Anger doesn’t sell. Joy can be dampened by the 24 hour news cycle. How are we supposed to achieve any sort of balance? I don’t mean the elusive idea of family and work, finance and purpose, and a hair cut that really is wash and go, because that’s all a lie.
I mean how do those of us who aren’t professional activists or impervious optimists operate when we are pelted daily with fallen heroes, crippling expenses and tender, “Do you want to see what I made today, mama” from our kids and “You look gorgeous and I cannot wait to be alone with you” whispers from our partners? How are the people shouldering the greatest burden in trying to fix the world supposed to withstand the hopelessness? When do any of us catch our breath?
As I’ve staggered through the last month, reliving the 2016 election, the #MeToo of the rape I endured in high school, the flashbacks to what the neighborhood boys did to me, and the imminent arrival of the high school years and dating by my daughters, and unprecedented growth at my small business, I really do wonder. I don’t want to live with my head in the sand, but as I tend to my youngest who has been ill for 4 days now and read articles about elected officials defending a man who “dated teenagers” I am at a loss.
I want to kiss her brow and heal away the bug, but then I think that maybe she is safer at home. Maybe the classroom or sidewalk aren’t as safe for a young girl as her home. Here she isn’t sexualized, here she isn’t blamed or desired because her body is changing.
I want to raise her to be strong and to give her the space to unfold or explode into whoever and however she wants to be. But will she be too loud? Too beautiful? Too opinionated? Too indifferent?
I look back on my own odyssey of perspective and sexuality, both of which have expanded and contracted. There were times when I was bold and unapologetic, other times when my opinions were tempered. I quieted to be more appealing, softened because I came to believe that somehow my opinions mattered less or weren’t defensible simply because they were mine.
Abusive men siphoned the desire out of me. Who wants be attractive or desired if you end up with demands of putting out and shutting up? It’s almost as if I couldn’t have both at once, if I wanted opinions I needed to not care about relationships and if I wanted a relationship, my convictions and hot buttons needed to be paused.
Having a sexual predator and fairly self-avowed misogynist in the Oval Office is pretty clarifying. I can’t allow myself to stop feeling joy or hope because there are men in the world, women too, who seem to believe that women and girls are pleasure holes; if penetration happens it is ALWAYS the hole that caused it, not the shaft.
I have my joy because of my anger. Every misstep by the legions of white men in power, across industries, gives me another reason to rejoice in these women I am raising. Many of their male classmates are being raised by the same force of joy. We will do better, we will demand more, and we will be transparent. It won’t be easy, safety isn’t a guarantee.
I talk about my anger and my disappointment in ways that the girls are able to comprehend. They ask questions, often their questions help me see things more clearly. “Are Democrats better than Republicans” was a question that came up once. “No, babe, they aren’t. The failures happen with both parties. Dad and I have Republicans that we love and there have been plenty of Democrats who have screwed up.”
They looked shocked. “Dishonesty and cruelty aren’t exclusive to one political party or even one gender. It’s why we try to teach you to live in ways that you feel proud of your choices. It’s why we tell you when we mess up.”
I apologize if I made it seem like this post was going to have easy answers, if you take anything from this let it be that you are still entitled to joy as you fight for a better world. You will need your joy and your hope to endure the reverberations of inaction, sabotage, and dereliction of duty.
Happiness doesn’t make you ineffective, just as strong opinions don’t make you undesirable.
We have so much work to do, but there is also living to do and that is never weakness. Live.