I didn’t march on January 21, 2017. Although I’m a feminist, I voted for Hillary, and I have an MA and PhD in Women’s Studies, I chose to stay home.
That Saturday, I stayed away from crowds, I kept things quiet, I put my head down and I worked. Every once and a while, I paused to follow the day’s events on social media. I was happy for the people who marched and that they were strengthened by being in those crowds. I was proud of how peaceful the protests were.
But I was also overwhelmed. I know that being in those crowds, however supportive they were, would not have been the right choice for my emotional or mental health on that day.
Even as I acknowledge the privilege I have that allowed me to choose not to go, I have not once regretted my decision.
No one has issued a word of judgment toward me, but I’ve thought a lot about choosing not to march. I’ve also processed that choice with friends — some who chose to march and some who didn’t — and these are some of my reflections:
- Hunkering down is not synonymous with hiding. With four long years ahead, this is a stage of shoring up — whatever that might look like for you. For some, that shoring up came through marching. For others, by being in solitude. This stage looks different for everyone. Some people need to gather others close. Other people need to be alone.
- Grief looks different for everyone. Certain emotions drive people to action. Other emotions paralyze. We’re all working through the stages in our own ways.
- Continuing on with our daily activities and maintaining a sense of normalcy is an act of resistance, not naïveté. Our daily practices are what will keep us strong and well (emotionally, mentally and physically) for what’s ahead. We will need stability as things become increasing unstable. No one needs to apologize for that.
- News bans can be a form of self care. As one of my friends expressed, you can know the nuclear waste is there and fight against it without having to ingest it into your body. Anger does not keep me productive and in fighting form, but for others it’s motivating. Feed the emotions that keep you functional and ready to resist when needed.
- It’s okay to take breaks. Post that social media image that has nothing to do with the political situation. I want to see your home decor choice or your dinner plans — not because I’m living in ignorance and denial, but because I need a break from the madness. Solitude can also be that space, or music, or art, or yoga. Take breaks when you need them.
Hunkering down and being in solitude has given me a chance to think and to process. It has allowed me to direct my emotions to the most productive spaces I can. Although I’m not out on the streets, I’m doing the following:
- Supporting several newspapers by purchasing subscriptions. Even if I don’t have the time or emotional energy needed to read every word, I believe that an empowered news media is part of what will save us.
- Listening to people around me who are afraid. I have so little to be afraid of compared to others. Being a witness for them is one of the most important things I can offer.
- Writing pieces like this. Even though I feel afraid, vulnerable and privileged when sharing them.
- Protecting my sleep, my time, my health, my family, and my finances for the days ahead. I’m a realist and know that this will get worse before it gets better. These early days of financial donations, emotional investment, and standing up for our beliefs are just the beginning.
- Getting ready for my turn. It’s hard to resist consistently when you’re exhausted. There will be many opportunities to march in the days and months to come and when others need to rest, I’ll be prepared to step up.
Because hunkering down is not the same thing as hiding.
Stay strong, friends.
To think on:
- What does hunkering down look like for you?
- How do you take care of yourself in the midst of turmoil?