I am taking my wildly popular post written during the pandemic on my grief blog (forloveofevelyn.com) and adapting it here to address the current crisis in women's reproductive healthcare. For catharsis. To feel like I am doing something. To put the rage somewhere useful. To drown the fear. To remember my own power. To use my voice. To lend perspective. Some lines will be taken verbatim. Others newly written. But the message and the spirit are the same. Only before, we weren't fighting, we were surviving. This time, we need our stamina for so much more.
This is not intended to cool your ire or numb you into complacency and a false sense of security. Because make no mistake, women are at war. As is every individual with female reproductive organs. And every individual who supports their autonomy. It's intended to remind you where your feet are, so you can be fully present in that place, standing strong, and move with determination, grace, and a relentless ethic to take back what is yours and always has been.
When you take a knock-out punch, the bounce back can be slow, ungainly, and disoriented. They're counting on that right now, on your instability. But the sooner you realize where you are and what happened, the sooner you can recollect yourself. The sooner you recover, the sooner you can fight back. I don't know about you, but when I'm still reeling with hyperarousal, I cannot make wise, intelligent, vital decisions about what to do next. We don't think clearly with the lizard brain. This blog is shimmying me back into the frontal lobe with each word. I hope it does the same for you.
Now, why would I feel qualified to write a post like this? Because I have a little experience with surviving a crisis—I know what you are feeling right now. I live with it every day. That acceleration of your heart rate, that tightening in your gut, that squeeze of your throat, that sob lodged somewhere above your sternum and below your mouth, that flutter of panic behind the navel ... Those have been my companions for over four years since I lost my daughter unexpectedly. The unanswered questions, the sense the sky is falling, the warping of your world in an instant, the doubt, the uncertainty, the loneliness, the cracks in your faith—I know them all intimately.
And that means I have a position of advantage because all of this is more or less familiar to me. This unrecognizable landscape where tomorrow is a question mark? Yeah. Welcome to my world. Let me give you a tour and some friendly traveler's advice. But first, let me make one very crucial point:
This is not the worst.
I want to type that again, so it really sinks in for you. This Supreme Court ruling ... this is not the worst. It may be the worst you know, but it's not the worst that's been. It's not the worst that could be. The worst is what we are fighting. There is ground beneath our feet still. Let's use it for leverage.
So, how do you survive a totally unexpected, life-altering, fear-inducing, heart-crushing crisis? And how do you take heart, gear up, and push back? Here are some very important things you're going to need:
Integrate. Adaption is survival. As soon as you reasonably can, let the weight of what is happening sink in. Stop looking back. Resign. Accept. Even when we succeed in restoring what was always ours—the freedom to choose—this decision will leave the world changed. We are not going back. There is no rewind button. We are moving forward, wherever the hell that leads. Integrate this truth, this experience. Evolve to meet the challenges as they come. You are flexible. You can bend. You can change and change again. It may not feel good, it rarely does. But like I told you before, this is not the worst. You can survive it. You will survive it. You will learn, and you will change, and so will the world. Wake up. The future is now. Where is your place in it?
Comfort. Comfort is that thing that makes the little kid in you sigh with relief. It's soft blankets and hot tea and buttered toast. It's yoga in the mornings, or listening to your favorite band, or downing a pint of ice cream. It's tight hugs and long walks and talking to your favorite people. It's women gathered in circles, holding each other, refusing to let go. Put on your favorite cardigan. Stay in your pajama pants. Decide never to wear a bra again. Paint your toenails. Drink hot chocolate before bed. Throw darts at a portrait of Clarence Thomas. Find those things that soothe your soul and wrap the scared little boy or little girl you're carrying inside up in them.
Self-care. We're getting practical. This is no time to throw out what you know works. Even in the midst of a crisis that threatens to strip your sovereignty away, you must care for you. Why? Because nobody else is going to do it, especially not now. Get rest. Eat well. Smile often. Scream at the television. Sit when you need to sit and move when you need to move. Take your meds. Take your vitamins. Hydrate. Breathe deep. Deeper. Good. Think a happy thought once in a while. Don't use it to push out the hard feelings or deny what is actually happening, but give it room to exist in your mind. Wash your goddamned hair. The care and keeping of you is important work. We need you. Don't shirk it.
Gratitude. This one is going to feel hard, but I want you to hear me out. Right now, gratitude is still possible. Put your focus on what works. Send a donation to that scrappy abortion fund that refuses to quit. Volunteer for the politician who is campaigning to protect you in the midst of a shake up the likes of which this country has never seen. Thank goddess for the warriors out there who have been holding the line, bracing for impact, the states that will become lighthouses to us as we navigate this darkness, the resources our mothers and grandmothers didn't have like online abortion medication, Plan B, and a literal buffet of contraception options. Every day you're still bleeding, be grateful. That's a day you can fight for a woman who isn't, who just got the worst news of her life at the worst time she can imagine. If that crappy job is sustaining you right now, use it to sustain others. If you have an eye-sore for a spare room in a refuge state, clean it out and offer it up to women who are traveling for their care. We all have something to offer. And we all have something being offered to us. Find whatever you can and feel thankful. We will never take our good fortune for granted again.
