Because I'm appalled at the lack of cooperation and compromise in Congress, I've been very intentional about opening myself and my facebook page to differing points of view. It seems important to practice what I preach: listening in a way that admits and allows for change in my thinking, responding in a way that supports understanding.
But today I un-friended a conservative facebook friend. I've known this person since high school, and was happy when facebook reconnected us several years ago. He's conservative, but for a few years we were able to comment on each other's posts without rancor.
That has changed recently and, as I said, I've unfriended him. But it wasn't for political reasons. It wasn't because he derided Obama at every turn and now accuses me of hatred when I criticize Trump. It wasn't that we don't agree, at all, when it comes to politics.
I have unfriended him because he is yet another man who engages with me only to (1) tell me how wrong I am; and/or (2) make unflattering comments. I want to be in dialogue with people who don't agree with me. But, as a woman, I won't stay in a one-way, contemptuous and patronizing conversation. And it's not like I didn't tell him exactly that although, of course, he didn't listen. I messaged him before unfriending, not because I think I'll get him to understand but because it was the respectful, honest thing to do.
(NOTE: there are plenty of men in my life who listen and converse respectfully with me, my husband chief among them. I appreciate the heck out of these men.)
But too many men still refuse to see that their need to compete and over-ride and argue and be superior and the One With All The Answers destroys authentic relationships with women.
And where authentic relationships cannot flourish, prejudice and cruelty and exploitation will.
I'm angry about that. I'm angry about Bernie Sanders rolling his eyes and talking down to Hillary during their primary season debate. I'm angry with Mitch McConnell for his patronizing, smug, "and yet she persisted."
I'm angry at the PBS news story I heard this morning about tech companies offering less money to women for the same positions men get more money for. I'm angry with women who say "she should just get over it" about a woman claims assault or harassment. I'm angry that girls are trafficked and prostitutes go to jail while the men who use them melt into the night, free.
I'm angry that some religions keep women from leadership and even from being in the same space as men, or from being seen at all. I'm angry that girls are kidnapped and spirited away one or hundreds at a time and it happens over and over and over and over.
Would these things occur in a world where women were accorded the respect and equality that is naturally theirs, but suppressed by men and other women with internalized misogyny?
I don't want to be self-aggrandizing here. After all, it was only a small act, a simple click of the "Unfriend" button. Yet unfriending that man was an act of feminism. Because it's all linked, in the same way a butterfly moving its wings in the Amazon rain forest contributes to a snowstorm over Siberia.
It was a small act, but not a trivial one, personal yet symbolic because women's rights are human rights and until we all stand up - in whatever large or small-but-not-trivial way we can - for the rights of women and girls, we accept and are complicit in our current reality and our future fate.
To find out about how to manage the unrelenting heartache, headache and pain of this Trump presidency, talk to someone who manages chronic pain.
I have chronic migraine disease, which means I have a only handful of hours per month without pain. The pain varies, and I'm not always collapsed on the bed with an ice pack in a dark room, but every single day, I'm managing pain.
Yesterday, while fighting a bad migraine and preparing for a meal and meeting with the women's spirituality group I've been in for fifteen years, I suddenly realized that a lot of my skills for managing pain were assisting me with my Chronic Trumpache. So I thought I'd share my strategies and tools with others who may be, as I am, in constant pain about the state of governance in this country right now.
Chronic pain gets you down. And all the well-meaning though scream-worthy advice about just getting over it (or it will get better soon, or just give it time) makes not one scrap of difference. Treat your Chronic Trumpache seriously, intentionally, but without wallowing in it.
1. Turn off the radio, TV, and electronic screens. Go news-free for a while. Walk around, listen to music, smile at the cute kid in the stroller.
2. Balance being busy with being slothful. Whatever slothful looks like for you - a guilty-pleasure book or magazine, a bubble bath in the middle of the day, a couple hours in the sports bar (drinking in moderation, of course), meditation, prayer.
3. Get exercise. I'm better able to manage my pain since I joined the Y three years ago - even though I don't get there as often as I wish I could. Exercise doesn't make the pain go away, or even lessen it. But it raises my low spirits and strengthens my muscles and enhances my self-esteem - all important in pain management.
Chronic pain can be isolating. Ranting on facebook or twitter or in an email may help a bit, but having a friend who understands and who will have a cuppa with you when you're stuck is much, much better. For Chronic Trumpache, there are also outlets for resistance and action that will help in reducing those feelings of helpless rage.
