Solidarity, Empowerment, Sisterhood, and Love

 

Me with my daughter on 42nd Street amidst the throng.

Me with my daughter on 42nd Street amidst the throng.

Standing in line to get some food at Grand Central at the end of the day, my daughter, a friend, and I stood chatting. A man in a Metro North conductor’s uniform stood near us. He turned a few times to look at us, and finally spoke. “I don’t mean to be forward, but I wanted to say something to you.” We were listening, unsure what would come next. “I haven’t been doing so well since the election. And today, seeing all the people pouring onto my train to come here to join the march, is the first time since that day that I have felt calm. I want to thank you.”

The estimates vary a bit but it looks like at least 500,000 men and women marched in New York City on Saturday, January 21, 2017 in response to the inauguration of Donald Trump. The purpose was simple enough: to let the new administration know we are here, we will be heard, and that human rights are not to be abrogated, dismissed, or flicked away because they interfere with one man’s fascist agenda. Well, one man plus a lot of other men who see Trump’s ascendancy as their chance to solidify their privilege once and for all. Fat chance.

A group of friends who either went together or found one another.

A group of friends who either went together or found one another.

If you have a pulse and are awake at least an hour or two out of every 24, you probably know that over 600 marches worldwide pulled in upwards of three million participants. All of them were peaceful. What I tuned into while I walked (and often stood still in pause-mode, pressed up against the patient thousands in my immediate vicinity) were: love, empowerment, solidarity, optimism, some fear and anger at what is transpiring in this country at the expense of the majority, but most of all a spirit of activism that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Even the protests against Vietnam, the Civil Rights marches, the Million Man March (1995), and other major peaceful protests have not approached the numbers that turned out this time (around the planet).

As far as the eye can see.

As far as the eye can see.

Thousands of men marched alongside their sisters, wives, daughters, mothers. There were people of every color and all ages. From toddlers on shoulders to teens, the kids who participated were learning the lesson of peaceful activism from their parents—such a valuable lesson to learn by doing. White-haired grandparents, men and women in wheelchairs, straights, gays, transgender, first time marchers, veteran marchers, breastfeeding moms, dads wearing pink pussy hats—so many human beings with common purpose.

I marched with my alma mater.

I marched with my alma mater.

People are realizing that every voice does matter. People who voted for Hillary, and people who did not vote at all, and even some who voted for Trump, are coming together to take a stand against the rich and entitled skewering the rest of us. Take a stand for affordable healthcare for all. For public education. For the environment and the future of our planet. For the rights of women. For the rights of immigrants. For #BlackLivesMatter. For the future of this entire country, not simply the privileged.

Pussy hats prevailed.

Pussy hats prevailed.

There is a phrase in the song “America the Beautiful” that goes like this: “crown thy good with brotherhood.” (Sometimes when I sing it, the word “motherhood” slips out instead.) But what I want to say is this: for centuries, the concept of brotherhood has been accepted as a catch-all to refer to solidarity among people of all genders. The male pronouns and nouns have reigned. Yesterday, a spirit of sisterhood infused the marches worldwide. The men who participated did so joyfully in that spirit of sisterhood. Josh Bauman, a young cousin of mine, wrote this on his Facebook wall: “As today has proven in overwhelming numbers, we are stronger together and we will stand against those trying to tear us apart. And, appropriately, it is WOMEN leading the way.”

Some friends and colleagues of mine in D.C. with their posse.

Some friends and colleagues of mine in D.C. with their posse.

Women are indeed the future of this planet, simply because to continue to marginalize them and the issues they embrace is to alienate 51% of the humans on Earth. The needs, wishes, and agendas of only men will not serve the future. Pretending that a pussy-grabbing, climate-change-denying, racist one-percenter in the pocket of Vladimir Putin is a legitimate and worthy person to lead us into the future is pointless, a distraction, and a very dangerous thing to do. The Trump Zone of “alternative facts” is a parallel universe of lies and hatred that more than 3 million people rejected on Saturday.

Love, assertiveness, and empowerment are far from being mutually exclusive. They strengthen each other and those who embrace them. #whywemarch #womensmarch #resisttrump #pussygrabsback #dissentispatriotic

 

 

Sisterhood

An island the sisterhood sailed to together where we lunched on mahi mahi with our toes digging in the sand.

The sisterhood sailed to this island and lunched on mahi mahi with our toes digging in the sand.

I have understood the beauty of sisterhood – on some level – all my life. I have two sisters, went to a girls’ school for most of elementary all the way through high school, and have some powerful lifetime friendships with kickass women. But it has been a very long time since I’ve lived with women – not counting my daughter who, somewhere along the way, went from girl to woman.

