“Can I come with you?” one woman asked. We don’t usually talk politics or socialize much because we’re in the SMU crew (Single Moms Unite) and help with rides to work, sports, events or school. I learned Regina teaches English which is not her first or even second language. Margaret told me because they had stayed together at South Station talking to strangers while waiting for a train.
Margaret is an environmental activist and art professor who rides her bike to the park all summer to paint landscapes. She doesn’t know if or when she’ll date again. She’s 74.
“That is where I was when the bomb went off,” my daughter said which she says every time we go near the Common. She was with her Dad in the early years of our separation. “We were playing. We thought it was lightning,” she said. We both know she meant thunder.
Fear is always physical at first. I grabbed her hand.
I didn’t say our president reminds me of my first step-father, John, who asked, “Are you a good boy or a bad girl?” and laughed while I cried, “I’m a good girl. I’m a good girl.”
The same guy who made a tween walk naked from the shower to the kitchen where he sat playing solitaire to prove I was clean. I was told he was the harmless kind of dirty old man but my body knew better.
I marched because alternative facts are terrifying and assuming the best of others is not always kindness.
When truth and goodness are considered optional I get scared.
I marched because I won’t be overpowered again without resistance. I won’t be stripped of dignity, rights, clothes and told I don’t know my feelings.
I marched because I know the words of this song and won’t sing along.
I marched to matter to myself and to others. I marched to be seen and heard and to see and witness. I marched to learn and listen as well.
“Put avocado on racism so white people will listen.”
Sometimes the truth has teeth and a mouth that bites. “Sadly, that is true” I said and meant it though I wished I added “sometimes.”
Who makes a sign like that unless hungry for acknowledgement long overdue or denied?
I remember myself after the bombing, how I thought shutting down subways, streets and suburbs was an extreme overreaction. It’s possible to function and work while afraid or in danger. Some of us do it all the time. I was jealous of the Boston Strong movement which felt raw, small and ugly. I was thinking where is Survivor Strong or any response at all to family and community violence? There are bombs going off between sheets, meals and on the way to and from school every day for some. Where is the justice when the terrorism is from parents, priests or police?
I marched because I don’t want my daughter to react like I did. I marched because I don’t want anyone to learn to do life while traumatized. I marched because safety shouldn’t be a luxury.
I marched because I have crazy thoughts I can’t dismiss.
On Veteran’s Day I moved into a new house. When I put boxes in my attic I thought a whole family could fit here. This is bigger than the space where Anne Frank lived.
I have collected my daughter’s citizenship papers, passport and immigration card and put a safe in the basement. I marched because who is not an immigrant if what we are is what others hate?
I marched to keep despair from pinning me down and bowling me over.
I marched because the sign I wanted to carry would have read: “The presidency was pussy grabbed” and “Hillary was punished, at least in part, for being a woman.” But there wasn’t room to add, “But the DNC and she were no help because Bernie Sanders.” It was too long or too radical or maybe not radical enough. I couldn’t tell.
I did not march to have a pity party parade because my candidate didn’t win. It was not a Project Runway pink hat challenge or frivolous in any way.
This march was purposeful, peaceful and powerful.
We moved the tiny “a” in the middle of scared from ourselves and this country and stepped left. We used the same letters and transposed so scared became sacred. We can work with sacred.
Sacred is where we make our faces known in case we need to be found later.
Sacred is where we shake off our tired terror and bring the full force of our presence out in public.
Sacred is where we dig deep, get soul steady and roll up sleeves even if the tears haven’t all dried.
It was not rose colored glasses that turned the world pink. It was the warmth of our hopes and hearts knitting together.
We are the engines that keep starting and going. We cook and clean and work and write. We parent and partner and change diapers and laws. We put each other back together after violence, loss, tragedy and injustice. Often, what we do is private. This time we showed the world who and how and what we are, with pride and in public.
We marched to share candles and shovels and to make plans for the blizzard storm and chilling current of history.
We marched to remind each other to get bread, blankets, water and to charge batteries.
We got affirmed, determined, organized and serious for when wind whips and visibility goes down.
We remembered there are peaceful warriors everywhere. And I one but not alone.
It mattered. We matter.
Don’t say it does no good when I can feel the good again. Don’t say it makes no difference. We are rescuing one another.
You Matter Mantras
- Trauma sucks. You don't.
- Write to express not to impress.
- It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
- Breathing isn't optional.