Why I’ll Be at Work on March 8th

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My favorite book is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Set in a not-too-futuristic religious dystopia, women aren’t permitted to be educated, hold property, or make decisions regarding their bodies. Any fertile, unmarried woman is enslaved as a child bearer for a wealthy, childless couple. These women are called handmaids, and they are perpetually clad in red. During a particularly chilling passage, the protagonist, Offred, describes the day when society began to quickly change. She went to buy a pack of cigarettes and her debit card no longer worked; it was decided overnight that women could no longer control their finances. She went to work and was, along with all other women in her office, fired; it was decided overnight that women could no longer be employed.

No work. No spending money. Dressed in red. These similarities make me uneasy.

It’s not just the prescient details of my favorite book that turn me off from A Day Without A Woman. This event reeks of privilege. You know who won’t be taking the day off? Women with minimum-wage jobs. Women with hourly or part-time jobs. Women who cannot incur the cost of childcare. Women who are breadwinners. Women who are disabled. Women who searched for weeks or months or years to finally secure a job. Women with employers who would harass them for requesting such a day off. How many of these women struggle to keep their heads and those of their children above water? How many of these are minorities or women of color?

A Day Without A Woman is a misnomer—it’s just A Day Without Women Who Can Afford It.

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Two ways to end the day 

One

  • Drink a glass of water 
  • Floss and brush teeth
  • Remove eye makeup, wash face
  • Apply lavender oil to temples and wrists
  • Meditate for five to seven minutes 
  • Drift off to the soothing sound of rain (via white noise app)

Two

Pass out in full clothes and makeup watching season two of Orange is the New Black after drinking a bottle of wine and consuming a giant bowl of cocoa pebbles. 

Requiem for a Monday night

The lower level is dim. It is lit by one small lamp, a tin-star nightlight, and the overhead in the pantry because I was too lazy to turn it off when I grabbed the bag of tortilla chips.

Upstairs, the children are asleep.

I am alone, dunking these bougie multigrain chips into spicy hummus, thinking about the past. For someone so relieved to have escaped it, I certainly spend a lot of time looking backward.

The laundry is diligently humming away behind closed doors.

What’s important to remember is that I reminisce with relief. And pride. Because I was stuck in a spot, in a perpetual cycle for so long that I could easily still be whirring around in the same old place—lonely but not alone, frustrated, yearning, broke and hopeless. But I’m not. The lid came flying open, I climbed out, and I shut it for the last time.

I no longer measure my days in domestic tasks and women’s work.

Sometimes it seems silly to relish the present as much as I do. And yet I can’t help but pause and soak it in, sitting in peace on a quiet Monday night. Older, calmer, in a kitchen that smells of tomorrow morning’s coffee and Tide detergent.

Because I can pay for the nicer shit now.

Morning routine

I’ve developed a new morning routine. Every weekday morning (or most of them, anyway) the thick, melatonin-and-lavender oil-blanket of sleep is gradually pulled from me by my Sleep Cycle app (“Belfast Park” is my wake up tune). My padded eye mask is somewhere in the bed, discarded during one of my REM cycles—I can never manage to keep it on all night. I throw on my robe, or at least a pair of pants, and head downstairs.

If I was good in the hours before going to bed, I set the automatic timer on the coffee pot. My earlier good self will be praised by my groggy current self. I’ll pour an inch of coconut almond milk into the bottom of a mug and fill it up with my current favorite brew, Starbucks’ Bright Sky blend. I’ll twist open the living room blinds, letting the weak daylight in (though in a month’s time, the sun will be up before I am). Then I curl up in a corner of the couch, hugging my knees to my chest and cupping my hands around the coffee. There’s usually some kind of neighborhood activity—a truck running to warm up, tv lights flickering across the street. Leon the cat often joins me, creating a space for himself in my lap. I don’t turn on the lamp, I don’t watch the news, and I am alone (save for the cat).

I will sit, I will sip, and I will wake up into the day, grateful for it.

Ode to my bed

Last summer, I got a new bed. A platform frame with a stylish gray headboard, but most importantly, a new mattress. Brand new, fresh-out-the-box new, not just new to me. Never been slept on by a dead relative (thanks, Mamaw) or a stranger (thanks, Craigslist). No exes have been in this bed. No men have been gross in this bed. It is firm and breathable and supportive. There are sheets, clean sheets, nice sheets—a deep blue. There is a new comforter encased in a duvet cover with an arrow pattern. There are matching shams on my new pillows and dark blue throw. These are mine, all mine.

Nearly every day, I make this bed, and it sets my day in motion. It makes me feel a little better to see this tidy thing in my life. I feel a little further away from who I used to be and a little more like who I am now.

Four Years Later

It’s been over four years since I last posted.

Sometimes I cannot believe I survived.

Not documented: shouting matches, eyes swollen from crying, clenched muscles of stress, doors slammed in anger, bank accounts beyond empty, sleepless nights, drunken nights, restless nights.

Not documented: moments of realization, hysterical laughter, the magic of first touch, waves of relief, hearts bursting with love, growth and evolution in ways never before thought possible.

Not documented: an adoption, a divorce, a new job, then another, a brief relationship, a girlfriend, new pets, two moves, first days of school.

Here is where I stand now: I am 32, the mother of an almost-teen and a second-grader. We have a peaceful existence in a comfortable townhouse. We have a piano, and we have a cat. Our house has lots of light, comfortable beds, a large tv.

I have a job I like with decent pay, good benefits, and a flexible schedule. I do not dread going to work.

I have a girlfriend. This is the best and brightest change in my life. As I write this, we have been together 16 months. Our relationship has been unlike any other I’ve had. It’s progressed more slowly but our connection goes deeper. It’s been fraught at times, especially in the beginning, but our down times always lead to positive outcomes and bring us closer. She keeps me in check, balances me out, is my anchor when I feel adrift. Through her, I’ve been able to unpack the feelings and habits that I’ve carried with me for over a decade. She’s enabled me to finally move out of the rut I’ve been in for all of my adulthood. She’s made me a better person, and every day, we choose us.

In four years, but in zero posts, I have come so far.

All the sweeter because of the cold.

I am not familiar with the work of Craig Arnold. I am not familiar with the University of Wyoming or Japanese volcanoes.

But when I first saw the story of Arnold’s disappearance on CNN.com a week or so ago, something struck me. It was the picture that accompanied the story. His eyes are looking upward, his mouth frozen in movement, his hand near his face, caught in gesticulation. Gesticulative speakers are passionate, and passionate people are rare. From this one picture, from that one pose, I became intensely worried about him.

I’ve checked CNN every day since, looking for news. Nothing. So I searched today, and I found this story, stating he is presumed dead. The story contains a link to his blog, and coming upon his writing, so public, so present, I feel like I should be still. These are the words of a man who, very likely, will not be coming back.

Terrible things happen a million times a day, yes, so I find it hard to justify the sadness I feel for this unfamiliar, middle-aged, haiku poet.

But I feel sad all the same.

Deep in the forest of China pine

also a road of my own I took –

a road to pass the misty rain

a road to take the mountain wind.

craig arnold, 2009