I went to work early this morning with the awareness that my list was more appropriate for a week's work than for a single day. An entire page on the legal pad with items from the mundane (“pick up potatoes at the market”) to “call senators,” “finish the resistance postcards,” “how can I use my art to speak,” “sit down and write.”
And then I set about rearranging the furniture, which, though not on the list, I have been thinking about for a while now. But today? It can only be because I was putting this part off, “sit down and write.”
I feel without a voice these days. It’s unfamiliar to me, this feeling, and upsetting. Reading the news in horror and heartsickness, scrolling through Facebook wanting a respite from reality (remember the days when Facebook was full of cute animal videos?) and finding instead more outrage, more heartsickness.
The tangle of words in my head is overwhelming, and I find myself without a voice.
I don’t know how to speak about what’s happening here, about these acts of aggression toward everything I hold dear. I don’t know how to scream or rail or rant; I’ve worked hard to modulate my voice in my adult life, to temper myself, to be slow to anger. I don’t know how to do this.
I don’t know how to do this.
I am watching closely as my friends lead the way, vocal and strong. They lift me up and light the path. I’m signed up for every call-to-action email-newsletter-website I know about, and I’m doing all the things I can - and trying to do the things I think I can’t.
Which brings me here, to find my voice.
In what can only be another act of procrastination or sabotage, I ask myself, “So what if I do find my voice? Where will I speak up or speak out or speak at all that might make a difference?”
I am caught up in the thought that Facebook is an echo chamber, it’s own sort of reality (it can’t be the only place we get our news or share our views - Facebook is not the arena – thoughts for another day). When I speak there does it make any difference at all? My friends are outraged too, they speak more loudly than I ever will, they are more clear than I might ever be. Why does my voice matter?
And yet. I know. Each voice alone is but a whisper; when we speak together we have volume, we have power, we have each other.
We laugh in our family about what we call Lucy-isms, the words that Lucy “discovered” with delight during her younger years (“I know why we call it upstairs! Because we go UP the STAIRS!”). I had one yesterday, a Lucy-ism of my own - I had never given a moment’s thought to the relationship between “courage” and “encouragement,” until a little light bulb went off in my head last night and whoa.
Courage: Bravery, pluck, valor, the ability to do something that frightens one
Encouragement: The action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope
My son took an English class last semester called “Etymology and Semantics,” in which he learned that the meaning of words can change over time. I’d like to know what his teacher would say about this one. Encouragement has always meant just this to me – a pep-talk or kind words. But maybe it’s more.
EnCOURAGEment: To help another person to do something that frightens them
And this is perhaps what we need most right now - courage, and to share it with each other. It is a form of kindness, is it not? To hold out my hand and say, “Come along with me.”
I don’t consider myself to be a brave person. I don’t ride roller coasters or enjoy rock climbing, I can hardly hike a narrow trail up a mountain, or watch a person do it on TV. To say that I’m not a risk taker is an understatement, but I am beginning to see that this moment calls not on what we have historically been, this moment calls to ask what we can possibly be.
So I look to my friends with admiration and appreciation. Friends like Claire, who is a guiding light, speaking out loud and strong for what she believes in and against the injustice she sees around us now, and bringing the rest of us along with her. When Claire posts on Facebook or emails me about her convictions, about actions to take, when she stands up for what she believes in and when she encourages me to join her, I am lifted up. Quite literally, lifted up. I am emboldened by Claire’s courage and her convictions. It is as though, in speaking out, she shines a light on a path previously hidden to me, lighting the way forward.
Claire is not the only one. Jessica and Corey and Ellen and Jennifer, Melissa, Jonah and Sarah, and there are so many more friends who are out there doing hard work. My friends are my beacons right now, lighting the way. And so I see that this is precisely why it matters.
The very act of saying THIS MATTERS TO ME is an act of resistance. Sharing my values with others – even likeminded others – is an act of resistance. Speaking out against hatred and injustice is an act of resistance. Every action, every word, every call, every sign, every time I reach my hand out and say to you come along with me, every time I shine a light on the path – even if the light is faint, even if it only lights the way briefly or it’s only two steps ahead – every act of courage, of truth, of hope is an act of resistance.
My voice does matter. Each one of our voices matters. It is incumbent upon us to speak up and speak out wherever we can. To say the truth regardless of whether it’s comfortable to do so.
I am going to figure out how to do this. Let’s do it together. The time is now.
This is how we rise.