Tuesday, September 24, 2019

SOLTuesday: #FiftyYearsAgoToday

            I’ve kept all of my date books since I started using one in 1963. So while I remember this meeting and the change it made in me, I wouldn’t have remembered the exact date or what else I was doing around the same time without this one.
            Fifty years ago tonight, I went to my first women’s liberation meeting. It was at the apartment of a reporter for the New York Post, where my husband worked, and if I hadn’t been there recently for a party I think I wouldn’t have had the courage to go to this meeting where I knew practically no one.
            The meeting was of the “women’s caucus” of the New York Media Project, a group of media professionals who were against the war in Vietnam. In 1969 “women’s caucuses” were cropping up in many groups like this. I had been working for a book publisher, as a secretary, for just a month, and had heard of the Media Project, but wasn’t yet part of it. But in my work at the publisher, I had just finished reading a “manuscript” (a box of ephemera: leaflets, flyers, papers) of Women’s Liberation Movement documents, and felt what journalist Jane O’Reilly later called, in the first issue of Ms. magazine, “the click experience,” when myriad inchoate feelings and thoughts about my life as a female all clicked into place.
            I asked my husband (yes, my husband!) if he knew anyone at the Post who was involved in this WLM, and he told me about Lindsy Van Gelder and Bryna Taubman. And he added that they were having a meeting on September 24.
            Reader, I went. And in a roomful of mostly strangers, I spoke up during the discussion. I had never done that. But these were all women, and women who were encouraging each other.
            Up to this moment I had always felt that men were absolutely sure of what they thought, and because I was rarely absolutely sure of what I thought, I didn’t dare open my mouth for fear of being shot down. But these women were saying some things I agreed with, and some I didn’t. It felt possible to speak up in support of one side or another without having to prove I was 100% right.
            That was the beginning of my leap into women’s liberation and feminism, and I have never looked back. It has saved my sanity.
            (And the one bittersweet thought now is that my husband isn’t here to have several long discussions about those early days, and how we rockily yet successfully navigated our life together as many other relationships failed to do.)
It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.
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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

SOLTuesday: A Short Story

(This is a lightly fictionalized account of something that's actually happened. I'm wondering how it reads to people who don't know me.)

She hates me. The woman in 4B. I live in 2B. She wants my apartment. I’ve lived here for 50 years. My husband died here, and so will I.
            She hates me, the woman in 4B. She has three children under 10. Sometimes I see them on the street. I take the stairs instead of the elevator. I’m 78. As long as I can walk up the stairs I will walk up the stairs. 
            Our apartments are the same, but not quite. They each have two bedrooms. But mine has long hallways, hers doesn't. My halls are lined with bookcases; I don't know where she keeps her books. Her kitchen is smaller, her living room is bigger. But the two bedrooms are why she hates me.
            The person who owns the apartment next to mine died. His wife doesn’t want to die in the same apartment, she wants to sell. The woman in 4B thinks if she had my apartment, she and her husband could buy the apartment next door and have lots of bedrooms, lots of room for the three children. The boy is the oldest. The girl is maybe seven, and there’s a new baby.
            Her husband sent an emissary, the real estate agent who lives in 2D.  She said I had many opportunities: I could buy the next-door apartment, put a door between them, rent to a roommate whose rent would pay the extra maintenance, and I’d have another person who’d notice if something went wrong with me. I’m old, after all.
            Or I could trade apartments with the family in 4B. The apartments are the same. The fourth floor would have more light. The apartments are the same. I’d be doing a good deed for that family. I don’t even know them, even though they moved in two or three years ago. I take the stairs, not the elevator.
            But. But. But. I don't want to move. 
            She hates me. I imagine her conversations with her husband. "What's wrong with the old bitch? The apartments are identical. There's an elevator. She'd have more light." And I wonder, why did they have a third kid when they knew they only had two bedrooms?
            But the apartments are different. I love my long hallway. I love my kitchen, which I renovated 10 years ago. Those two extra flights of stairs might be good for exercise, but what about those times when my bladder needs release as soon as I walk down the street to my building? I hate potty talk, but at a certain age bodily functions become insistent. And most important, my husband never lived in that other apartment layout. His memory would get lost without the long hallway and bookcases.
            I tell her husband, no.  I invoke my husband's spirit. He's fine about it. But I know she hates me. 
It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

SOLTuesday: Facebook as Therapy

            It’s been more than three and a half years since my husband died, yet I still often find it hard to get out of bed in the morning and get started on my day. A few days ago, I posted this on my Facebook page:
What is my purpose in life? This is not a question I ever think about, it seems to have religious overtones. Yet I think it may have some psychological relevance because I sometimes still have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Jack is a handy hook to hang my purpose on. When he was alive, perhaps I felt my “purpose” was to live with him, do things we enjoyed together, and do other things separately and report back to each other. Like, my “purpose” was to have another person always available to talk to, to talk at, to bounce off of, even to argue and fight with, and, as time passed, to have a history with. That purpose is gone, and I am still somewhat flailing about, trying to get at “why” I want to do the things I “want” to do. There’s a lot here to unpack.”
            Several friends helpfully gave me the usual suggestions: volunteer, help others, find the projects I couldn’t do when married. Reading them, however, I realized the real underlying problem, something I've been aware of for many years. It's not purpose, it's self-motivation. It's setting my own goals, and then actually, really following through on them. I'm fine at meeting other people's deadlines or needs, but have been lousy at bridging the distance between idea/thought/desire and action. My husband was, in a way, an external goal, which I either met or struggled, often successfully, against. Now, it’s just me. It’s my own motivation. I have to learn how to pay attention to it and to use it. 
It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.