I say other, because one of the most remarkable discoveries, reminders, I got this weekend was that I, too, am a remarkable woman. This is something I tell myself sometimes, but don’t really believe.
I go through the laundry list: You had a child alone at the age of twenty, whom you raised alone for the first 7 years of her life, you owned and operated a restaurant as a white woman whose husband was only home on the weekends, in a 98% black, severely socioeconomically depressed city for three years, you usually successfully managed a blended family and raised two beautiful, loving, remarkable women, you healed your own infertility and successfully added a beautiful baby boy to the then teen his&hers daughters you already had, recovered him from and prevented further vaccine damage, and you survived a two-year stint an entire country away from said daughters, and used (half of) that time to grow and discover yourself and you didn’t (quite) manage to kill your husband (not my story to tell, yet).
And then there’s the professional stuff that’s happened in the last two years: you were featured on BlogHer 3.5 times, you submitted an essay which was accepted for inclusion in a book that’ll be out later this year, and the theme for that essay earned you a Voices of the Year Honoree nod from BlogHer. You wrote and taught Creative Writing for Fourth Graders to your son’s class over three sessions, and spoke before the local Depression and Bipolar Alliance about the connection between gluten intolerance and depression, anxiety, bipolar, and neurodegenerative disease. You have so much more in you, just busting to get out, and all the while, you’re working again on your novel about a woman dealing with infertility. Almost forgot, you taught yourself and built two complete websites all on your own.
It’s everything, it’s so much, and yet it’s nothing compared to some women. This struck me over and over again, particularly as I listened to the other Voices of the Year Honorees who read their beautiful pieces to us on a stage, emceed by none other than The Queen, Latifah, herself.
As I commented on Feminista Jones’ post about Queen Latifah emceeing the #BlogHer13 Voices of the Year Reception:
“I have adored Queen Latifah ever since ‘Bringing Down the House,’ and probably well before. For her heart, strength, humor, obvious intelligence, talent on SO many levels, and her spectacular beauty that is the antithesis of petite, she is a role model who tells me to be myself even when a huge part of me wants to hide because I'm not the size zero I once was. My family placed far too much importance on looks. It's been a battle to find the midlife value in my own heart and my own intelligence and my own voice. In a moment of false clarity, my weight can wash away all I’ve gained. I'm five feet tall. It isn't difficult to simply look over me; to not see me at all, [or to not see myself].
This is my brain shit, not yours, and you probably have enough of your own shit and don't even think to look past. When I write, when I blog, I perceive that people recognize my intelligence and hear my voice first and, I pray, accept me for my heart before they see my size. Writing, posting is bliss because for the moment *I* can forget. I thought I was growing past it. But even among all of [the women of all kinds, races, shapes and sizes], even attending as a #BlogHer13 Voices of the Year Honoree, at times it was insurmountable to introduce myself.”
Why do we discount ourselves? Why is it that I can sit in a room full to the brim of other midlife bloggers, recognize myself in them, yet feel too self-conscious to reach out to them as they have reached out to me after BlogHer? Many of the Generation Fabulous women have since generously put out their arms and welcomed me into their fold. How is it that I didn’t know before I attended that panel discussion that there are so many midlife women bloggers out there?
How is it that we are still so underrepresented in every facet of life: corporate boards, politics, sponsorship, etc., etc.?? How is it that we so often don’t even recognize it? We are 51% of the population (hence the book, 51%: Women and the Future of Politics), and yet we represent less than 19% of congress? It seems we are largely complacent with being slotted into the role of teachers and school board members, raising the children, building the foundation of our future—all vitally important stuff that many of us probably don’t want to leave to the men. But the fact that we are not nurtured to do otherwise isn’t good enough. The fact that many of us don’t even think to seek otherwise isn’t good enough.
And woe to those of us who didn’t attend college. Whether or not it’s truth, the lack of a college education, time spent staying home with our children and the consequential holes in our resumes, can paralyze many of us with fear. It halted me. I allowed my lack of a college education to stop me from becoming something more, from finishing my book, from seeking and touching more of me.
Until I left my hometown in Michigan, hit San Diego and was forced to take a hard look at myself, I existed, I loved, I enjoyed life to a degree…I wanted more, but I was holding my breath.
I’m no slouch. Two college level creative writing courses in San Diego, a modicum of encouragement from my professors, and I haven’t looked back…but what if…?
Well, as Kelly Wickham of Mocha Momma said in her Voices of the Year reading about being a single mom that resonated with me so deeply, “that is unacceptable.” Kelly also wrote in “Untold Stories are Sometimes Secrets,” about,” feeling invisible as a person of color at times.” I want her to know that I often felt invisible as a very short woman before I was heavy, and only more so now as a short heavy woman. Perhaps we all put on our own invisibility cloaks for any number of reasons…acne, too large breasts, bad teeth…the list of things we can’t magically change about ourselves goes on.
Before #BlogHer14, here’s something I can change: I will endeavor to stand proud, to embrace all that I am, inside and out, to *believe* myself to be your peer, just as Queen Latifah tells me.
Before #BlogHer14, I will reach out to other women. I will return the embrace of Generation Fabulous, and follow in their well-forged steps. I. Will. Finish. Bluebirds. I will seek more speaking opportunities, I will query publications. I will get paid for my writing. And as of tonight, I am going to submit my book to a publisher!
And come #BlogHer14, I will extend my hand to you no matter what I weigh, and I will help wake up the next generation of fabulous women to all they already are, even if they don’t get to witness people like Sheryl Sandberg and Rita Arens and Kelly Wickham and the almost 5000 strong of us amazing, powerful, diverse women for themselves.
What halts you in your tracks? Or how have you managed to overcome your own personal invisibility cloak?
If you heard about the #JudyBlumeProject at #BlogHer13, SUBMISSIONS ARE STILL OPEN!!