I don’t have trap doors anymore. No places to hide when the anger starts to simmer, no wine hidden in an aluminum travel mug, no secret slugs of icy vodka pulled from the back of the refrigerator. Let’s face it, the booze only made this particular brand of anger fester and then explode. That’s what brought me to this page in the first place.
I am at my women’s meeting. I am counting one dollar bills and carefully stacking them in a pink plastic bowl, the weekly tithing for the gift of feminine solidarity and sobriety. A women I have come to love and admire fiercely (we’ll call her Anaheim) stands across the table. I lift my head and meet her gaze. She gives me an air hug from across the table. I drop the bill in the plastic bowl and say, “I need the real thing right now” and walk toward her with open arms.
Anaheim knows a lot about the justice system. The more I learn about the fucked up corruption in the “justice” system, the more I love Anaheim and that the fact that there are teeny, tiny brave, wise women like her out there.
Anaheim is a couple decades older than me. She is a slight women with a silver, white hair cropped close to her head, faded grey blue eyes behind an unassuming pair of thin silver glasses. She dresses like a person who always has something more important to think about, wearing anonymous conservative black and grey dresses and practical black ballet flats. Her frame is tiny, strong and jagged. I can feel her shoulder blades as we hug.
“We’ve never through anything like this,” I say. She knows the “we” I am referring to is women of my generation, those of us who are awake, alive, aware and in our mid thirties.
I have been asking Anaheim for advice, wisdom, solace since the Brett Kavanaugh shit show first began. She is my “reality check” when I know my vision is too narrow or short.
When I first heard of Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, I felt bewildered and adrift again–a feeling reminiscent of how I felt on 11/10/16. The discomfort is a cue and my brain looks for a trap door, a way out. I start randomly Googling to try to understand what might happen if Trump gets his SECOND pick for the Supreme Court. Google leads me to my answer, my temporary trap door: two female Senators who hail from the hinterlands of Maine and Alaska.
A few weeks ago, I asked Anaheim what she thought about the prospective of these women voting against Kavanaugh.
“They will not,” she tells me as we stand in the parking lot, the gravel poking through my thrift store sandals. “They will vote for him, because he is not unqualified,” she says with razor sharp certainty. This truth leaves me sinking, but her wisdom pulls me back. She tells me about how the political pendulum always swings from one extreme to the next. She says with profound calmness and clarity that we will have to find ways to get women access to abortions and we’ll rely on civil society to do to so. She tells me we will survive this and I believe her. Her wisdom and perspective is my buoy.
The feeling of lightness is replaced by sinking now. If I sink down far enough, I will find the place where I hide all the rage.
Yesterday, as we stood there hugging next to the table, she told me that she remembers watching Anita Hill testify during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing 25 years ago and how she has found herself thinking “have we not learned anything?” as she watched the shit show unfold on national TV. She is going out of town and won’t be at the meeting for the next three weeks. I instantly feel bad for myself.
Trauma is experienced collectively. It unmoors itself and circulates through communities at specific times—cued up my the callous actions, fear and animosity of white men. I have learned this through my own efforts to “decolonize” my mind and develop an understanding of how black people feel when a police car drives by. While I won’t set up a false equivalency, there is a parallel experience women are feeling right now, a pain that has some common origins. It’s a deep, hidden pain that has been built through decades of assault and abuse by white men—a pain that is circulating amongst all of us who identify as women right now.
I have been wondering lately, what is my #metoo story? Do I have one? I have never been raped or assaulted though like many I have had some close calls. I could list the same litany of things we do everyday to avoid being sexually assaulted like the fact that I run on the treadmill everyday since Mollie Tibbetts and Wendy Martinez, or my inability to sleep in home alone without taking Benadryl and triple checking to make sure all the doors are locked when I home alone. There is the boss that snuck up behind me and unhooked my bar as a “practical joke.” There are the drunken nights when I didn’t say no, but didn’t say yes either. There is waking up and wondering if I deserved to feel like shit. There are the more subtle forms of domination that happen in our daily silencing by men who do not see us for who we are, that are blinded by their own sense of knowing.
There are the countless stories I hear every week from survivors in recovery. There is my friend who recently relapsed. I remember the bruises on the top of her breasts as she pulled her oversized white shirt to the side. She showed me the marks after our meeting when everyone went out to get $10 tattoos. It was sex work, sure, but she didn’t tell him he could do that. She’s a beautiful women who photographs births.
There is my sister in the hospital—a scene that is defined by unknowns that characterize the type of rape that happens through a toxic mixture of drugs, alcohol, groups of belligerent white men and vulnerable young, intoxicated women. There is the not knowing what types of drugs they put in her drink, who did it or how many. There is her inability to tell us anything about it. There is her wild disassociation from reality, her decent into schizophrenia, the disintegration of her being and our lives as we knew them. Eight years later, she talks to me about what happened at CZ and how she still needs to “address it.” There is a part of my brain that will never understand what happened, so I just say, “yes, you didn’t deserve that and I hope you can heal.” I let all the unknowns fall down into the pit.
I was sitting on the couch this evening looking for my new version of a trap door, one that does not involve a secret trip to the corner liquor store. I woke up feeling like I needed get away. I tried to buy a “trashy” book on my kindle. I tossed and turned on the couch. I didn’t want to talk or be touched. I want to curl up in a ball, so I can protect myself.
As I let go of Anaheim last night, I tell her “there is pit of rage I have buried deep down.” She gives me a knowing look.
What will we do with all this anger? What will we do with all this pain? Where will it go?