocery store. Single parents, the elderly, and the uneducated populate this town people come to admire for its charm. State employees and mechanics, teachers and those affected greatly by the recession discuss unemployment rates and that they feel ignored by their government.
Furthermore, my hometown is full of people who can count on one hand the number of people of color that they know. People who think immigrants have taken all their jobs. Men (and some women) who believe that a woman doesn’t have the emotional capability to hold a role of power in their workplace. Individuals who think education is overrated. People who look to a black President with a funny name and think “he can’t be trusted”.
It’s a very real truth that these are the people that inhabit the town I grew up in. And while they could read these descriptions and become frustrated or defensive, it doesn’t mean it’s not true. And while as an outpsoken liberal feminist it is so very tempting to demonize these people and erase them from my memory, I simply can’t. Because for every part that I feel like they don’t understand where I’m coming from, they can fire it back at me.
I’ve felt shaken for 2 months straight. I can’t look at Facebook without feeling disappointed or angry. I’ve had family members comment on my opinions and been defriended by people I vacationed with as a teenager. We’re divided and we’re upset and we all think we’re right. No one trusts anyone on the other side. I’m guilty of it–I’ll admit it to you right now.
So, here I am–full of worries, hopes, and anticpation for four years of whatever the hell this orange leather satchel will bring our country (sorry, I’ve been trying to be kind but sometimes I just can’t). And as I’m sitting at a computer–full of privilege and opportunity as a white woman in an affluent city–all I can think of is that I need to take a talent I’ve had my whole life and utilize it.
At my bachelorette party, I sat at a table full of my best friends as they made toasts. One of my best friends–someone I’ve known since I was 7–toasted me for being someone that could always bring people together, always creating and nurturing community. I’ve heard this before, but it resonated that evening and has stuck with me ever since.
I’ve decided that for the next four years, I’m going to take the skills that I posess to bring people together and use it for a greater good. I want to connect with more people and truly, deeply understand where they’re coming from. I want to take this knowledge and find way to build bridges, not build walls (see what I did there?). I don’t want to convince people they’re wrong, but I do want to show them the beauty of inclusion, the power of unification, the joy in loving others that are different from you as deeply as you love those that are similar.
I’m not saying this will be simple. I will be challenged, I will get heated. I’ll read articles that will infuriate me and I’ll talk to people who will not be coming to me with the same postiive intentions, so ultimately we will not be able to find common ground. I will be acting locally and hoping for a larger impact, and there won’t be instant gratification. My feelings will get hurt and I’ll feel unheard.
But, I’m here for you.
I’m here for the Trump supporters when he doesn’t do what he promised. I’m here for minorities when he does do things that he promised. I’m here for women whose rights will be trampled on and ripped apart and examined by people without vaginas. I’m here for men that want to know what they can be doing better. I’m here for people of color to listen and support, never to oppress or silence. I’m here for people of all religions, to pray for and with.
And I’ll also be here for myself. I will take care of my heart and know when to rest, when to back down, when to breathe, and when to know it really will all be ok in the end.
I’ll be here.
I sit here in my “North Carolinians for Hillary” t-shirt and my tear-stained face and I wonder how it ended up this way.
I began my evening with a bottle of champagne and all the hope that I would be celebrating the first female President tonight. Instead, I’m mildly tipsy (but far too sober) and feeling like the world is crumbling around me.
Ever since I moved to Asheville, NC, I’ve been told we live in a bubble. I’ve seen this bubble expand and grow, welcoming folks from all across the country to ogle at all of us weirdos in the mountains. They drink our beer, they ride our purple buses, they make sure the only economy in my town comes from their tourism.
And what do they fucking do? They fucking elect a fucking monster to be my President.
I was 20 years old when Obama was elected into office. I sat cross-legged and starry-eyed, thrilled for what this meant for my country in my tiny apartment in Boone. My roommate and I toasted cheap wine and relished what this would mean for our country.
Eight years later, and I’m heartbroken by the whitelash having a qualified, successful black President has had on this country.
I’ve been a Hillary fan since I was little. Although I cast my primary vote for Obama in their heated race, it was a difficult choice for me. When she announced her presidential candidacy run in 2015, my boss at the time came into the office elated. “Aren’t you excited?”, he beamed.
And I was.
I was quiet about my support at first, but the more I saw people denounce her, the more I was electrified. As someone who has studied politics for over half her life, I knew the facts. I knew the myths. I knew I wanted her to be my President.
Fast forward to this evening. I’m half a bottle of champagne and two whiskey sodas deep and I’m feeling numb, but definitely not from the alcohol.
I can’t stop thinking about my LGBTQ friends and family–the ones who have endured so many challenges to their own basic human rights.
I think of my friends of color, people who deserve equality and their own movement, the chance to scream BLACK. LIVES. MATTER. and are silenced by those who think they know better because they are white and have never known oppression.
I think of immigrants and Muslims, children and families torn apart by the threat of deportation and unjust searches.
And then, for a long time, all I can think about are women. The fact that the person selected to be our President was recorded saying sexual assault was ok. The fact that the person selected to be our President has called women fat, ugly, stupid, and more. The fact that the person selected to be our President has perpetuated BLATANT FUCKING LIES about abortion and the pro-choice movement.
And you all think he is best to run our country?
Let me let you in on a few key facts about me.
