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My grandmother stood behind a microphone and spoke about female sexuality at my grandfather’s medical conference in 1973.
The room was filled with men, and not one of them left. Even doctors hadn’t spent much time considering women’s pleasure during sex.
Needless to say, my grandparents were feminists. Betty took me to D.C. to march for the Equal Rights Amendment in 1977 and again in 1978. For several years, she had a radio program in New York interviewing women about their lives and thoughts on equality. She wasn’t only a champion for women, but for people of all races and sexual orientation. She was ahead of her time and still alive in 2016. I was elated that she had lived long enough to see an African American in the White House and, in the fall of 2016, was thrilled that she would also get to see a woman.
And then Tuesday, November 8th happened. I didn’t get out of bed for days, didn’t stop crying for a month, and wasn’t able to function well enough to do anything about it for a year. So many things to worry about—the zeitgeist of division, the climate crisis, the deterioration of our government and the institutions we have held fast, the Supreme Court, basic civility, racism, #MeToo. It’s almost too much for any conscious person to take in.
In order to move forward, I developed some action points and rules for myself:
Limit media input.
I was bogged down with information overload and made a conscious choice to be deliberate about what I watch and read. This meant The New Yorker, The Week, Elephant Journal, and The New York Times. My podcasts are “On Being” and “The Daily.”
There is so much more to love (like The Atlantic and Vogue and The Oprah Magazine), but if I add to my list, there is no time for novels and the deep learning and understanding of the human experience they offer. My running partner and I try to read a classic once a year. Right now it’s Middlemarch.
Sadly, television news is produced for profit and entertainment and has lost its compass. I protect my emotional well-being by avoiding it. Social media can be motivating and can be a time suck. This is still a challenge, but I am trying to limit the number of times I log in each day and often set a timer so I don’t get swept away by the screen.
The Great Turning, a shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization, is happening. There are pockets of people committed to a more conscious way of living—and they are growing. The list of things we can do today to help our planet is long, but implementing most of them is relatively simple.
Studies say it takes an average of 66 days for a new habit to hold—nothing in the scope of a lifetime. My goals are to give up plastics and single-use anything, eat less or no meat, eat seasonal food, compost, shop farmers markets, and consume less.
This year is a good year to go solar. In 2019, you can deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes. There is no cap on this credit. The percentage deduction decreases annually, down to 10 percent for 2022 and onward, so the sooner the better. It’s pretty sweet turning on the heat in the winter knowing the energy is clean and my toes are warm.
Politics is more painful than ever, but participation is vital. Nothing short of the survival of the human species is at stake, and the Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t passed.
Millennials in particular have a bleak voting record; roughly 51 percent cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election.
Voting can be fun. Going into that booth and coming out with a sticker feels empowering. Plus, the sweet retired men and women who check our names in the register remind me of the old-school values of the system and my progressive grandparents. Hip hip hooray!
When the sample ballot arrives, I sit at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, a stack of newspapers and club endorsements, and get to work selecting a choice for each item. I enlist my friends who are lawyers to research the judges. This is important, and so many people go into the voting booth clueless on this crucial item.
Once the list is compiled, I forward. Requests for my (really my lawyer friends’) “judge list” come in, and it feels like I’m adding some value to the system. For the midterms, I paid attention to the purple states and supported and encouraged support for the battleground candidates. This year, it meant Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin and Beto O’Rourke in Texas. I’m still thrilled for Senator Baldwin and a little devastated about Beto.
Pick a cause.
There are endless noble and worthy issues that need support, and it’s easy to freeze and do nothing.
My number-one cause is International Medical Corps, and I’ve supported them for 20 years. I’ve learned that dedication and commitment means something to me and to others when I’m asking people for money. This cause has become part of my identity, and, over time, a beautiful circle of friends has formed around this common interest.
The Old Testament suggests tithing. Leviticus 27:30, “A tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain or fruit, is the Lord’s and is holy.” Tithing is traditionally 10 percent of your income. I am not religious, but this feels like the right amount for me and can ebb and flow with my financial well-being. Two percent is a worthy goal. The point is to make giving a habit and the internal rewards unfold. It’s a way to stop the spin.
Make daily mantras.
Spend time in nature.
Surround yourself with friends and animals.
Leave your phone in another room.
Meditate, and then move.
Each day brings a delicious mix of beauty and challenges. Paying attention to how I spend it makes all the difference.
We can make a difference, and the time is now. If you need inspiration, head out and march.
Make my grandma proud.