TeleWonderWoman Week Three
This week has been so surreal that I don’t even know how to journal it out. So a stream of consciousness is coming and I’m gonna try not to filter or judge myself for it. It will come back to TeleWonderWoman, I promise, but a lot of brain stew is getting sorted into meat and potatoes here.
Damn… this is gonna be a weird one.
Two weeks ago… I think it was Sunday the 8th… I was lying in bed unable to sleep and feeling rotten, both symptom-wise and emotionally. The Women’s March on Washington was coming up on the 21st. I’d signed up for it immediately, but as the scope of the event unraveled I realized in no way could my body attend. Chronic illness keeps you on your toes, girl. The reality of that tore out my guts.
Collapsing emotionally while lying on my side, I thought of Amy Cuddy’s poses. I uncurled from my fetal position. I broadened my chest and my hips. I thought of my List of Five, which I haven’t fully explained yet: I have a list of five women’s names I repeat to lift me from the negative thoughts. They each embody a trait I want to draw into my body: brute strength and honor (Wonder Woman), unapologetic badassery (Carrie Fisher), otherworldly strength and grace (Muffin), sloppy silly love (my dog Mitra), and, well, everything that makes up Michelle Obama’s boundless class and ethic and heart and basically “when they go low, we go high”.
I breathed and opened and repeated this list, over and over. I felt tougher and calmer and more focused. And realized that if I felt that frustrated and forlorn, chances were others in my position did, too.
The next day, I shot an email to Allie and Erica of Suffering the Silence, an organization that brings together people with invisible illness in disability. I shared an idea we could execute quickly: we’d ask for volunteers to carry photos of people with illness who couldn’t march with them to the Women’s March on Washington. The next afternoon, we were on the phone splitting up responsibilities.
The following morning, #MarchingWithMe was born.
The rest of that week, I fielded some emails. Allie put photos of “Supporters” into banners, Erica handled press and social media, and I handled correspondence and matching people up as our Google docs started to come in with registrants.
The Monday before the march, I muscled the five-hour drive to D.C. to stay with Muffin and Mr. Muffin for a week (the fact that they live in D.C. was coincidental). It had been a year since I’d been in her space, and with two best friends both having delicate bodies managing long-term chronic illness, time together is extremely precious. We had glorious, simple plans: short walks, me reading to her, a trip to a park where vultures train their young, and just so many conversations and movies and just time together that is rare when two friends are sick and live just too far apart to make the drive regularly manageable.
And then my throat started to hurt. Three days after I arrived, I left.
Muffin is severely immune compromised. She cannot be exposed to a cold, and I had brought one into her space. We denied this as long as possible because when I get even the slightest bit rundown it’s extremely common for my throat to go sore. But we couldn’t take the risk. Trying to be strong but excessively frustrated and angry and sad, I drove away.
That was Thursday. We’d gotten just enough press to have registrations flood us at the end, so I’d already spent two hours that morning sending out #MarchingWithMe partner emails. I drove furiously the five hours home. Then sat down at my desk and didn’t stop for another six.
The problem is, when your body needs to conserve energy on a constant basis, any dramatic shift in emotion has to be tempered. On top of the physical toll of driving and working, I was so angry and depleted at leaving my dearest friend so shortly after I’d gotten to see her. My body was screaming as I typed over two-hundred emails that same night. Between the burning in my throat, the ache in my body from the five-hour drive, the headache I was nursing and the overall shake and burning panic from not having eaten enough, I was making myself even sicker. And then there was the beautiful emotional part — fielding emails from thankful people who had, indeed, been very much in the same boat regarding feeling powerless and angry about not being able to show their advocacy physically.
In no way could I have anticipated both the physical and emotional spoons needed for the campaign. Which is incredible, in a way: I had thought we’d get thirty or maybe a hundred people on board, and by the times we closed registration we had three hundred and fifty.
But Friday night, as social media streams started filling with our #MarchingWithMe hashtag and my roommate was on her way to D.C., I journaled:
“I both feel very proud and a part of something big, and at the same time lonely and lost. Because no matter the energy in the moment or the overall connection to my fellow human beings, it always comes down to this: me alone and not feeling well.”
I was sick from the exertion, still sad at not preparing for the march itself, and alone. Not just alone, but lonely. I spent Saturday alternatively glued to social media and the television and forcing myself to tend: eat, breathe, go for a walk, lay down, leave the phone, rest.
By Saturday night, I’d screenshotted the most joyous signs of humanity ever. Our Marchers and Supporters blew our minds. And my friends who carried me or other Supporters with them… well… #MarchingWithMe is a hashtag for them in my life forever now.
