I did not attend the #womensmarch yesterday. Here’s why…

I did not attend the women’s march yesterday.
I am a romance author.
I like the color green.

From these facts about me, some of you probably feel you can stop reading. You know all you need to know to put me in a labeled box and walk away. I hope you won’t, because those statements are only a part of my truth.

Another truth about me: I’m an observer by nature. I tend to hang by the periphery, watch the players, assess the mood of the room, measure my words, and then speak. So I spent yesterday listening. I listened to speakers and demonstrators sharing their stories and reasons for participating and to the commentary that followed on social media. Some stories and messages resonated deeply with me. Others, quite honestly, didn’t. But I’m not here to cherry pick and discard those sound bites or placards that struck the wrong chord, because the broader message of the day–the fact that millions of demonstrators could demonstrate peacefully worldwide–speaks to the fact that even when we disagree on some matters, even when it’s hard to hear another’s truth because of how or what they say, we can be united behind each other as human beings. That, my friends, gave me hope.

You see, for  a long time, I have freely shared my daily frustrations and joys (and silly cat videos) with others on social media, but I’ve held back sharing my views on certain topics I feel deeply about for fear of causing offense. (Religion. Politics. The Coffee vs. Tea debate, to name a few.) But as I watched and listened both to the demonstrators and those chatting on social media yesterday, I realized a couple of things:

1.) I’ve been showing you my true self all along, and
2.) I am inordinately entertained by snarky internet memes.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to hold back on social media when my books were already showing you my world view. If you have read them, you know I find humor in human diversity and frailty, and I believe in the power of love. I don’t tolerate intolerance, and I enjoy the inherent irony in that statement. I give even my least likable characters motive and redeeming qualities, because I like to believe that even when I don’t like someone (it happens!) they aren’t rotten to the core. I write (spoiler alert) about everything from infidelity to teen pregnancy to gay marriage. My characters swear as much as they pray, drink and have sex as much as they pass judgment on others and stand on the moral high ground. They are imperfect people struggling to find love and purpose in an imperfect world.

I live in that world. You live in that world. But by attempting to sanitize the harsher or more uncomfortable truths from the ‘me’ I’ve chosen to share with others, I’ve gotten in my own way. And that was a mistake.

So today, I thank my fellow sisters (and brothers) who marched yesterday for giving me the courage to admit I am not always as neutral as Switzerland. Maybe that makes you uncomfortable. I think that’s a good thing. When we shy away from that which causes us discomfort, we’re often pulling back from a truth we’d prefer not to face. But you and I are alike, then, because I’m uncomfortable, too. I’m uncomfortable knowing that despite how safe and happy I feel in the comfort of my home writing this article, that human trafficking, drug addiction and racism still exist in this country. I’m uncomfortable with the fact that with parental consent, a thirteen-year-old child can be married in my state. I’m uncomfortable that rapists have parental rights in 22 states in this country. I’m uncomfortable that, as a white mother of a white son, I know privilege and safety other mothers, because of a fluke of our DNA, can never know. I’m uncomfortable self-censoring myself for the sake of ‘not making waves’ when I know my children are watching.

The truth is, I’m done hiding my discomfort. I’m tired of seeing complex problems and heartfelt concerns reduced to single issues, inflammatory sound bites, and name calling when respectful discourse could lead to real and lasting solutions. We need that discourse now more than ever, and I intend to be an active participant.

I may be an observer, but I am also a light, and I intend to shine that light for those who seek help and hope and, yes, humor for as long as I can. I will continue to write my stories, blueprints if you will, of how love and forgiveness and open-hearted listening can bring happiness and hope to an imperfect world, because that is the truth I believe in. You may believe I’m a rose-colored-glasses idealist with my head in the clouds, and that’s okay. That’s partly true, too.

And one last thing. A word about the color green. I love the color green, but if the whole wide world were nothing but green? I’d miss blue. And pink. And soft yellow. I’d miss rich brown and startling red. Do we really, honestly, want a world with no diversity? With no differing abilities and perspectives and faces? Green is comfortable and familiar, but I won’t thrive unless I’m challenged. (Also, if you and I were exactly alike, who would eat the edge pieces when we made brownies?)

No, I didn’t march yesterday, but I am so incredibly proud of those who did. I applaud those of you who had the courage to speak your truths and shine your lights in the world. You’ve demonstrated for me the importance of stepping out of the shadows, stepping out of my own comfort zone, and doing just that.

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