I have been bothered, angry, upset and on the verge of tears all day, and I'm not quite sure why or how to move forward. Of course this happens the day AFTER I see my therapist and she's going out of town for three weeks. I thought maybe, like my first blogging impulse, if I put this out of my brain and into the world where maybe fifteen people will see it and it will be done, I will be able to get on with things. I guess that's what I will try to do. I'm not sure I'll be able to share this more widely, but we'll see. I'm going to say things here I don't think I've ever said out loud before. I also guess I should say there may be trigger warnings in what I write below - mine (which I didn't even realize I had until last November) were certainly set off...
This morning started off like any other - off I went to the subway, as I do every day. When I saw on the monitor that my train was eight minutes away, I figured I would get out my book and read until the train arrived. When my train arrived, it was very crowded; I had to walk as if through a maze to find a spot where I could stand with my book. I was standing, holding a pole, alongside two other women.
On the other side of the pole was a very large man (this is actually pertinent), who looked at me and said, "heh, I didn't think YOU were going to be able to fit in that tiny space!" I looked at him askance and said, "I fit fine, thanks." Then he said, "I don't know why all you women try to fit in where you don't belong. There are too many women here trying to fit in where they don't belong." I looked at him, blinked, and looked away. Then I stealthily put away my book (cover photo is at left) because I was afraid it might get him started again.
As we all stood there uncomfortably, the man kept inching his way closer to the other two women, who kept inching away from him. They were both younger and smaller than me, and much smaller than him. He was using his size and his gender to intimidate us all, to remind us that we couldn't take up as much space as he could. The women looked at me and I looked at them - we all looked at each other with recognition. We knew we would protect each other, if necessary, but were still afraid in the moment. It was a tense ride and thankfully he got off about three stops later, after bumping into one of the smaller women on his way off.
This man may have been mentally ill; he may have been socially awkward; we may have been overreacting; I guess I'll never know. What I DO know is that while I was standing there, feeling a threat in the atmosphere, I was suddenly thrown back to the time I was groped on the subway. I was suddenly thrown back to the time I was assaulted in college. In both of those moments, I was silent, because I was too afraid to make sound. On the subway, something I do every day, I was filled with terror, all because a man thought he had the right to intimidate me in an enclosed space. And then I was filled with rage at the fact that I LET him intimidate me. I LET him fat shame me. I chose to be afraid and put a book away because I didn't want to add any fuel to his fire. I did that.
I've lived in New York a long time. As I've gotten older and larger, I guess I've felt safety in my age and size and hidden behind the invisibility of an older, larger woman. After the election, and certainly after last weekend in Charlottesville, I feel myself getting more and more afraid - afraid for myself, afraid for my friends, afraid for the world. Something has been unleashed, and people (mainly men) feel empowered to do and say whatever they want. I also feel myself getting more and more angry, at basically everyone, but mainly at the members of my family who voted for this...this...hate. That man in Washington D.C. is a physical manifestation of hate. I'm so afraid of the answers that I'm afraid to ask those members of my family the hard questions - why?! How?! WHY?! The feelings of betrayal are going to be hard to get past.
How am I supposed to fight my rage, especially when what all the supporters do is use my hate to justify theirs? False equivalencies are driving me insane. Nearly every day, I find myself screaming in my head at something else someone in government said and I think, "What the f*ck is wrong with you?!?!?!?!" That's all I keep screaming, over and over, but I'm screaming it inside. My migraines, long held at bay, are back. I started grinding my teeth after my surgeries in 2011 and it's now worsening. I keep starting my therapy sessions with "I'm so MAD." But so is my therapist. She says it's becoming harder and harder to talk about anything else in most of her sessions with clients, because the anger and fear is everywhere. And it's hard to figure out how to fight the fear, or channel the anger and put it to good use. I've been contributing money to worthy causes left and right, but that can't last.
Like most everyone else, I have my demons. With the opening of the Pandora's Box that happened in November, I deeply resent that my demons have been unleashed as well. Things I thought I had lived through, dealt with, and moved away from are now terrorizing me on a near-daily basis. I deeply resent that I am frequently afraid, while also recognizing my privilege - my terror is mostly in my mind, but my friends' and fellow human beings' terror is right in front of them. It's like living in a daily f*cking Kafka novel.
I've been reveling in the safe space that is the theater lately, but even there, I find myself retreating inside myself instead of giving in to the wonderful feeling of community. The readings I've been attending lately are evenings filled with joy, yet I've remained outside of it. It's been much easier to smile, wave, run out and email my praise later. I hate myself when I do that. I guess in the interest of self-care, we all do what we can to put one foot in front of the other. But when I scream to myself "What the f*ck is wrong with you?!?!", I know the answer and still don't know which way to turn.