The Women's March on Washington, with Sister Marches Around the World
January 21st, 2017
|Nasty N'awlins Women gearing up in Washington Square Park|
|Left to right: Allison, Ella, Juliana, and Sarah|
Thank you for marching!
|Three incredible women I had|
the pleasure of meeting yesterday.
|Representing with my Planned Parenthood shirt|
and Angel of Grace arthritis awareness bracelet.
All of the nasty women in New Orleans gathered in Washington Square Park, a green space on the edge of the French Quarter, prior to the march, where we listened to a variety of speakers while greeting each other and bonding over our shared love of human rights (something I suspect men never really do). I adore situations like these, because even though I am pretty introverted I love meeting people, especially people older than I am, and soaking up all of their wisdom. There are so many smart, courageous, passionate, and relentless women in this world, and meeting even just one of them is a blessing beyond compare, so being surrounded by thousands of them at the New Orleans Women's March was just too much for my mushy heart to handle. I went into yesterday's march needing to find the good in the world, and let me tell you, it was there.
The actual marching process was when I began to realize what a terrible situation this was for my joints. To use one of my most common phrases, I was in a pickle. I had already walked over a mile from the streetcar to the starting site of the march and stood for a long time listening to all of the speakers and cheering on powerful women, so by the time we were actual moving down the streets of the French Quarter toward the Central Business District even the distracting nature of the march could not pull my attention away from my aching hips for more than a few seconds at a time. I was clenching and unclenching my fists and rotating my wrists in hopes of retaining as much range of motion as possible in my upper extremities since I could feel them swelling up, but this became exhausting and I finally gave up about halfway through. I stayed close to the sidewalk, afraid that my nausea would get the best of me. I bit my lower lip and scrunched my forehead in a last-ditch attempt to hold back tears while every step I took caused excruciating pain to slam against my ankles, knees, and hips.
Perhaps some of you are reading this and thinking, "Hey, Rach, maybe going to that march wasn't the best idea, it seems like maybe it didn't go so well for your body."
You're right. I am too sick to be doing something like this. I am too sick to be marching through the French Quarter in a germy crowd of people on a warm, rainy NOLA Saturday. I am too sick to be risking by ability to attend class this week simply by putting one foot in front of another and coming into close contact with other human beings. You're right. But guess what? I have to do this, because marching will be much less detrimental to my health than having my treatment revoked because some rich and healthy people who unfortunately hold a lot of power in this world have decided that stripping me of medically necessary injections that reduce my pain to mostly bearable levels is a good and moral idea. So yeah, I marched. Yeah, my arthritis pain level right now is probably the highest it has been since I started college. Yeah, getting out of bed today felt like running a marathon. Yeah, I skipped breakfast this morning because my hips hurt too much to walk to the dining hall. Yeah, I'm salty about it, because I should not have to march for such basic human rights. But there I was, and here I am. If you want me to feel better, stop suggesting that I take some extra time to rest and start calling your congressional representatives, advocating for people with disabilities, supporting funding for medical research, and voting for politicians who actually care about whether or not I can access my medications and the specialists who prescribe them.
The primary reason that I write this blog is because I believe in the power of storytelling. I believe that sharing our experiences makes our local and global communities stronger. Publishing posts that detail the many difficult moments of spending my life from age eleven onward fighting against rheumatoid arthritis is not typically cathartic or therapeutic for me. I do not make money off of this blog and I often feel overwhelmed by the prospective of sharing so much of my life with whoever feels compelled to click on this link. But stories are powerful. That is a fact, and that is what I repeatedly remind myself when I feel reluctant to share parts of my own story. I wish I had realized this early. I wish I had realized it a few years ago when friends, family members, and teachers were begging me to let them into my world, one that felt like a black hole to me at the time. I wish I had allowed them to view my story and demanded substantive change in the way people with chronic illnesses are treated in this world. If you have a story to tell, if you have a reason why this administration is so concerning to you, please share that story, at your own pace and when you are ready. There will be thousands of nasty women like me here to listen and respond. And if my story has ever meant something to you, I am pleading with you to channel whatever it is that this blog has given you at some point over the last year - hope, despair, joy, or concern - into concrete actions aimed at protecting healthcare and advocating for women with disabilities.
There were a bazillion children at the New Orleans Women's March, and I always have such admiration for parents who bring their kids to these sort of events, because toting kids around can be logistically difficult and protests can be chaotic. The NOLA march kicked off with a jazz funeral for Lady Liberty (have I mentioned how much I love this crazy city?), and as we found ourselves in a gridlock-induced standstill while waiting for marchers to begin filing out of the park gates, I listened to a young mother explain to her three- or four-year-old son who Lady Liberty is and the symbolism of having a jazz funeral for her. I do not know who that mother is and I do not know who that child is, but in that moment the future looked so spectacularly bright. Later in the march, I found myself walking next to a set of parents who were pushing a very young child in a stroller while their six-year-old daughter danced through the streets of the French Quarter, clearly feeling strong and empowered by the presence of so many other dedicated women. Every few minutes, she would lift up her chin and scream at the top of her lungs, "Girl power!" and the rest of us would scream it back in solidarity. Leading all of us made her feel so special, impactful, and important. I wish that she, and every other little girl, could feel that way for the rest of her life. Girl power gives me hope in a world in which boy power has consistently failed. Girl power gives me a reason to dream. Girl power makes me want to have a daughter one day just so that I can remind her of her worth and value in this world. Girl power means that I can tackle even the most overwhelming of setbacks. Girl power meant that my shaking limbs but loud voice could make it through that march.
After exchanging some email addresses and phone numbers with likeminded marchers, I made my way back to the streetcar, accompanied by an afternoon New Orleans drizzle that luckily did not turn into downpour until after I was onboard. Usually during peak hours the streetcar is a real struggle for me, because if I take a seat people shoot me sharp glares suggesting that I should leave them for people "who really need them." Having an invisible illness means lots of judgment but very little ability or desire to explain myself, and even though I know that I should probably not give in to this lack of empathy, I usually just stand because the glares stick with me for longer than the joint pain. I am convinced, however, that God was on my side yesterday, because I managed to spot an available seat next to two compassionate women on each of my trips, even though the streetcars were packed and most people were standing. I like to think that Jesus agrees with my conviction that if people are going to rip my health insurance out from under me at some point, the least they can do is save a seat for my aching bones.
When I returned to campus after the march and after standing/walking for upwards of six hours, I limped to the dining hall, ate a banana and some cantaloupe (you really just have to go with whatever your stomach wants when you're nauseous), took a cold shower in the hopes of calming my fiery, swollen joints, and collapsed in my bed. I sent emails cancelling all of my activities for Sunday (today), and even though I feel horrible about it, I know that I am doing the right thing by focusing on rest and recovery. I am going to do my very best to attend all of my classes tomorrow, but we will just have to see how that goes. As I mentioned in my most recent blog post, sometimes I have to stay back for a little while, and I am slowly learning that that is okay, too.
The road ahead is downright terrifying. To my many sisters out there who are scared of the changes (or lack thereof) to come, I have your back. And to everyone reading this, I hope that we will move forward by taking each others' hands, calling our representatives, sharing our stories, seeking out the stories of people leading much different lives than we are, and becoming safe spaces for hurting people.
The future is female.
Women's rights are human rights.
My liberation is bound up with yours.
We are stronger together.