Many years ago – ten? geez. – I went with three friends to Richmond to see Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in concert. This was the year after Once came out and took people by storm. The concert was at a bar with standing room only, and we stood in the middle of the floor – good real estate but not the best.
I liked Once – I liked the music – but I knew I didn’t glow with it the way my friend Andrea did. So perhaps it was that lukewarm enjoyment of the music that affected my feelings. Or perhaps it was the jostling, beer-happy crowds pressing around me, pushing me, nudging me slightly out of their way every few moments. Whatever it was, I cringed and shrank and did what my Southern manners told me to do: apologize for taking up my space, move to give people more room, become as small as possible.
Andrea encouraged me to take up the space I took up, to stand tall and strong where I stood. Not to give up ground to people. But I didn’t have that in me. I finally grew tired of this dance with the people around me. I went upstairs to the bar, where it was much less crowded because there was no view of the stage. I found a corner, and I sat on the floor, and I enjoyed a radius of safe breathing room where I could listen but go untouched, where I was in no one’s way and I could be a little bit invisible.
Back in November, I wrote openly about my feelings after the election. It was hard to do that. I was scared – how would it be received? I’m the jokey, light-hearted, “let’s mess up recipes and then follow a non-sequitor tangentially related to it” food blogger. No one comes here for my opinions.
But blogging is storytelling, and my story at that moment was fear and despair and sadness. There was simply no way I could go about business as usual, and since I was on a daily blogging challenge, I had to say something. So I did. And nothing bad happened.
When I got pregnant, it was Thanksgiving. My morning sickness set in a week or so before Christmas, along with a bloat that left me unable to button my pants. On the day Amanda arrived home from deployment, I slogged through the process of getting ready – shower, hair, make-up, outfit – something that took much longer than usual because I felt so sick. I showed up to her squadron hangar, and I was absolutely convinced everyone could tell: I was bigger, I was growing by the minute, cells were multiplying inside my body constantly.
By the time my pregnancy was at its end, I was large. I joked with Amanda that I was “great with child… the greatest with child.” Those are fancy Biblical terms for the fact that Mary was probably feeling just like me, which was like an elephant seal. I complained about our closet, which I felt I barely fit inside with my large belly. I had to bend at the waist to reach the sink to wash dishes. Countertops and door frames suddenly seemed to be everywhere, because I was constantly bumping into them.
Pregnancy expands us. It opens our joints and our pelvises and we become big. We become great.
For the first time, I was comfortable taking up the space I needed to take up. It wasn’t up to me, and it was in the interest of housing my sweet baby boy.
After November ended, I got quiet. And more fearful. We rounded the holidays and we came into January, and the Inauguration, and we’ve now just finished what I feel is a form of Hell Week. Each day, an Executive Order with a big middle finger to one or more groups of people.
I began losing hope. My calls to senators’ offices seemed futile. If a bad thing could happen, I felt sure it would, because daily, it did.
There seemed, again, to be no point in blogging because how could I talk about anything but this fear, these events, these decrees that are so bent on holding back groups of people, our neighbors, our communities? Glennon Doyle Melton is so fond of reminding us that we belong to each other, but I didn’t feel a sense of belonging.
My instinct was again to find a quiet corner where no one would notice me, where I could be invisible.
But what about people who can’t be invisible? What about people for whom there is no quiet corner? (And I’m realistic here – I’m a gay woman, my corner space is extremely limited.)
The reckoning: take up the space you take up, Dana. Take up your space. Tell your story, and let that be a form of resistance. Be a woman, married to a woman, raising a son with her, and let that be a form of resistance. Be a writer, who tells her stories, of joy and sadness and baby antics and fear and triumph, and let that be a form of resistance. Be present. Take up your space. And don’t give up ground to people who would shove you, ever so gradually, or forcefully, out of the way.
When goodness seems to disappear, as it has so frequently lately, show up and be the good. Support others who do the same.
Call those senators, and remember you have a voice all the time, not every two to four years. Donate that money, and give of your time. Help your people. Do good – for the world, for your community, for your family, for yourself.
There are no more quiet corners. And invisibility isn’t an option.