This past weekend, I had a grand old time at the San Domenico School in San Anselmo, Marin County, California. Patricia V. Davis had arranged a sizeable conference, the Women's PowerStrategy Conference. I was busy like a busy thing: we had a sales table for our small press (Plus One Press), I got a Powerful Woman Award (crystal, a lovely curve of it, engraved and very pretty indeed), and I catered the post-conference cocktail party.
I also sat on a panel moderated by Patricia, as one of four speakers. The panel was called "That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Pretty Darned Mad". And here we come to the crux of this particular train of thought. Bear with me, as I go down a few odd alleyways.
The four women on this panel all had good reasons to be angry. My dear friend Jeannette (who is a beautifully balanced woman and not inclined to anger on her own behalf) has severe lupus. One woman was born with one chamber of her heart missing, and has nearly died several times. The third woman and her daughter watched her young husband die from a condition that, it turns out, both her daughters have inherited as a genetic booby trap. I've got multiple sclerosis and degenerative spondylosis of the spine.
I was the only woman on that panel willing to even admit to anger. Grief, yes: there was plenty of grief, and plenty of sniffling into tissues as stories unfolded. But anger? No. I caught a few whiffs of it, but it was hastily pushed down. Women are not supposed to get angry, apparently, despite the name of the panel.
At one point in the proceedings, Patricia commented that she knew we all felt blessed. Three heads nodded. Three women said they felt blessed for various reasons: loving partners, their children, their own health. I don't feel blessed, and I said so. Lacking a belief in any deity or theology, I don't feel "thankful". Of course, I don't feel cursed, either.
The multiple sclerosis sucks like a top of the line Dyson pumped up with crystal meth. It's a random dart from the universe that happened to land on my hyperactive immune system.
I'm writing this as the disease is ramping up for a monstrous exacerbation. How do I know this? The past two nights, a small pharmacopia of meds failed to keep me from waking up several times during the night in excruciating pain, jerking like a marionette on a set of badly managed strings. Ataxia leaves me shaking. Myokimia hurts like hammer blows. The disease has stripped me of much of what I love to do best: play music. I can't commit to grabbing a guitar and playing with the musicians I love to play with; the disease, at any given moment, may decide that it's a good day to leave my left hand dead, numb, shaking.
The disease is what it is, and what it is is a nightmare. I choose to get angry about it. While I'm perfectly willing to believe that someone else might genuinely feel blessed, I would be a flaming hypocrite if I said that. It would be a huge lie. This disease has no cure - they don't even know what causes it, much less how to get rid of it. It's also inexorable. In a few years, maybe sooner, the relapsing/remitting phase I've been living with since 2002 will jump to progressive. It will take my eyesight, my mobility, and then it will take me out, years before I want to go.
Blessed? What the hell? I mean, really...?
Religion discourages anger. If you're angry, if you aren't accepting all the crap being flung in your face with suitable meekness, you're "questioning God's plan" or something. And women get the double-whammy: an angry man is a go-getter, an angry woman is a strident bitch.
I thought that Saturday panel was supposed to be about how four women who have lived with serious adversity have taken their anger over their situations and used it for something positive. I used my MS, what it does to the body and how it impacts the life of a working musician, to illuminate how you can live with it, in the form of my narrator, John "JP" Kinkaid: he's an Eric Clapton-level rock star guitarist, and he lives with the same issues I do. The Kinkaid Chronicles aren't entirely about him having MS, but he does have it, and if affects every corner of his life, just as it does mine.
But I was the only woman on that panel who was willing to admit to anger. Everyone else felt blessed.
Maybe they really did. I don't know - I can't wrap my head around it. I don't believe in gods or demons or fate, so I have no touchstone for it.
What doesn't kill me pisses me off to write books about, and not pretend that this disease is anything other than a murderous vicious monster.
Blessed, my ass.
Causes Deborah Grabien Supports
EMILY's List (early member), Amnesty International (member on two continents for thirty years), Animal Welfare causes (we rescue feral cats), NARAL and...