I am a Jewish woman raised in a poor, rural mountain town of North Carolina where there are people living in extreme poverty or homelessness. I was teased relentlessly by white men and women proclaiming to be good Christians. I lived in Washington, D.C. and canvassed on those dirty streets asking for people to protect non-profits like Planned Parenthood and Save the Children. I have student loan debt. I work in a predominantly male field. Although I am fortunate beyond measure, that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the serious injustices happening to those around me. I get my healthcare from Planned Parenthood. I’ve never had an abortion but if I needed one, I would get one. And if you needed one? I’d support your choice. I’ve supported gay rights virtually my entire life. I’ve been called bossy, outspoken, a bitch, loud-mouthed, “too much”, and aggressive–and those are just the things I’ve been called to my face. I have been yelled at for being a feminist, I’ve been defriended on social media accounts for supporting Black Lives Matter, I’ve run out of topics to discuss with estranged family members because they can’t comprehend how any good Southern woman could support Hillary Clinton.
And you know what? Just because this asshole won? That doesn’t mean any fucking bit of that information about me will change.
I’m not drinking any more this evening, but if I did I’d raise a glass. I want to toast people of color, Muslims, immigrants, the disabled, the LGBTQ community, the military, and especially women–we may not have won this fight, but we are still in the battle.
And I’m still on your side.
Fuck your Trump and third party votes. I’m not going anywhere.
I take a deep breath of mountain air, knowing well-enough that the inhale can guide me through the next few moments. Anxiety is a constant companion of mine, sitting on the edge of every nerve and interaction. Am I appearing gracious? Do I seem genuine? People keep taking pictures, how do I look? Smile, smile!
I dodge my own insecurities just long enough to soak in the love, to appreciate the moment and sit still with the emotions. I want to absorb every millisecond of the energy in this room–the outpouring of kindness and sincerity, the beauty of friendship and the power of words filling every inch of this room. We are taking over this room with love.
I’ve always been known to enjoy being the center of attention–all eyes on me and I’m jumping with joy. Despite this well known Michelle fact, this whole bridal process has not been an easy one for me. Our society puts a lot of pressure on the bride. Too many opinions and decisons and you’re a bridezilla. Too relaxed and easygoing, and you don’t care. How does one enjoy the process when you’re juggling venue contracts, hounding people for RSVPs, and also trying to smile on top of it all? Also, how the hell do people find time to write thank-you cards?
I have made this joke many times at this point, but I do feel that this is what it feels like to lose your mind.
I have found solace with other young brides. Lots of nodding heads and understanding smiles. A friend of mine text me the other day telling me that when she was planning her wedding, she turned to her fiance (now husband) and asked “I’m not usually like this, right?”. I laughed out loud and took another cleansing breath.
Sometimes we need reminders that we’re not alone. And nope, not just those of us who are planning a wedding. I have been blown away by the abundance of grace and caring that my loved ones have shared with me, especially those who have been down this path before. It has made me realize that too often we think of ourseleves as islands, and that the experiences we are going through are too unique and internalized to share with others.
What would happen if we allowed our insecurities to be vulnerable to those we trust? I’ve stopped telling people I’ve got it all under control and have admitted that I’m slowly being stretched beyond my emotional limit. And you know what has happened?
People have stepped up.
Two of my best friends planned a crafting party with our other girlfriends to finish all our wedding crafts. My mom got quotes on snack food for the reception. My sister whisked me away to a hotel room for an evening where we didn’t talk about the wedding. My good friend/wedding coordinator went to lunch with me where ALL we talked about was the wedding (trust me, I need both of these situations). I’ve received text messages checking in, telling me I’m loved, and everything in-between.
And all I can think about (besides how immensely fortunate I am to have this kind of love in my life) is…what if I was this vulnerable in my every day life?
I am consistently blown away by the people in my life, and if this wedding process has taught me anything, it is that I need to lean on this network more often. I pride myself on being independent, but there’s beauty in letting others nurture you. When you let others take care of you, it prepares you to take care of them in return when they need it.
So here I am, reflecting on the past few months and the gifts I’ve received before I’ve even taken one step down the aisle. And in one month, as I walk towards the love of my life, that network will be there yet again–lifting Craig and I up, cheering us on, letting us lean on them and say “Hey, we were lucky enough to find each other. But we’re gonna need y’all too.”
And with that we’ll all take a collective breath, enjoying that crisp mountain air, and we will all be there for each other. Vulnerability is a beautiful thing, guys.
As the dust settles and people go on with their daily lives, periodically reposting an inspiring meme on social media or talking about their feelings with a friend, I can’t help but observe that even though our lives keep going, there are at least 49 that will not (I am not counting the assaulter in this number). 49 people who went to a bar–just like I’ve done so many nights–for a fun evening, who never thought it would be the place they had their last conversation, their last drink, their last laugh. It is shocking and horrifying and an obvious terrorist attack on a community, and my heart breaks.
Last week, while shopping at Aldi, an older man touched me inappropriately.
It’s weird to type that out, because that means it actually happened, and that it wasn’t some weird dream.
I was returning my cart at the popular grocery store. For those who are unacquainted, you have to insert a quarter to use a cart, and then get the quarter back when you return the cart. Nine times out of ten, I return the cart with the quarter still in it, so that the next user gets to do it free of charge. It’s a very small gesture of human kindness, but every little thing counts.