In Shamwana, I would have a hard time sleeping on Saturday nights. Well, I had a hard time sleeping a lot of nights, but on Saturday my mind would be full of everything I wanted to write and I’d try to organize it in my head to be more efficient on Sunday morning. I was always worried I’d run out of time and leave untold stories floating away. The guards would bring thermoses of hot water at sunrise and leave them on the table where we ate our meals. The water was boiled and filtered and parasite-free, and we used it for our tea, softening it with powdered milk. Luxury. I often got up before sunrise and would ask the guard to fill the thermos early. They’d take the pot of water from the fire, fill the thermos, and politely deliver it to me. In the beginning, they thought I was working all morning, and were so grateful I would make all this effort for them. It took time to explain that I was writing home about the week, telling their story. I was so worried that another team member would get up and I’d have to give up the laptop for a more important purpose; I wrote frantically.
Now my Sunday routine is not a matter of life and death the way it was then. Not that I was I saving lives with my prose, but I felt it saved me. It was an outlet for my frustrations, a chance to use my native language, and a means of connecting to the world I left behind. I had agreed not to put anything in the public domain while I was working for that organization without it being approved first. Safety concerns being the rationale. With teams in dangerous areas, it made sense that information distributed was monitored to prevent inadvertent danger. That’s why I kept it all as emails. I could say whatever I wanted. It cramped my style to be edited by people I didn’t know and it had a propaganda-ish feel to it.
This blog is not intimate correspondence and I have no idea who reads it. I am continually surprised when I hear from people commenting on a post. I started writing this when the publisher told me I should, and I just did as I was told. I never thought people would actually read it! And now it seems a responsibility (one I enjoy) and a risk. The risk being, I’m not anonymous. When I put it on here, I need to consider who’s affected. When I write about my own thoughts and feelings, so what? It’s just me. But leaving my job, falling in love, struggling family members, all wove their way in here and now I’ve got a cast of characters to consider. It’s fun to write without regard. The Writing Down The Bones mentality is freeing and more satisfying. Go for the jugular, feel free to write the worst crap in America, gets rid of the nagging editor and good shit comes out. Ah, but what if people read it?
What if I wrote about abuses I see in our system? Real abuses? Dangerous abuses? I have as many frustrations in our system here as I did in Shamwana. I have written about them in general terms, but have started wondering how powerful it would be to get more specific. The risk: everyone knows where I live and where I work. How hard would it be to put names to those characters?
When people are marginalized in a system, there are patterns that keep the abuse alive. Fear is a biggie. Fear of losing health insurance, one’s home, kids’ education, paid vacation, the list goes on and on. There are all sorts of ways to keep people repressed. Many are subtle, some overt and we can get so entrenched in our own patterns it becomes more and more difficult to identify it as repression. And so it goes on.
For all the times we, at the Women’s Center, have had to counsel women about breaking abusive patterns they find themselves in, we often don’t recognize how we end up in similar patterns. We work in a system willing to sacrifice women for fiscal gain. Shocking? True. And it is happening everywhere. And what do we do?
Deciding to resign wasn’t easy. I thought long and hard about how I could still advocate and work for women without enabling this corrupt system. I didn’t have any firm answers when I made the final decision to go, but I must say, watching the fallout has been-––what’s the word-––affirming, maybe? Oh, really? Can’t find someone to do what I was doing? Really? Let’s see….have I been saying that for five years? Hmm, yes, I think so.
Ugh, I’m stuck. This is getting too heavy and bogged down. I want to write about the phone call. The one when I was in the garden. Happily planting peas and beans and topless in the warm sun. Oh, how modern technology has allowed this. Business calls where we don’t have to be attached to a wall or a building or a booth. In my garden in bikini bottom, seulement. When I started on my say, I thought I should put a top on. Even though no one could see me, I thought perhaps I’d be more assertive if I weren’t in a vulnerable state of dress (or undress). But my hands were dirty and I started on my tirade and was on a roll and didn’t feel like interrupting. In fact, as it went on, I felt like the sun was charging my batteries. I stood up, faced the sun, and felt the sun goddesses egging me on.
I’m getting clearer.