Here are links to the action pages of a few sites I like:
Organizing for Action
Southern Poverty Law Center
Your self-care goal for chronic pain is not to eliminate it, but to manage its effects on your body and your spirit. Even moving to Canada will not eliminate your Chronic Trumpache. So it's best to accept that it's affecting you. Your anxiety, fretting and agonizing only make it worse, only tighten your muscles and fracture your spirit, adding stress upon stress upon stress. When you accept that it's chronic, you are free to choose your self-care.
Then you can go back over the list above (turn off the news, balance busy and quiet, get exercise, meet a friend, resist and act) and begin actually managing the pain of Chronic Trumpache.
We all know what happened to the Merrick Garland Supreme Court nomination made by then-President Obama in January 2016: the Republican-controlled Senate refused even to give him a hearing, never mind allow a vote. It was an unprecedented, un-Constitutional move. Republicans, who now feel vindicated because they got their conservative nominee from Trump, are convinced, I'm sure, that they did the right thing.
And it was the right thing, if protecting a party's power, politics and influence at all costs - and at the expense of two centuries of precedent and the Constitution itself - is right.
But it's not right.
I'm so infuriated and frustrated with the Republican obstructionism and refusal to pay even minimal homage to good governance practices that we've seen since 2010 that I can't watch or listen to Mitch McConnell and his ilk without shouting at the TV or radio. i can just imagine what Democratic Senators feel. Surely they are sorely tempted to give the Gorsuch nomination as difficult a time as they can. Surely they wish they had the power to do Gorsuch what the Republicans did to Garland.
As an article in The Atlantic says, "Senate Democrats must now decide how hard they are willing to fight over the high-court seat that Republicans blocked President Obama from filling after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year."
Of course, it doesn't matter how hard Democrats fight. They don't have the votes to win, and they risk forcing Republicans to eliminate the filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominees: a change that will surely come back to slap them in the face in the future.
But aside from the possibility of future face-slaps, it's not right.
Understandably, the temptation is to do to them what they did for us. Eye for an eye, etc. Yet if it wasn't right or good governance or Constitutional for the Republicans to block the Garland nomination as they did, neither is it right for the Democrats to use any means possible (however ineffective it may be, ultimately) to obstruct and fight the Gorsuch nomination.
That's not to say that Democratic Senators shouldn't question and argue and do all they can to reveal any real reasons to fight this nomination. Their responsibility is to vet nominees.
The Republicans tossed principle over the Potomac. It wouldn't serve the Constitution or the Senate or the country for Democrats to, in their own way, do the same. It seems to me someone needs to stand up for constitutionality and principle now and I hope that someone is the Democratic Senators.
I can't shout righteously at Mitch McConnell if my side goes as low as his side did. And frankly, righteousness is about all I have, just now. Righteousness in the form a belief in power that gleans instead of plows under, and in civic duty as encompassing compassion, inclusion, and fairness, and in a kind of governing that welcomes compromise and behaves tolerantly
Stay righteous, Democrats.
I'll march today in the Women's March on Washington alongside my husband and with many thousands of other women and people who are passionate about women's and human rights.
I won't march against Trump, although I am appalled by the man, his immorality, and lack of judgment.
For me, and for the founders of the march and so many of us who have joined, this is a march for.
I'll march for:
* coming together with our differences as opposed to staying apart because of them;
* the dignity of all human beings;
* the possibility of a system of governance that embodies wisdom, cooperation, thoughtful compromise and (as Michelle Obama says) going high even though others may go low;
* to remind myself that there is power in community;
* to remind myself that I have a choice, and my choice is to stand for what I believe in with a clear eye for reality and a compassionate heart for suffering of all kinds.
See you there!
Carol D. Marsh: From Judgment to Compassion
Carol D. Marsh is a writer, blogger, social justice advocate and founder of Miriam's House, a residential program for homeless women with AIDS. Marsh earned her MFA from the creative nonfiction program at Goucher College in 2014. In May 2016, her essay "Pictures in Leaves" was chosen for the 2016 New Millennium Writings Nonfiction Award. Nowhere Else I Want to Be: A Memoir (Inkshares) is her thesis and first published work. Our review is below.
What made you decide to tell the story of Miriam's House in book form?