People are good. If we keep working together, I think this country will be okay.
But by 4 PM yesterday — while friends were still marching — I had to start seriously medicating. But 5:30 I was in bed. I got up to walk Mitra, mixed my meds for the week, and took enough to help me manage the pain and sleep through the night. I was out by 10 PM, and slept for twelve hours, only waking to nurse the migraine that I woke up also having to tend.
And then today… oh… today. My aunt passed away.
So now I’m sitting in the dark trying to breathe and process this surreal week:
- Driving to and then having my heart break from leaving Muffin.
- Connecting 350 amazing strangers with #MarchingWithMe so that we had representation at the Women’s March on Washington and at marches all over the country, and in Toronto!
- Seeing the most amazing president of my lifetime pass the torch to a man I do not and will not accept.
- Watching as #MarchingWithMe and millions around the world expressed the same fervent disapproval and resistance.
- Managed this evolving cold, ten hours of driving, and the toll the extra hours put on a body I hate to admit is physically weaker than I pretend it is.
- The death of a good, good woman who my uncle and mother and grandparents and sister and so many people (including me, of course, but their loss is much more intimate) loved loved loved dearly.
Throughout all of this, I have been pondering TeleWonderWoman, of course.
The Tele part has been rather simple: it seems that just recognizing that I was utilizing television as a habit and crutch erased it as both. I simply don’t watch it during the day. At night, I get things done first before collapsing into bed. I spend more time making a choice about what I want to watch, and then am harsher with myself about just turning it off after. And just because I’ve had to much to do, I’ve looked more to books and work and less to the television anyway. (I confess that yesterday I watched three episodes of shows. But dog knows how many I have stored up from nights of not watching any at this point.)
As far as my Wonder Woman poses go: At the beginning of this whole Challenge, I noticed how easy it was to flip negative thoughts into positive ones. And it still is regarding some things: when I think negatively about certain men of my past, or how stressed I am financially, or when I’m nervous about someone I’m to meet in the moment, both the Power Poses and my List of Five help me to recenter quite quickly. And that’s been wonderful; I do feel more empowered overall.
But I can’t think my way out of other things, and I don’t think I should try to. And I don’t think I want to.
My body is really hard to live in sometimes. It feels a lot of pain. It takes a lot of work to manage. It’s a lot of responsibility. And it requires a cool head and calm heart to do so without losing my shit. My very closest friend faces exponentially worse. As I drove away from her, we talked on the phone and I pointed out that I give us both a shitload of credit for the strength of our friendship. I think we handle the overlap of our separate struggles with compassion, grace, and patience. We were both so frustrated and disappointed in my leaving, but we didn’t blame each other or ourselves. We supported each other’s loss as we nursed our own. We’ve had to do that and much harder over and over again. I find that one of the many very special things I cherish in my Muffin.
I can’t always be cool about being single. On Friday night, my body had collapsed to the point that I was feeling extremely vulnerable and lonely. That quote up there embodies that. Being single for anyone can be hard — you have to handle all practical aspects of life by yourself, as well as the more complex ones. I think I manage it well. And there are parts of single life that I love, cherish, and will have a hard time letting go of when the next love comes along. But when I’m on fucking empty because I’ve given it all I’ve got… that’s when I just want someone just a strong as me by my side to take some of the hard work away. Or at least to offer some tenderness.
And flipping negative thought only works in this political climate if it flips into action. The amazing thing about TeleWonderWoman is that by focusing on empowerment and people like Wonder Woman and Michelle Obama and Carrie Fisher, I wasn’t just trying to calm negative thought in positive. I was refocusing into strength. Which meant, on January 8th, that strength would manifest into action. It did.
I don’t regret it.
This week, I need to tend to my body. I need to write the pieces due too long ago. And curl back into my introverted, solitary cocoon so that my body knows it is still my priority. And I need to maybe switch up my list again to throw in a lady with some grounding inner strength to call upon. Which is one of the most magical parts of this self-self-help kinda life experiment thingy: you get to change it up as you go.
I’ll just leave you (me) with two questions I journaled on my phone while walking Mitra Thursday night:
- “How productive is optimism? I haven’t tried to positive today’s situation other than to be practical, and to be compassionate to both [Muffin] and I, and give us props for how well we handle a complicated friendship. Are optimists actually happier?”
- “Can you change your overall demeanor? How much of your inherent pep or pop can be changed by practices such as I’m experimenting with?”
And, finally, I’ll leave you (me) with this, sent to me by my Marcher in San Francisco: