Reclamation

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This morning as I was slicing an apple for my 3-year-old, she marched around the kitchen chanting, “You’re the best mama!” It’s the first time she’s said that, and I don’t know where the heck it came from, but it sure felt good.

This first week off from daily writing was filled with excitement and events, and then when it got quiet, I crammed the silent spaces with volunteer work and course work and mini social media binges. I became distracted, my brain ballooning with noise, lifting me off the ground. Untethered.

I knew it was time to sit down and write.

Before and after the inauguration, I channeled my energy into volunteer work, uploading submissions to the Disability March, a project spearheaded by author, activist, and Fairfield University professor Sonya Huber. It’s been an honor and a gift to work on this project, to be able to take a positive action, to help give voice and visibility to those who were unable to march, and to spend time with individual photos and stories. These marchers carried me through the inauguration and reminded me of the way our stories keep us connected.

On Saturday, I marched. My 8:30 a.m. train to Manhattan was packed. A group of seniors moved slowly down the aisle in pink hand-knit pussy hats, holding cardboard signs that read, “RESIST.” The train was filled with a contagious positive vibe, and at every stop, the conductor reminded passengers, “Make room! Today is the Women’s March.” Grand Central was humming with electric energy.

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I met my friends by the clock and we hugged and talked national news and personal news, and my friend Kelly brought me an extra pair of sunglasses, and we walked city-quick, into the cool, damp air and headed east toward Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. The streets were already filled with marchers and signs and sporadic low-level chanting. We slipped into the rally just before the blockade closed and listened to speeches by Cynthia Nixon, Helen Mirren, and Whoopi Goldberg. There was music and dancing, and then the entire crowd sang “The Star Spangled Banner” with solemn gusto. In that surge of unity, I felt a reclamation of the hope I’d lost after Election Day.

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Later in the afternoon, as I wove through crowds on my way back to Grand Central, I felt light and joyful, buzzed on solidarity and goodwill. On the train, scrolling through my phone, I was awestruck by the photos and videos pouring in from sister marches across the country and around the world.

Over the last few days, my joy has fizzled amidst the signing of executive orders, the suppression of factual tweets by the National Park Service, the inevitable in-fighting among groups within the Women’s March movement, the inane memes circulating, the inflammatory, clickbait articles. It’s easy to forget I have the option to quiet the cacophony.

Last night I opted out of all that noise and focused on uploading the last submissions to the Disability March. Today I promised myself I would not engage with news or social media. Today I’m retreating to my small patch of earth, my own story, my own work, my own day. It’s going to be a long haul, this process of reclaiming our collective hope and continuing to march forward, and tending to ourselves is an essential part of the work.

Today I duck the swell and catch a small wave of joy, that tiny voice declaring I’m the best mama.

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6 thoughts on “Reclamation

  1. This is a beautiful piece, Sarah. And I’m heartened by your experience the day of the march. The husband and I stayed home from our local march but quickly realized, after seeing the positive reports, that we shouldn’t have. These are distressing times, and I’m mainly coping by ignoring the news–so I don’t know what those executive orders are (but I can imagine). If I did know, my head might explode. Right now I can only cope by getting drips of information here and there, following orders from friends to call my Congressional reps for this reason or that, and diving into work. WORK. Oh, and yes, getting snuggles from my kitties (my version of “You’re the best mama.”) Thanks for the reminder to both engage as much as possible, but tune into work and self and family at every step.

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    • Thank you so much for the kind words, Claire! Your coping strategy sounds right on. Calling reps, diving into work, not being consumed by the news. When I start drowning in news reports, it renders me inert, and that’s when I know it’s time to opt out for a bit–though I’ll admit, it’s challenging. Also, kitty snuggles are the best! I have one in my lap right now. 🙂

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  2. Love this and so understand the need to maintain self-care by tuning out a bit, too. The noise can be deafening. Our children are our hope and while we must model what we want for them to be in the world, I think a big part of that is teaching them the importance of setting their boundaries for their self care as a tool for generosity and empathy.

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    • Thank you, Kathy! This week has been a doozy–he’s surpassed even my worst-case imaginings. Yes, self-care is essential admist all the noise. Trying to find that balance between staying sane and keeping informed. Thank you for the reminder that teaching our children well is a positive action we’re taking every day, too. 🙂

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  3. Sarah, your wisdom never fails to amaze me. I have had such a similar experience and I desperately need the restraint you have to pull back. Each morning as I start my work instead I’ve turned to an onslaught of angry calls to senators and reps. I know anger is not effective and yet somehow I find myself saying, “How are we ever debating DeVos? How is this even a question?” Not to say all my activism is ineffective, but some of it is coming out in unproductive ways…overall…I have to step back continually and think – how can I best serve? Not just my immediate fear and anger and heartache, but how can I best serve the cause overall? I need to write about this on my blog too. I wonder if we crossed paths in Grand Central. I love your description of that epic, invigorating day. At Grand Central was the first moment I felt over the moon about the energy…our crowd joining hundreds of others…felt very Game of Thrones as these small armies came together for one massive fight.

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    • Thank you for this, Rachel. Honestly, I’m not sure it’s restraint as much as sheer exhaustion, the need to retreat/regroup/revive. You have the stamina of a warrior, and I so deeply admire your tenacity and persistence, dialing those numbers again and again and again, and demanding to know why the hell DeVos is even debatable. Like, seriously, how is this real life? Early in the week, I felt myself getting reactionary, wanting to rain down f-bombs on Facebook, and that’s when I know it’s time to bow out and take a break. I’ve been thinking a lot about online personas, and how I feel the need to temper my FB posts. On Twitter, I’m far more outspoken (even if I’m just doing a lot of retweeting).

      On that invigorating Grand Central vibe, it really did feel like a bunch of tribes merging, readying for the fight. It was exhilarating!

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