It wasn't a decision so much as a process. After I had to resign from Miriam's House (due to chronic migraine disease) at the end of 2009, I began writing about the women out of the grief of leaving a job I loved. It was both catharsis and an effort not to forget them. After several months, I had 30,000 words and began to think I might have a book. So I queried a few agents and found out that a loose grouping of stories doesn't make a book, at least not the way I'd done it. Around this time, I learned about low-residency writing programs, looked into them and decided the schedule--two weeks a year on campus, otherwise at home--fit the life I'd developed to manage my migraine pain. I was accepted into the MFA program in creative nonfiction at Goucher College. My thesis became this memoir.
You interweave the story of the women of Miriam's House with your own journey as a caregiver: exploring your own need to be liked and validated, while struggling to be truly present to the residents.
I went into my work at Miriam's House little knowing what a personal challenge it would be. I think I was prepared for the business aspect, and had a pretty good sense of what it would be like to live and work with women who were ill, but I was shocked at how much my own ego and neediness were tangled up into it all. I thought I'd worked through all that in a previous job (at Samaritan Inns, about which I write in the book).
I found out that if I wanted to be open, fair and compassionate in the work, which I truly did, I needed first to confront the things in me that were keeping me from being that way: the neediness, judgment, assumptions and bias. So an interweaving of the stories of the women with my own journey was the only way to write the memoir with integrity. It's the inward glance at myself, my motives and needs, juxtaposed with my relationship with the women. And I think that also ended up being the best way to show how much I learned from them.
The stories in the book are only a handful of those that happened at Miriam's House during your time there. How did you decide which and whose stories to share?
At first, I simply wrote what I remembered most vividly. I took those stories to Goucher and was taught how to write a book: structure, narrative arc, character, etc. As the initial 30,000 words expanded to more than 90,000, I was also developing the book's themes, so I chose stories that illustrated my themes: transformation, the overarching theme of the book; social justice, which I think may be the most relevant theme for today; addictions and recovery, my own as well as the residents'; and death and dying.
Then there's the consideration of balance. I didn't want the book to be story after story about dying, or to pretend the experience was one happy party. I chose a few deaths that had the most impact on me. Muriel's death was at the top of that list, because of the spirituality of it.
Also, I didn't want it to be romanticized or sentimental. For the sake of honesty, I had to write about all the mistakes I made, but I also wanted to show how gloriously human the women were.
The other big balance decision was about the number of characters. Over the years I worked there, we were a home for more than 150 women and 30 children and we employed more than 40 people. I ended up focusing the narrative on a couple of long-term residents like Kimberly and long-term staff like Faye, with a sprinkling of other residents and staff important for certain stories or themes.
What did you find challenging and/or surprising about the process of writing the book?
When I first started the MFA program, it surprised me that my mentors and classmates wanted me to write in depth about how and why I started Miriam's House. I'd been focusing on the stories of the women, which were most interesting to me, and they liked those, but they wanted more about me than I was then prepared to give. But in the end, that gave me a better platform from which to engage the major theme of the book--transformation--and the most prominent sub-theme, social justice. It also made for a more well-rounded and more honest memoir.
Inkshares is a "crowd-driven" publisher; can you talk about your decision to go that route?
Two reasons for the decision to go with Inkshares, a decision I'm very happy I made. The first was that I got impatient with the process of finding an agent. I'd done everything I was told to do--like have a website, get excerpts published and learn how to write a good query--yet it felt like it was happening on glacial time.
In the past, I'd started Miriam's House and worked hard to make it a viable business. Sitting back and waiting for someone to pick up the book felt so passive--exactly the opposite of my spirit and energy at Miriam's House. So I investigated self-publishing, but had to rule that out because of my constant migraines, which wouldn't allow me the amount of work and promotion required to promote a self-published book.
Around this time, a fellow graduate of the Goucher program told me about publishing her book through Inkshares. I looked at it and liked that they bring the author into all aspects of publication, and pay 35% of net sales. It was a way to be proactive in my publishing effort and also dredge up business skills unused since I'd left Miriam's House.
I took over the business of getting my book published. Though it felt great, it wasn't easy, as there were plenty of days when I just wanted to retreat to a dark room with my painful head, but instead had to spend a couple of hours on the phone or the computer. But it was well worth it. I'm proud of this book in a way I might not be had it been published in a more traditional way. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
This blog chronicles my work and thoughts as a writer. - Carol D. Marsh
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