Why I Marched (or, How to Choose Curiosity Over Fear)
Even if I knew the answers, giving my opinion about politics or the state of affairs in general would be a waste of time. No one wants to listen.
You know what all of this unrest reminds me of? You know that scene in Titanic, after the ship goes down (spoiler alert), and Rose just pops up out of the water, and starts screaming for Jack, but the camera pans out, and hundreds of people are in the water screaming at once? It's one of the best scenes in the movie, and it's terrifying.
Things feel like that right now. We're all in a unbearably cold sea, there's no light, we're isolated in a crowd, our boat just sank, we're all treading water in overly elaborate evening gowns, we're probably going to freeze to death if we don't drown first, and there isn't a life boat to be found.
No matter what side of the political aisle you're on, that's what it feels like, eh?
When we were little, my cousins and I used to play this mysterious game of "War" that I don't remember the rules to...if there were any, and don't remember any objective...if there was one. I think it was just something to do during the adult's cocktail hour* at our family's lake house.
*My therapist is rich.
I do remember it was supposed to be boys against girls, and I could never be trusted to ever stick to one side. This is the actual theme of my life.
This is why I went to the Women's March in Boston a couple weeks ago.
Stay with me...we're going to find out together whether any of this makes sense at the end.
I've been trying to take myself on day-trip adventures on the weekend because anxiety makes my apartment a prison. I doesn't really matter what I do as long as I am intentional about trying to look up and stay mindful. The cure for the debilitating side of anxiety, for me, is that intention. So when my friend Kate said she was thinking of going to one of the Women's Marches, and asked if I wanted to go, I blinked, wanted to say no....but had to say yes. My anxiety doesn't like crowds and new things we can't predict, which is exactly why I had to go.
Fear is a great isolator.
I tried to not spend the few days before worrying about the crowds and about the politics, or dwelling on whether I had a platform in which to march upon. I'm just not overly passionate about anything that doesn't affect me directly. I guess I've just never felt oppressed enough to be mad. That's a terrible reason to not be involved.
We left that day bright and early. I over-packed snacks and a change of clothes just in case. Anxiety is weird. Don't look for reason in my sandwiches and Chex Mix.
We met with Kate's amazing aunt and uncle, took the T into the city (the ominous screeching of the train's breaks and the slow shuffling feet through the smelly underground notwithstanding). When we got to the green, we walked with the crowd toward what sounded like cheering. It was warm and the sun was out. The sun! In January! It felt amazing. It felt like a deep cleansing breath. It felt like waking up after a good nap. It felt like hope and promise. It was all the metaphors ever, and it was what we needed.
I found myself sort of looking around taking in the sites, trying to feel inspired. I'm mostly dead inside, so it was almost a mute point. I did find myself canvasing the scene for danger, and looking for all possible exits. Sandwiches and hyper diligence are my anxiety's love language.
We weren't sure how many people were at the march, but considering we couldn't hear the speakers, we assumed a lot. There were people in trees trying to get a better view of the happenings. Seeing the people in the trees, a wave of FOMO washed over the dry shores of the desert of my heart: I want to be into something so much that it makes me want to climb a tree.
There were people there with signs for every cause in the book. Anyone who felt a little lost, displaced, unheard, oppressed, shamed, and straight up pissed was there.
I turned to Kate to say something, but was struck by the lady standing next to her. The woman looked to be in her 70's. Unless I had cut her leg off and counted the rings, I wouldn't know for sure. She was wearing one of those smiles that you can't help but wear when you're in a moment of bliss. It's how I look the half second before I bite into a fresh slice of DeFazio's pepperoni pizza. She had a beautiful face with soft skin that glowed with the sun and with joy. She was bundled up in a black coat and a blue scarf, standing next to Kate who was in her own black coat and and blue scarf. I threatened Kate's life to stand still as I took a picture.
The comparison of these two beautiful faces of different generations staring in the same direction with the same sense of hope and duty was enough to make me hungry.
All emotions make me hungry. I brought prosciutto/manchego/roasted red pepper/pesto sandwiches on seedless rye. Who doesn't like rye? Honestly.
As I ate like I would never see food again, I kept turning on my axis as one does when uncomfortable and not sure where to look. I saw a woman standing on a snow pile holding a sign that said, "Dumbledore's Army Still Recruiting!" She had an expression on her face that made me look at her a little longer than is polite, but I couldn't help it. She looked sad, but not in a crying way. She looked really tired and weary. She looked focused and was holding the crap out of that sign above her head with one hand, but she had that look that sort of said, "I shouldn't have to be here, and I'm really tired of carrying this, so I better keep going." I took a picture of her too.
We eventually started to march. Well, we thought we were, anyway. We walked in the same direction as the crowd. Slowly, muddily, a little blindly without knowing what was beyond the hill in front of us. We tried to stay in the sun, and we tried to stay together. As we crested the hill, we saw a small valley holding a sea of marchers.
I think "a sea" might be the only way to say it, really. It was more people I've ever seen in person in my life. So many people had shown up to the march that the route wasn't long enough to prevent a bottle neck. There were so many people, in fact, that we had been standing in the overflow lot the whole time and didn't know it. the Emcee announced that they were working on clearing the march route, and in the meantime, we should introduce ourselves to someone we were standing near that we didn't know.
I swallowed the warm anxiety trickle in my throat, and turned to an older couple standing behind me. I thrust my big sweaty paw in their hands and introduced myself. I immediately forgot their names, obviously, but asked if they lived close by. About an hour away. I told them where I was from. Their faces lit up in unison that I would come from so far away. "Well, it's an easy 3 hours." I disclaimed myself. They asked and I told them why I was there, "I've never been to a march, and I was really curious. Plus, I'm trying to do things that are out of my comfort zone." They smiled and said that was great.
They were there because it didn't feel right enjoying the protections and freedoms they have when other people are so repressed.
It eventually became known that the march was being halted because of the amount of people that showed up. I've never been so pumped about something being canceled in all my life. So many people came that they actually stopped the flow of traffic. That's something. Even if this march wasn't your particular brand of whiskey, you have to admit that when 60,000 people are projected but over 200,000 people actually come...it's pretty impressive.
We headed home, and I went to bed that night full on a cool experience and the embarrassing amount of sushi I had unapologetically GrubHub'ed for myself.
I asked Kate the other day why she went to the march. She's always beautifully honest, and I always throw her a Hail Mary when I have no idea what I want to say in a blog. I mean, yeah, we drove together, met her family, walked around for a few hours, and then drove the 3 hours home, but I don't know if I actually asked how she felt about the experience. I also filibustered her family the whole day because that's what I do when I'm nervous and want to sound more smarter than I am. She said she went because she wanted to feel like her opinion and presence mattered. She went because showing up makes a difference. That her presence could have made a difference for even one person.
She'd be perfect if she liked rye bread.
I didn't know it that Saturday, but looking at it now, I think my march was for my fear. Fear has painted me into some very dark corners. Fear has made choices for me. Fear has taken away my voice. Fear has tried to keep me separate. Fear has kept me from living the life others enjoy. Fear has made me an angry person who doesn't listen. Fear gave me my battle with anxiety.
One of the reasons anxiety became more than a normal emotion for me is because my life became black and white. Things were right or wrong. You were for me or against me. You were in love with me or you hated me.
I went to the march to tell my anxiety to shove it. Fear won't keep me from opening up and finding the grey areas between two sides.
I love the grey now. That's exactly where I believe.
I believe that taking away guns won't stop gun violence, and won't make people suffering from the agony of mental health imbalance better. I believe that making abortions illegal won't stop them, and I believe in teaching about safe sex is empowering. I believe that we need less shame around sex, and we need more young leaders to explain that sex can be sacred if we let it. I believe the The New Deal and Reaganomics were equally effective for their time. I believe who you love and how you want to be identified is your business alone, and it's awesome.
I believe in responsibility. I believe in humor. I believe in patience. I believe in being patient when you don't have patience. I believe in sandwiches. I believe in God and I believe in yoga. I believe in hope as a result of hard work. I believe that what people think of me is none of my business. And I believe in the phrase "Don't be a dick."
<If there was a politician out there that would campaign on a platform of, "I'm not 100% sure what the answers are, but i'm going to try to listen to every opinion I can because things aren't black and white, and most of all, i'm going to try to not be a dick," I'd quit my job and campaign for them today.>
I believe fear mongering doesn't keep us safer. And I believe that there are some really scared people...on both sides...that are in the icy water screaming for help, and that we can't hear them.
I believe a cup of tea and a conversation is the strongest medicine there is, and I believe that picking one side and vilifying the other doesn't make your cause any more just.
I believe in the cyclical nature of history, and I believe that the world isn't ending. I also believe that it's beautiful to see a group of people peacefully gathered together for something they feel strongly about (assuming there aren't white hoods involved)...regardless of how I feel about their message.
Those beliefs made my curiosity bigger than my fear, so I went to the march. That's the whole heart of change. Choosing curiosity over fear is my biggest belief...I believe that it'll change everything.
Unfortunately, policy rarely changes because of a protest anymore. That's a bummer. But what happens in a good old fashioned march for a cause is that someone in the crowd who was feeling increasingly isolated and lost got to feel a part of something bigger than them self. It just so happened that the someone was me.
So that's why I was there, as it turns out. For a day, I was one less person in the water screaming for a lifeboat.