Beautiful tree, right? It’s bullshit. It’s a dead, flaccid tree that constantly sticks me with dead pine needles every time I turn the dead thing's lights on. Looks shiny, though.
A dead tree full of bombast and glitter seems appropriate this year.
Look, I am leading with my light. But sometimes that means wading through muck. Getting pricked. Dealing with the fact that people you love didn’t think it was a big enough deal that their candidate was endorsed by the KKK. “What more do you need?” I ask. Nothing more could convince a person when they’re more concerned about keeping their tax payments low and sticking it to The Liberals. Gotta stick it to someone, I guess.
So we continue to deal. Things are angry in my house. Or, I should say, my husband is angry at the election results. I guess I’m angry, too, but I don’t have a good model of a relationship where two people get to be angry. We continue to discuss this and we continue to share our feelings. (But not before I started losing my voice, which is not a road on which I wanted to continue. Amazing, of course, how the moment I spoke up the scratchiness went away.)
This year has been fucking hard. I had cancer. Life is short and, therefore, I want to wrangle as much joy as possible. So when my husband is angry it’s extra-difficult. But I told him I can understand where he is coming from without subscribing to the exact size and shape of his feelings. I can empathize without going down a codependent rabbit hole (though it can be hard). I figured writing about it, like everything, is the best way.
Here are some feelings: It doesn't seem fair that people I know, women included, voted someone in like this. My uterus literally ached when this shit happened. But I know that means we need to stand up and lead with the light, tell our stories, honor each other. My friend Casey Erin Wood wrote a beautiful piece called “She isn’t going to lead the change, YOU are. Here’s how.” Fuck yes. So that’s where I’m trying to be.
And share. Which is why this is here. This is why these words are here.
I think of being a kid and knowing I was equal. I never questioned it. I’m a girl — I knew that. And I knew that my worth was actually just as much worth as anyone else's. And then I went to high school and some of that was eroded by fellow students and shitty boyfriends. Maybe I’m not so great, I wondered? Maybe something is wrong with me? I internalized that. I continue to unravel it.
Then I went to college and was surprised that even on “the writers’ corridor” we had some sexist shit (surely we’re past this societally, I thought). That a dude friend of a dude friend would make sexist comments about a female friend and the dude friends would tell us gals to be quiet, we're crazy, don't complain, that we’re taking things too seriously or sensitively. As fellow writers they should have been begging for the perspective of our sensitivity. Which is why now I have a slew of sensitive women writers around me — the strongest people I’ve ever known.
And I listen to and honor all the women I know who have been marginalized (which is MOST OF THEM — ALL OF THEM, PROBABLY). It’s sad that it’s a big deal that I haven’t been raped. That I was lucky enough to escape my earlier years without being raped. And from where I’m standing, “one in three” does not seem like a large enough number to be an accurate representation (what with all the backlash for speaking up and so many keeping understandably quiet about it). Even if you weren’t raped, you are related to someone who has been.
I think the archetype we want right now is this goddess, Kali. Look at her with the head of the patriarchy! And, like a true conservationist, collecting its blood! And literally trampling! And her prayer (here’s part of it): “Oh Mother, your existence is itself energy, The Para-Shakti Ambe Maa / You dwell everywhere, you are the auspicious Jagadamba, the bestower, the Mother of all / May there be victory in your holy name.” More of that prayer here.
I heard Linda Siverstsen interview her friend Guru Singh recently on the Beautiful Writers Podcast talking about these shit-ass (my description) times. And how we’re in the death throes of the patriarchy (I was so glad to hear him say this, because this has been my suspicion as well, in those exact words — good sign). That when something dies it gives one last tremendous effort — an asshole president and all its trappings are part of that. And that we truly are moving forward and making a lot of progress — but things seem really bad right now (with dicks at the helm) because it’s the last ditch effort.
Guru talks about how he’s preparing for the new world instead of focusing on the current junk and its death throes. Oh, I am trying so hard. But first I have a lot to work through and unravel. A lot of which seems un-unravel-able. You know what I mean.
“Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.” Thanks, Rogers Waters (and the boy who wrote this to me in a letter when I was young.) Learning to fly, indeed.
One of the many noteworthy things Guru Singh says in the interview is that in our culture, men created a fake world, and have kept women out for generations — they know if they let women in, women will see this fake world and their fake world will crumble. And crumble it will. So — it’s only a matter of time. Like the dead tree that continues to stick me with pine needles every time I crouch down to turn on its lights, the fake world that’s been built by exclusion is dying and sticking us hard and reminding us of and triggering every time we’ve ever been stuck. It can flash its lights and its costumes and its colors but if you touch it — it crumbles.
So here’s to the watching it crumble, here’s to speaking up when it sticks us, to not flinching too hard when all the little pricks break off in our cardigans, and here’s to responsibly, like the conservationists we are, colorfully (if not quite as effortlessly) as Kali, and strong — like almost every woman we've ever known — putting that dry old thing out on the curb when it’s time. And it's damn near time.
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.