Support. We need each other. No one can win this fight on their own. If you're in a red state, this may be challenging, but it's still very possible thanks to technology. Band together. Organize. Find an online support group or a chat room you can use. Go to a rally; share your contact info. Stay connected. Take advantage of apps like Marco Polo or Skype. Let social media do what it does best. Start a Facebook group. Find a therapist. Start a community support network. Volunteer at your nearest clinic. Register people to vote. Take a class in government, law, midwifery, herbology—anything that can give you information to help the cause. Start a coffee klatch with an agenda. Teach others what you know. Hug random women in the street. Okay, maybe not that last one. But send them a silent "I got you", even if they're one of those who wouldn't return it. The changes you are encountering are not without emotional fallout. Talk about what you are feeling with people who get it. Let yourself be validated. Find common ground. Be sad, angry, overwhelmed, distraught, concerned, afraid, upset. You aren't the only one. I promise.
Perspective. This isn't Gilead. Not yet. Not if a hundred and sixty seven million of us have anything to say about it. Gain that perspective they've tried to rob you of. We live in the digital age. Technology is a runaway train fueled by microdoses of LSD and people with giant brains who are easily bored. And it is ours to take full advantage of. This is something uteruses prior to 1973 didn't have. Subvert. Subvert. Subvert. I don't know about you, but when I say I am not going back, I mean it in the most literal sense. We have resources at our disposal now that were never part of the conversation before. Are they coming for those? Maybe. I don't really give a good goddamn. They can't take them all, and before they try I will do everything in my power to avail myself of them. So should you. Educate yourself. You are not without recourse. And if any of us are, we circle the wagons around her. As long as we have each other, they have nothing. Regardless of what they want you to believe.
Prioritize. Everyone has to make choices. It's how we execute our power. What are yours? How do they need to adapt to what's happening right now? Maybe you need to work more hours so you can donate monthly. Maybe you need to save your money and volunteer in the campaign office of your local pro-choice politician. Maybe you need to offer Down with the Patriarchy t-shirts for sale in your online shop and pledge the funds. Maybe you need to make people laugh. Maybe you need to spread vital information. Maybe you need to take a motherfucking nap. At the end of the day, your resources are limited. Be smart in how you dispense them. You might be better off concentrating on one or two small roles you can maintain over a long period of time than throwing yourself at every opportunity you see like a spaghetti noodle at the wall. You're the only one who can decide what your priorities are, but you're going to have to get clear about them fast.
Expectations. Manage them. This is the long game. We're playing for keeps. If you don't prepare yourself now for the battle that is coming next week, next month, next year, you cannot win this war. Our opponents have had their eye on this prize for a very long time, and they have been chipping away from a hundred angles knowing that if they just stayed patient, they'd eventually create a hole wide enough for all of us to fall in. We're not going to seal the breach overnight. And you cannot do it on your own. Nobody's the hero here. The sooner you wrap your mind around that, the better you will feel. Sometimes you'll have the spare time, energy, money to fight the good fight. Other times, you'll be too busy, tired, taxed to stand beside your sisters. You'll be super productive one day, and sad and scared and paralyzed the next. Manage your expectations. Of yourself. Of your comrades. Of the world. Everyone in this is trying their best. It might get worse before it gets better. Know that now so it's not a shock later. Focus on incremental progress.
Discomfort. You are going to be inconvenienced, and you are going to be uncomfortable. Make your peace with that. You will give up hours or dollars or friends. Maybe you'll move out of state. Maybe you're stuck where you are and will have to sock money, pills, whatever you can away in that "just in case" fund. Learn to sit in what doesn't feel good. It will grow something strong and hard in you. Feel that thorn in your side? It's prickly and it's unfair and it's very, very real. It has an important lesson to teach you about vigilance. About truth. About justice and the difference between comfort and safety. Right now, you are not safe. And you are also not in immediate danger. Feel the realness of that ambiguity. Know that your awareness is growing. Use it to fuel change.
Action. There is a time to distract, and there is a time to act. This is not the former. This is the latter. Put everything else that isn't of immediate importance to the side and ask yourself, what can I do? How can you help? What is the difference you are making? Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution? Be part of the solution. Be the change, as it were. Get into gear, even if that gear is driving to Mexico to buy abortion pills for women who can get them no other way. Think beyond donations and rallies and the ballot box. Do you run a business that can set aside a travel fund for female employees needing to seek reproductive care? Can you pledge a portion of your proceeds or sales to a local women's clinic? Can you offer services you specialize in—law, art, copywriting, marketing, event planning? Maybe you can play a bigger role. Maybe not. But everyone has a role to play. Step wisely. This is history. What side of it are you on?
For abortion resources, please consider:
Please visit the list of organizations below for more opportunities and ideas for how you can make a difference in the fight to restore and defend the reproductive rights of women and people with female reproductive organs:
New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Indigenous Women Rising
Missouri Abortion Fund
Abortion On Our Own Terms
NARAL Pro-Choice America
Center for Reproductive Rights
National Abortion Federation
There are many, many more besides. Please vet any organization to which you want to donate thoroughly before doing so, and visit their express website to do it.