In Pursuit of Purpose

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes for meaningful work. People often think that finding meaning is the same as finding happiness. More accurately, it’s about being willing to face the hardship and sadness. To do something meaningful is often doing whatever you can to set others free of what troubles them, to find connection through what we share, and to light a way for one another.

In these last couple months, I’ve been interviewing survivors of domestic abuse for an upcoming project. I’ve also had the chance to work with Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin on their 80th anniversary event, a phenomenal show of solidarity that took place last Friday.

Our featured speaker was Gloria Steinem, who spoke powerfully about the proven links between racism and domestic violence. She spoke about how police officers who are prejudiced and use brutal force in their arrests also have four times the rate of other households for abusing their spouses and families. She spoke about how we cannot expect to have a just government, equal businesses, and fair law enforcement without giving women both fair access to reproductive healthcare and the freedom to direct their life choices. Abuse and violence manifest themselves across platforms. We cannot have democracy without making it possible to have democratic families and democratic couples.

These are just a couple of the things that have kept my hands, mind, and heart busy.

Gloria Steinem Q&A at the 80th Anniversary event. She's a visionary.
Gloria Steinem Q&A at the 80th Anniversary event. She’s a visionary.

Meanwhile, in this election season, I’ve been paying attention. I’ve kept up with my reading on the issues and candidates. I’ve watched the blow-up around Trump’s “locker room talk” and the following outpour from friends and strangers alike, women coming forward with their stories of harassment, abuse, and assault, calling Trump out on his misogyny. Experiences that all women know too well.

Muriel Rukeyser once said, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” And split open it has.

I’ve been doing a lot of listening, and I’m humbled when I think about just how many stories I carry. My own stories, the stories of friends and loved ones and strangers. And I think, damn, we carry heavy burdens, but also, damn, our hearts are strong. They must be heavy lifters.

I’m humbled also when I realize that since I started this freelance journey, I’ve gotten to work on so many projects and causes alike that are important to me. Some days, my heart feels really heavy, and I wish we didn’t have stories like these to have to stand up for. I wish we didn’t still have to fight for things like fair access for women to reproductive healthcare. I wish domestic violence weren’t a thing. I wish #YesAllWomen weren’t a thing. I wish #RepealThe19th weren’t a thing. But they are.

Standing with a couple of the wonderful women I know in Wisconsin and artist Niki Johnson's sculpture, Hills and Valleys, which is made of deconstructed signs from the defunded Planned Parenthood locations in Wisconsin.
Standing with a couple of the wonderful women I know in Wisconsin and artist Niki Johnson’s sculpture, Hills and Valleys, which is made of deconstructed signs from the defunded Planned Parenthood locations in Wisconsin.

And here we are. We do our damnedest, and I feel lucky to have so many examples of people fighting for fairness, of people helping.

Thank you, Linda Neff of Planned Parenthood and Katie Mullen and Jordan Pintar of BlackPaint Studios for being great to work with on the 80th Anniversary. It was an event I won’t soon forget. Congratulations, Niki Johnson, on your well deserved Voices Award at the 80th event, and thank you for your amazing work. Thank you, Veronica Lazo, for introducing me to your UNIDOS Family, for contributing to my upcoming project, for all the service you do.

With Veronica Lazo, the director of UNIDOS Against Domestic Abuse in Madison, WI. She's a force to be reckoned with.
With Veronica Lazo, the director of UNIDOS Against Domestic Abuse in Madison, WI. She’s a force to be reckoned with. Thank you for coming and volunteering at the 80th anniversary event!

I hope the work I have to share in the coming months is worthy of their inspiration. I hope that I am using my creative talents to do justice to the stories I carry.

Planned Parenthood’s call to action on Friday was not only to stand up, but to Be Visible. Be visible for what you care about. Be visible, speak up, educate, and be educated. Don’t worry about the “controversy.” The most controversial thing is not to communicate, in a world that needs us to be willing to share. The joy we seek depends on our willingness to face our fears of adversity, rejection, and pain.

Most of all, listen not to only to reply, but to understand as you wish to be understood. That alone can change everything.

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Cover photo is of one of the buttons designed by BlackPaint Studios for the 80th anniversary event.

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