Thoughts on Hope, Marching with Year-Tired Feet
Is wild hope the food of fools?
Is it madness to march in the streets one year later, when it feels at times like so little has changed…and arguably worsened?
It’s been a year since I marched in the first Women’s March on Washington. I don’t think any of us knew what was coming that day in LA, with just shy of a million women barely inching forward, with Exhilaration and Exhaustion interlocking their proverbial fingers just like we were. Together as one.
I wore the same clothes in tribute, in reverence in some way—and because somewhere in the series of last year’s protests I decided that my Good Girls Revolt T-shirt and bell-bottoms were my chosen uniform of the resistance. And yet, I’m nowhere near the same woman walking.
They say the personal is political, but I know that they don’t mean what that’s come to mean for me—that the way I fall in love has an eerie synchronicity with my political understanding and engagement.
First, dumb and shiny-eyed in the Obama administration, riding on high on good news and progress and everything being generally good and happy and “fine”, so I didn’t have to look at the hard work to be done underneath, gravitating toward a long series on very safe non-relationships that never got off the ground.
Then the world exploded with 45—and Year One became a year of operatic extremes of the opposite. Picking up my picket signs and becoming a revolutionary, a firebrand, feeling more wildly alive than ever before—but also sometimes feeling like I had to live as a symbol more than a soul. Even my faith involved a righteous war where safety, family, familiarity, comfort, certainty, would absolutely be casualties.
There was no corner where I wasn’t fighting my cause, so I found one in the exhausted embrace of paramours that more resembled weary soldiers, to keep me warm while the world crumbled outside. None of them would make it in the long term, but with fire and fury all around, who among us could say with confidence that we were long for this world?
But the human soul cannot live in a constant state of grim battle.
I needed rest, rebuilding—some kind of life with a day-to-day foundation under it. So when my soldiering companions ran out the clock, at they were destined to do, I tried to swim through the grief alone, with little sense of light around me, and a lot of water left in my lungs.
Then, at the close of the year, when there was just enough light and hope to let wounds heal, I found the good, grounded, what-might-well-become-love I was looking for: brother in arms in this grander fight of ours too, but this soldier didn’t look like the others. Less wrapping of disaffected pain and distance, more extending an offer of company, and no sign of a secret plan to ask me to surrender my will, spirit, soul.
No more archetypal lovers. No more opera. Just enough romance to sweep me off my feet, and make me hope that something healthier and capable of growth was possible.
Then—abruptly, at the start of Year Two, this too was ripped away from me. A twist of fate no one could have foreseen, no one’s fault, just…gone.
The details are not so important, except to say that I foolishly thought that throughout the past year of personal and political battling that somehow I had learned life’s rubric, steeled myself for the worst. But maybe it’s exactly living that way that will bring sure disappointment.
Shoes will drop. Plans are uneasy aircrafts. Nothing gold can stay.
So how does one keep going? How do I hold on to hope when there’s no guarantee that any of this will go the way that we plan?
As much as I know that everything is process, everything takes time, I still find myself instinctively approaching most everything in my life by pendulum prescription. Perhaps because I’ve spent too long getting high on the aphrodisiac of apocalypse. I sway between wild, hopeful fantasy and “let’s make love while the world burns down”, and inevitably fight the hangover of despair as a result.
I’ve never been the kind of girl who’s been much good at walking through life with no expectation at all. Passion is too deeply buried in the fiber of my bones, and trust me—I’m no good for this world, or your company, burning at a more palatable wattage.
So if there are no guarantees, and I can’t stomach adjusting my expectations to grayscale…how do I go on? How do any of us?
I think my answer lies in a question. What is the purpose of a protest, anyway?
Is it really to oust a despicable administration? Not really. An impeachment trial is unfortunately not guaranteed by the outcry of the masses in the streets of the world, though I often wish otherwise. So why, then, do we march?
We march to know we’re not alone.
We march to remember that as much as this monster has tried to convince us through racism, sexism, xenophobia, demonizing the other—we are a part of the human race.
We are hands with calluses and without, skin of all shades, bodies carrying a lifetime of victory and defeat and rising again.
And when I walk so tight-close to those bodies that they literally hold me up, so that I forget how tired my feet are, I remember with a deafening clarity: we belong to each other.
And as my heart soars with this, I remember in the cold sunshine that made Los Angeles shine in both marches, that it isn’t all darkness.
I remember watching with my brother as people of every race, religion, orientation, and age bracket stood up for our Muslim brothers and sisters at the LAX protest—moved to involuntary tears within moments.
I remember that a year ago, the predators of #MeToo were still living in power and secrecy. And now we listen to a stage of survivors and activists proclaiming truth, because this exposé hasn’t died down with the next news cycle but spawned a movement in response, taking action: #TimesUp indeed.
I remember that although I’ve left a lifetime of things and people behind, I’ve also found a new church, in a whole new city of people I love. I’ve found a voice I’m not afraid to use, a little bravery amid the heartbreak, and a lot of openness in having my world detonated and rebuilt from the ground up.
And I know in moments like these that no grief can break me, national or personal.
Because I reach out and on one side there is my sister, bold and brilliant and changing the world and finding her voice on the other side of the country. And on the other side, my dear friend who puts her art out there everyday, who’s seen me through multiple heartbreaks and let me walk with her in her own. And behind them, all around, so many I may never meet—but whose specific strengths and stories inspire me, even unknown, even from afar.
We’re all walking a little heavier this year, perhaps, it’s true. We’re not so much fueled by the endorphins of outrage as we are trying to comfort each other in our grieving, in our weariness. The realization that change is necessary is often swift—but change itself is long, strange, mysterious.
So how do we live? How do we hope, especially when it feels most foolish?
We keep walking, keep moving forward together, because we are never alone.