Recently I spent seven days with 8 women in St. Martin. There were nine of us there to share our love for a friend who celebrated her 50th birthday last month. Nine is such a powerful number – standing sturdily on a triad within a triad it is as invincible as the trinity cubed. 50 is such a powerful number too – so full of life lived. At 50 we have arrived, but we also have so far still to go. Nine celebrating 50 was blessedness.

The nine of us arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and two jeeps, one candy red and one lemon yellow, waited for us. We used them to zoom off to our island aerie. Well, we zoomed cautiously, as the island is riddled with speed bumps. Once there, we stripped off all semblance of where we came from and eased into the pool holding goblets of rum punch. For the next seven days, we were together. We played, ate, talked, explored, talked, swam, drank, laughed, talked, laughed, cried, and played –together— in seamless, effortless camaraderie. Oh and we talked a LOT. And laughed. Did I mention that?

Some rum punch awaited us when we arrived. Of course, not all sisters march to the same drumbeat when it comes to afternoon beverages. Thus, the beer.

Some rum punch awaited us when we arrived. Of course, not all sisters march to the same drumbeat when it comes to afternoon beverages. Thus, the beer.

We didn’t have to cook – David took care of that when he arrived at the house every day at around 6 to prepare flawless meals for us. We didn’t have to clean up, plan, shop, or set an alarm. We were –yes, spoiled. But no! I reject that. Spoiling implies doing damage to someone through overindulgrence – undeserved indulgence.

Not only did we deserve every stress free day, we were far from damaged by the process. We healed, inside and out. As working women and mothers, all 9 of us know the constant pull of things to do and plan – what am I making for dinner, I have to call that client while Billy is at the orthodontist, can I get the laundry into the dryer before I go pick up child number 1, 2, or 3 at school or drop off child number 2, 3, or 4 at hockey practice?

Responsibility is a constant thread in our lives. Worry, or at least concern, about those responsibilities is a drumbeat that we don’t recognize until it is gone. Most people go on vacation just to think about stopping at the grocery store or herding the troops in a new location. There is always something refreshing about being somewhere different, but the background music of “things to do and plan” is constant and unrelenting.

There was not one single moment of “things to do and plan” while we lived in the now-bubble of the Caribbean. Hours could go by as we floated in the pool – several of us or all of us, bobbing like buoys in the gentle blue water. Some of us might sit on pool-sunk stools at a pool-bar kind of thing where we could be immersed in the water while we drank a wine spritzer or noshed on cheese and grapes. High sun gave way to long shadows as we circled the pool, emerging, sunning on chaises, reentering, as conversation ebbed and flowed. We kvetched, we cried, we said “I love you” to one another.

Many days found us on a beach. About half of us were sun-worshippers. The other half stayed in the shade of beach umbrellas, set up for us ahead of time by beach boys with whom we would shamelessly flirt as we ordered food and drinks on the shore. Most of us wound up topless at some point, realizing the true liberty of a culture that neither demonizes nor worships naked breasts.

I honor my sisters by not posting their photos on this blog, but here is a deserted beach we visited one day and inhabited, alone, for an hour or so.

I honor my sisters by not posting their photos on this blog, but here is a deserted beach we visited one day and inhabited, alone, for an hour or so.

Long lunches and longer dinners were luxuries of connectedness and proof that we had nowhere else to be. I found the openness of time to be very comforting. I often went off by myself, to read in the hammock or write under the roof of the sprawling outdoor dining room that opened to the pool, the open-air kitchen, and the view to the sea. I never worried about missing something, falling behind, or being out of the loop. The loop was a cocoon that embraced and held us all. Even when one of us was outside the immediate close circle, we were all “looped in” to that circle.

Alone time.

Alone time.

Was it the luxurious relaxation that made the sisterhood seem so important? No, of course not. We could live in sisterhood anywhere, at any time. But having literally nothing pulling on us allowed us the gift of time and space to focus on ourselves and one another fully. FULLY. I remember it now, sitting here at my computer. The total focus on us.

One of our members had a saying she’d call out joyfully whenever moved to do so: “I love us!” We all loved us.

Showing up to dinner as dressed up or down as we wanted, braless under summer dresses, with or without pearls, with or without shoes, we could banter, cry, drink wine, groan with pleasure at the next course, laugh without holding in our bellies. And we learned that…sisterhood is freedom. Sisterhood is dirty feet and afternoon naps and the comfort of loving each other’s children. Sisterhood is when someone puts sunscreen on us so carefully that we could not have done it better ourselves. Sisterhood is dancing to one another’s play lists, reading tarot for each other, and fixing each other drinks “while we’re up.”

Sisterhood is the easy comfort of being ourselves for ourselves, and for each and every sister whose direct, loving gaze mirrors us to a T. I realized it’s easier to be me with 8 women than it is to be me with one man. Maybe this reveals my own issue. But it also is proof positive that sisterhood is home.

Pinel Island, where we spent a few blissful afternoons.

Pinel Island, where we spent a few blissful afternoons.