I hate crowds. I avoid rock concerts and rallies. I shy away from situations or gatherings that might put me in harm’s way. Especially now, in today’s increasingly violent, gun-toting, backpack-bombing atmosphere, previously safe situations like going to an airport or a nightclub or a marathon have become tenuous, even terrifying. But when the Women’s March on Washington was announced, I ran straight to my computer and booked my flight to DC.
I didn’t think twice about potential danger — or the possibility of getting arrested. Nor did I even stop to think about needing a concrete reason to go. It was like a calling from a higher power. My gut feeling took over and it grabbed my credit card from my purse. And before I even thought about what I was doing—or why—I had already printed out my airline itinerary.
Many of my closest friends are also flying or driving to Washington. Others are marching in other corners of the country, in Los Angeles, Austin, New York City, Chicago, Portland, Park City, Des Moines and beyond. Many of them had the same instinct.
But I’ve heard rumblings from other women—and from a handful of critics voicing their negativity in the media—about how there is no real mission for the march, no specific agenda.
Who are the speakers? What is the unified message? What will we do once we get there? What is the purpose, the take-away? What action will come of this?
This kind of response, which I deemed a little too nit-picky, made me feel sad, as if people’s need for control overrides their ability to take a chance on life.
Over-thinking creates limitations. Why would you want to know all the answers before you set out on the journey? As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a great adventure or it is nothing.”
If you had all kinds of pre-set expectations and objectives, what kind of adventure would it be then? Besides, expectations can lead to disappointment.
Ten years ago, I heard Alice Brock from Alice’s Restaurant (yes, the one in the Arlo Guthrie song) interviewed on NPR. She was asked about the loose style of running her business and she said, “Not being locked into a ‘plan’ or a prescribed way of doing something leaves room for all kinds of wonderful stuff to happen.”
What I had remembered her saying in that interview (though oddly I couldn’t find it in the transcript) is: “If I had known what I was getting into, I never would have started it.”
I can think of so many times when this “I never would have started it” has applied to me: Moving to Germany to get married, starting a pie business in the American Gothic House, traveling around the world making pies in countries on the government’s do-not-travel list, moving onto a farm in rural Iowa—with a farmer.
Next up, marching with hundreds of thousands of women—and— men in Washington. The pattern is clear, the results, obvious: When you step into the unknown magnificent things can happen.
I have never regretted taking a risk.
I’m all for being responsible and careful. I don’t live entirely on the edge. I exercise. I eat my vegetables. I sleep eight hours a night. I floss (though not as often as I should.) I have health insurance (for now.) I look both ways before crossing the street (both literally and figuratively.) But above and beyond anything else, I honor and follow my guiding forces: my heart, my gut, trust and faith.
In her book, “My Life on the Road,” Gloria Steinem writes, “If you find yourself drawn to an event against all logic, go. The universe is telling you something.”
But someone else—someone I have great respect for—put it in even more succinct terms. (No, not Oprah.) It was Barack Obama who, in his eloquent farewell speech, said, “Show up. Dive in. Stay at it. Believe that you can make a difference. Hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves.”
To my mind that “something bigger” is community.
Community is the foundation for the even bigger stuff: Democracy. Equality. Women’s rights. Human rights. And if showing up in the nation’s capitol to create a community, to demonstrate just how much those values mean to me—to so many of us—then, agenda specifics or not, I’m there.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
So on January 21, at 10:00 a.m., bundled up in my down jacket and my hand-knit “pussy hat,” I will lace up my marching boots and add my body—and my voice—to a sea of humanity as it moves along Independence Avenue.
I will go with the belief that just showing up is the first step to making a difference. I will stay positive that it will be a peaceful, safe event. And more than anything, I will stay open to the adventure and all the great new friendships, ideas, power, unity and community that is sure to come from the experience.
I hope you will join me!