Pride of Place
I’ll admit it: I’ve never been too proud of my country. I realize that’s a controversial thing to say, and I’ve never lived anywhere else so it’s also an ignorant thing to say. I get it. I’ll go a step further and acknowledge that I haven’t done much to change it, so basically I’m also a lazy asshole. We just seem to do a lot of terrible things to a lot of people, innocent or otherwise, and turn a blind eye like it’s no big thing. It’s heartbreaking.
I am proud of the people who take action. Those who see a wrong and step in, put themselves at risk, go door-to-door, make themselves vulnerable, run for office, stay educated, stay calm, and fight the good fight. When I see this in action I feel such a swell of pride and giddiness, whether I’m actually in their presence or watching from afar.
I have six brothers and my only sister was severely handicapped and died when she was 18 after spending most of her life on our couch, completely dependent on others for the very basics of a functioning body. My mom was the passive-aggressive martyr type. It was hard for me to fight the victim mentality, is what I’m saying. It still creeps in sometimes. I wasn’t encouraged to put myself on the line, to shout from the rooftops, to speak up for myself, to say no, to respect education, to seek justice, to learn independently, to have faith in my own brain.
Some of these things came naturally, thank god, but others I have to actively not fight against on a daily basis. I was not raised to be a strong woman. My insides are all punching their way toward being one, while my outside pretends I’m already there. It’s confusing, and tiring. It’s also a very fine line.
I’ve gone soft. This is the branch of pride that used to fire me up and motivate me to prove them wrong. Whoever ‘them’ was at the time. I realize this seems to be in direct contradiction to what I said above, but it was different. And not healthy. Oh, you say I can’t do that? WATCH ME. IF someone gave me a hard time about money, the next day I’d sell half of my own possessions just to prove that I could contribute…more than I already was with my job that didn’t pay very well. I’d stop spending. I’d wear the same clothes for years and buy everything used or get it off of Freecycle, just to prove that I wasn’t a financial burden. It was a mess. I only just eased out of that mentality less than a year ago.
When I left home I vowed not to take the money my mom tried to give me. Sometimes I still did, but I always worked a minimum of two jobs just to prove that I could get by on my own. I wore mittens in my apartment and always got a job which involved a shift meal. I was proud of my ability to struggle. I was also freezing and hungry.
Now, my stubborn pride works against me. I say yes to another client because I really, really need the money, but I don’t actually have the time, so I stay up too late and get up too early and become an antisocial walking scowl who isn’t even writing well so what’s the point. My boyfriend suggests I maybe go to the gym and instead of acknowledging that this is actually a good idea, I get angry and defiant and basically refuse to better myself because he suggested it and how dare he? The “I’ll show him/her/them!” method has never really gotten me positive results so I don’t know why it is still my knee-jerk go-to. The Midwest drives a lot into people. The lack of ability to ask for or even accept help is pretty high on its list of parenting skills.
The first time I ever felt pride for my country was when I sat on my couch, watching Barack Obama winning the Presidential election. I called a close friend, weeping, and whispered, “he won. He won!”
The midterm elections are over and results are coming in. For the first time since that morning, I am feeling that swell again. I’ve felt ripples, but first Trump being elected and then Kavanaugh winning his seat sent me into a very dark place in which I felt that, as a woman and especially survivor of sexual abuse and harassment, my countrypeople didn’t give two shakes about me, or people of color, or people of different sexual orientation, or really anyone who doesn’t fit the image of whatever the voters want America to look like.
As I watched the election results, I saw women. I saw people of color. I saw openly gay men and women. All winning. WINNING. My heart is swelling. I feel a spark of hope.
Today, in this moment, I am proud to be an American. And a woman. And, I might even go to the gym.