Taking yourself seriously can be challenging, but it’s the only way that you will make an impact in the world.
You have something to say. Stories to share. So tell them.
Here is an example from my work:
Last fall, when Planned Parenthood’s funding was being threatened, I wrote the essay below and posted it to Facebook. It was easily my most widely shared posts, generating hundreds of comments.
Write your personal stories and weave them into a bigger story. Believe in your voice. That means, believe in your direct experiences and the wisdom and gifts that those experiences delivered to you.
After that, find a way to share them with your tribe. This is how we heal ourselves and change this broken world.
I Not Only Stand with Planned Parenthood, I Celebrate It.
It’s 1984 and I am living in New York City studying acting at HB Studios. One day, I meet a ravishingly handsome man from Egypt who asks me out to dinner. He is a few years older than me and is in the States working on his Master’s Degree as well as managing a restaurant. We immediately become entangled in a steamy romance that will take us from NYC to Boston to Cairo together.
I’m in way too deep when the violence begins. I am shocked and too ashamed to admit to anyone that I am being hit on a regular basis. Before I will leave this relationship that will decimate my self esteem, I will get thrown out of a moving vehicle, down a flight of stairs and have to get a restraining order after I leave the relationship permanently. What catalyzes my final departure is that he bashes my head into a wall behind the bed, where I am sleeping at the time, because he has become paranoid that I am having an affair.
I am so deeply ashamed that I, an educated feminist, from a middle/upper middle class family, has gotten herself into this nightmare of a situation, that I don’t ask for help and I hide the facts from everyone.
Somewhere along the line, I get pregnant. I seriously consider having the baby, even though I know that I am too young and am in no way ready to become a mother.
He sits in the waiting room of a seedy clinic that I find out about in Spanish Harlem. Because I am white and because I am paying cash, I am taken ahead of the black girls and Puerto Rican girls who have gotten there before me but are paying with Medicaid. The doctor is a crass old white man who uses the N word while speaking to his nurse while I am partially under anesthesia. He is speaking degradingly about one of the other patients, one of the other young woman who has just had the procedure. I yell out, in my grogginess, “Don’t say that” and begin to cry. He and the nurse laugh.
I feel like I am going down a long tunnel and I hear a baby crying.
In the recovery room, I am put on a cot next to a young Spanish looking girl who is crying. She is young. Very young. I ask her age. She is fourteen. She tells me that her father did this to her and asks if she can come home with me. I say that I can’t take her with me, but I take off the gold cross that I am wearing around my neck and give it to her. At the time, I consider myself an atheist, and wear the cross only because it was a gift from my mother. But, as I hand it to her, I find myself saying “God bless you.”
When I go out to the waiting room, his only words to me are “Let’s go get some chicken for lunch.”
A few years later, I attend the Pro-Choice March in Washington D.C. with my mother. Though she has never marched for anything in her life and generally votes Republican, she wants to be there. As we walk together, she tells me her own story. When I was five years old, she was about to divorce my step-father, who was cheating on her when she found out that she was pregnant. It was still 2 years before Roe vs. Wade and abortion was illegal.
Let me interject for a moment that woman have always gotten abortions. Making them illegal does not stop them from getting them. It only jeopardizes their own lives.
My mother found out of a place where she could get an abortion. She was blindfolded in a parking lot of a shopping center in Maryland. She was taken, by strangers, in their car to a farmhouse and led up the stairs (still blindfolded.) The procedure was done with no anesthesia and no comforting words. She was put back in the car and dropped back in the parking lot where my step-father picked her up. She told no one.
That night, her fever spiked to 104 degrees. She almost died. She made it through and never told the story until she told me, as we marched together on a cold D.C. winter’s day.
I did not know Planned Parenthood existed when I got my abortion in that horrible clinic. My mother had no legal option and went through a terrifying and traumatizing experience having that illegal abortion as did millions of woman during those dark years.
I have never had one ounce of regret or guilt about the abortion I had. It was necessary, right, and my soul has always been completely at peace about it. My heart still aches for my young mother, terrified, ashamed and alone.
At the age of thirty-three, at exactly the right time for me, I gave birth to my perfect daughter, Chloe. I was mature enough and stable enough to parent her into the wonderful human being she is now.
The reason I am choosing to share my story today is that too many of us do not. We have been publicly shamed into thinking that abortion is morally reprehensible or an ugly choice, even if we are privately pro-choice or have had an abortion ourselves.
This is the patriarchy still at work, in our psyches and in our cells.
Being sexual beings and complex creatures, an unwanted or ill timed pregnancy is a very common occurrence in a young, fertile woman. We have the right to our own choices, timing and full sexuality. We have the right to not bring another life into this world when we cannot care for it with the fullness of our beings that each newborn needs and deserves. I not only stand with Planned Parenthood, I celebrate it.
I celebrate it’s right to exist, thrive and grow so that woman can pursue their passions, education, and richness of their lives with full access to birth control, health exams and if needed, safe, legal abortions.
This honoring is for all our mothers and grandmothers who did not have the freedom to move through the world in their own way. This is for their tears and overwhelm and suppressed creativity. It’s for their paintings that never got painted and their stories that never got written because they were raising child after child.
And this is for our daughters and granddaughters yet to be born. May you live whole, free and on your own terms.
And lastly, this is for us. This is for all of us.
Assignment for the Week:
Write an essay. Share it on social media or submit it to a blog or publication. Write on a topic that you are passionate about. Don’t be afraid. Write into the truth of your heart. You will be received.