Today I march for people who cannot march for themselves, for people who have been marginalized, silenced, and cast aside as less than. I have been lucky in life that I was afforded opportunities to rise above my challenges and hardships, financial and otherwise. Yes, I worked hard, and yes, there were many people who helped me in countless ways. I didn’t get where I am alone. I march to pay forward my good fortune. I understand at a deep and relentless level that injustice against any single person is injustice for our society as a whole, and we shouldn’t rest until everyone has not just equality, but equity.
My 2018 resolution can be summed up in one word: Yes. My friend, Ria, recently told me about an article she read in which the author explained that when you commit to saying yes, your day ends up in a completely different place than where it started. And I’m all for that. Yes to:
I’m going to make 2018 the best year of my life so far in every way. And I’m going to lift others as I rise. We’re doing this.
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” ~Shirley Chisholm, first black woman elected to the United States Congress, first black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination
In other words, make your own space. Get in there, and create one. An invitation isn’t always offered. And while I would love to tell you that patience is a virtue, I’ve found that patience creates just one thing—waiting. For our turn. To be smart enough, capable enough, and experienced enough. We are constantly waiting to be ready to do something. Stop waiting. The truth is you are enough, right now, just as you are. And if for some reason that doesn’t work, then create the whole damn table and invite people to join you. Make room for yourself and for others. There’s so much more to be gained by all of us if we foster inclusion rather than exclusion. Open up your mind, heart, eyes, and ears. Speak up, rise up, and take others with you. That’s the name of the game in 2018, and we’re all invited to play.
“Write what should not be forgotten…” ~Isabel Allende
I’m in the midst of writing some difficult passages in Emerson’s second book. There are characters in the book that have been through terrible times. They’re reliving those times, explaining them to Emerson because it will make a difference to her journey. And I hope it will make a difference to readers, and the journeys of readers. I hope their resilience, determination, and love for life inspires us all to be the best people we can be. I hope it makes us kind, grateful, and resolved to build a better world for ourselves and for each other. Life is tough; together we are tougher.
Nevertheless, she persisted, and won. I was buoyed by the elections on Tuesday and snapped this photo of my book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, outside of Trump Hotel in celebration. Emerson’s story is a hopeful one, a story I wrote when I most needed to feel hopeful about our future. Tuesday’s elections renewed my faith in a committed group of citizens who care about their neighbors and making the world a better place. While we may find ourselves in dark times now, I will never stop looking for and creating light. I will persist. I hope you will, too.
The outpouring of honesty and support in the wake of #MeToo stories is the only light I can see in this darkness. With every post, I am growing even more resolved to help women and girls discover and use their voices to speak their truths. I have also been very grateful for the men in my life who have come forward to say, “I hear you. I see you. I believe you. What can I do to help?” Here are my answers:
If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
And here are some other things that are on my mind as I watch my social media feeds fill up with this very sad realization that we have been harmed for far too long:
– As someone who has had to call people out for poor behavior (publicly, loudly, and repeatedly), we must have each other’s backs. It is an extremely sad fact that I have experienced even more bullying from other women than I have from men. Even though bullying is not assault, it is certainly harassment. And ladies, we just cannot tolerate this anymore, collectively or individually. Women who treat people badly, whether those people are male or female, must also be called on the carpet and stopped.
– This is not a male versus female problem. This is a human problem. I am incredibly fortunate that the men in my life are upstanding, respectful, and kind. (As one friend recently pointed out, a**holes don’t last long in my world.) Ladies, if someone mistreats you, promptly get rid of him. And if there are reasons you can’t get rid of him, then get help immediately from friends, family members, support groups, co-workers, or public services. This kind of man is not good enough for you. Either he treats you well, or he gets his walking papers. Period. I have seen far too many of my amazing female friends waste their time and energy in relationships with men who do not deserve them. It’s far better to not be in a relationship than to be in one with a man who isn’t good for you. I have learned this the hard way.
– Do not suffer in silence. Intimidation is one of the prime ways that sexual harassment and assault is perpetuated, and perpetrators count on the fact that you won’t say something to someone. Stand up, speak out, and get support. If you don’t know who to call, then call me. I’ll help. I’ll always help.
The documentary screening of 4 Stories for New York gave me hope for our country and our collective sense of humanity during a week when it was sorely needed. The documentary follows four young people who we commonly refer to as dreamers. They were undocumented and Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) has helped them to get on a path through DACA to gain their proper paperwork.
I had to fight back tears watching the documentary, and then I learned that the four young people were in the audience with their families. They came here looking for a better life, exactly as my ancestors did, and these young people want to go to college, find jobs, and work hard to improve their lot in life and make this country the best it can be. I couldn’t have been more impressed with their bravery, dignity, and determination, and with the work that VOLS does to help the neediest people in our communities.
As individuals, we have an opportunity and responsibility to build up our country. Please don’t stop fighting for justice. Please don’t get discouraged by the hate, racism, sexism, and every other horrifying -ism we read and hear about in any one of our non-stop communication channels. There is far too much work to do. There are far too many people who need help. Don’t get distracted by ignorance.
Collectively we can make an enormous difference in the lives of others. Things will change, and they will change because of us. Keep fighting the good fight. It’s absolutely worth it.
Hurricane Harvey has dropped more rain than Hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, & Andrew combined. There are 5K evacuees in the Houston Convention Center. It’s estimated that there will be a total of 30K people who will be evacuated in the coming days. Please help if you can. I donated to the San Antonio Food Bank because they are the closest food bank to the impacted area in Texas and are in full relief mode to help. Here are other organizations that can use our support:
Houston Food Bank
Texas Diaper Bank
SPCA of Texas
Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
Save The Children
What unites us and divides us?
As women and men, as adults and children, as different races and creeds and colors, as the haves and the have-nots, as humans.
How can we cross to the other side of the chasm between us, to a new perspective, a new point of view? Is it even possible to generate real understanding? Can we walk in someone else’s shoes and leave ours behind, find and use all their filters and lenses of experience that cannot help but alter the plain truth of seeing and hearing?
I would like to believe it’s possible. I would like to believe that our imaginations can take us anywhere we truly wish to go. I am trying. I am trying.
This is the hardest, most necessary work we ever do. We have to let the rivers of reality and fantasy wash over us in equal amounts. We have to accept where we are if we are to chart the course to where we want to go.
To make the climb. To take the journey. To walk and walk and walk until finally, mercifully, we sink down to the ground of compassion and empathy, letting it cradle and support us, until we find the strength to rise and say, “Now, I understand.”