This past weekend, January 21, 2017, there was a significant demonstration of solidarity for human rights, not just in Washington DC but across the USA and around the world. It was a focused time to think about what really, really, really matters, and to do something about it. I had 2 nieces, 2 sisters, 2 granddaughters, one daughter, and several friends attend in Washington DC, Los Angeles, St. Petersburg FL, Fargo ND, and even here in Williamsburg…these are the ones that I know of. I did not attend, and I’m not even sure how I feel about it after the fact….I don’t regret not attending but I am very proud of those who did.
I stayed away deliberately, because I don’t like huge crowds and, frankly, I was concerned about it turning ugly. The criminal protests and damage that was done on Friday for the inauguration was deplorable. I also don’t attend concerts because of overcrowding, and the anticipated gridlock on the interstates and city roads also was a deterrent. It seems to me that my preference for solitude is growing, and that too is food for thought. I am comfortable with my choice and I am comfortable with the choice others made. That is one of the benefits of living in the USA – the right to make these choices for myself.
It’s not that I want to have others speak for me, or that I am unwilling to stand up for what I believe in. In the past, this Mama Bear has been known to not only defend but to attack priests, the medical profession, family members, bosses, and even basketball coaches, among others, when I felt thwarted, threatened, or demeaned. It’s just not my style if I have other options these days. The option I chose this weekend was prayer, for those marching, as well as for our country and the people in charge of it. I even attended church on Sunday, which those who know me will be (pleasantly?) surprised about, and then several of us talked about the marches for a few hours afterwards. One had been to DC and two others had participated right here in town (which I hadn’t known about). No judgments were made on either side; it was a true time of simply sharing experiences.
I am also proud of those I know who did go. I got tears when I saw the pictures of my daughter and granddaughters dressed in Superwoman and Wonder Woman capes, holding signs and smiling. They are learning that they have a voice and are using it, and that they are not alone. I was happy to see my nieces also taking risks and making statements with their clothing and signs to stand up for what they feel strongly about, not to just attend because it was a thing to do on a Saturday. My sisters are on vacation but still took time to join in a march near where they are. Making time for what is important, instead of making excuses for what is inconvenient, is a valuable skillset we can all learn from. We all do what we can, when we can, with what we have, in our own ways.
What I’ve been thinking about is how I took the past year as a sabbatical to recalculate what is important to me now. It is too easy to get lost in the everydayness of our lives, to stay on autopilot because we don’t know what else to do, to wait for a better time to do what needs to be done. I spent many months thinking about my values, religious, political, and otherwise, and I still can’t recite them, but I feel more whole for having gone into the weeds and through the vast fields of doubt and uncertainty to find myself again.
Going within, taking the time to do this, relearning how to take care of myself, and coming up with a plan for being true to myself has been a priceless opportunity for me. I think everyone should take a sabbatical to do this because a single-day march, even for a cause as big as this one, is not enough to sustain new thoughts and ideas. We need action, planned, deliberate, sustainable action. Maybe this is where I can help. We have not begun anything new yet; we have declared the ending of what was. Now is the time to prepare for a new beginning. That is what my sabbatical did for me. It helped me let go of the old ways, the old ideas, the old relationships, the old dreams, and it gave me time to process the change that had occurred and ushered in the necessary space for rethinking these ideals. I am just now sprouting a new beginning.