I had an inspired moment today. It was really empowering. It was a culmination of several things that have been evolving in my life in recent months.
The first thing that happened was my meeting a brilliant band of women who I am creating a project with. We first came together some months ago and at that time we had a conversation (which is still ongoing) which changed my life for the better. It was one of those conversations in which several things clicked into place.
The great learning I took from it that I can share with you is that in order to change things, we have to create the space for that change to happen. I had always thought, somewhat naively that those kind of profound changes would happen somewhere that looked important. Somewhere like the House of Commons for example, or around a table in a board room. It turns out that I was wrong. Utterly and completely wrong, and the empowering thing is that it does not matter where that space is, as long as you make it. And the even more empowering thing is that the change isn’t fuelled by money or anything external at all. It’s fuelled by sharing conversation, meaningful, real conversation. And the best thing is that anyone can do it. The only proviso as far as I can see is that you have to be as willing to listen as to speak, and that you have to be willing to speak your truth, however daunting that might seem.
And that conversation and that space we created, has helped me own my power.
And how useful that is in this world of Brexit and governments that don’t listen to their own ministers, let alone their own people, and Trump and everything he brings with him like a particularly toxic cloud. How wonderful to know that all you need to change everything is the space, the conversation and finally, the willingness to own your own power and use it.
And this morning I walked into my doctor’s surgery and for the first time in twenty-five years, instead of being cowed and angry, and feeling vulnerable, I felt mighty. Instead of feeling that I should somehow apologise for the failings of my own body and how inconvenient I was to everyone (including myself), I kicked arse.
I rolled over the ‘you’re normal,’ and the ‘you’re peri-menopausal,’ and the ‘your migraines are not really related to your menstrual cycle.’ I refused the, ‘wait and see,’ and the ‘monitoring’ and the ‘have you considered,’ because what the hell else do they think I’ve been doing for the past twenty five years?
I refused the pills and anti-depressants and Triptans and the persistent offer of drugs that everyone knows make me iller, not better. I said no. Boy did it feel good. It felt amazing. He kept trying, and I just kept saying no until he understood what everyone should understand, that when I say no, I mean no. Particularly when it comes to my own body.
And after I had said no, I said. ‘This is what I want you to do for me. This is how this is going to happen. This is the only thing I am willing to consider.’
And I got a referral to a gynaecologist for the first time in twenty-five years.
And for the first time in twenty-five years, I walked out of the surgery and did not shed a single tear.
I felt like I’d won everything in the world.
Afterwards I went to see my wise friend Kim for coffee. We were celebrating my liberation from oppression, and we got to talking about bigger issues. She said to me that she had had a real revelation this week when she had been reading about the repeals that Trump has been making to women’s health care in the USA. She said she found herself utterly amazed that he, and other men, were in a position to make those kinds of decisions about women’s bodies. And it’s true. It is amazing. Utterly amazing that in 2017, women’s bodies are still being legislated for like land, or goods, by men.
And she said something else to me that really made me think hard, because it would be too easy and too simplistic to say that it is entirely men’s fault. She said to me, ‘I wonder how we allowed that to happen to us?’ And before everyone goes off the deep end, neither of us are suggesting that it is entirely women’s fault either.
I know what she was saying held truth for me, because the truth of it had been in me earlier that morning and I had acted on it without thinking consciously about it. What happened at the doctors’ was, in essence, what Kim had articulated.
I have always had the power to say ‘no’. I have always had the power to say, ‘this is how it’s going to be.’ I didn’t do that. I wasn’t oppressed or victimised and nor was it entirely my own fault. It was just where I was. It is a mid ground. A ground that many of us occupy, wittingly or unwittingly.
The conversations I’d been having, the space I’d made in my life for change, for things to be different, had meant that I had room to move from that ground. For the first time, this morning, as far as my body was concerned, I took my power back and I owned it. It wasn’t dramatic. It wasn’t angry. It wasn’t aggressive. I just wasn’t afraid of owning my body and choosing for myself what happened. I chose for things to be different, and they were. And part of what made me able to do that was knowing that because of all those brilliant women, I was not alone. I carried them with me and I drew on our collective strength.
And I know that from the number of women I have seen in the last few months standing up, saying no, mobilising, acting and doing, that I am not the only person this is happening to, and it is not just about our bodies anymore. This is bigger than that. We are talking, we are sharing, we are are creating space for change to happen and change is happening.