An Ode…..

 

 

IMG_0723-04-10-18-00-59It’s January 1st, 2019.  A whole new year lies ahead, a beautiful blank page waiting to be filled. I tend to wait until Imbolc (St. Brigid’s day) to set intentions for the year, but I find I have been doing alot of reflecting on 2018. For starters, it  was about 50 years long. It contained the highest highs, stress, anxiety, upset, joy, pride, love, new skills, new lessons, new countries, new friendships, new house, new job, new challenges.

This time last year, I set out into 2018 with the intention and commitment to do everything physically, mentally and emotionally possible to repeal the 8th amendment. All over Ireland, people were making similar resolutions. At that stage the outcome felt far from certain. But we did it; we did it through collective action, hard work, hard compromises, exhaustion, friendship, compassion, determination and grit. Getting to 66.4% was gruelling and bruising, but what that result means for the future of Ireland is a truly beautiful legacy.

I wrote this piece a few weeks ago. I wrote it partly as a reaction to frustration at the praising of politicians as the champions of the campaign, and the blanking out of the campaign as a grassroots women led movement. I wrote it partly out of wanting to pay tribute to the women I met and worked with over the past 2 years or so in ARC. As such I wrote it with the women of ARC in mind – yes, there were some brilliant men there aswell, but because they are so brilliant they are comfortable not trying to claim space from women – so yes, I talk about women in this piece because the people I was thinking about when I wrote this are (almost entirely but not exclusively) women.  I also wanted to pay tribute to the quiet, mundane, essential work, to the sheer scale of the work, to the support and solidarity, to the feeling that washed over me on the 25th and 26th of May. I wanted to pay tribute to the fact that so many people in so many ways did their absolute best.

Maybe it will make you think of people you organised with. Maybe your experience of the campaign was different but some of the sentiment may be similar. I wrote it with respect, admiration and love for the women I saw making huge sacrifices and compromises daily, working with skill, drive, commitment and determination, the women who held me together, the women who did their best and so much more. And, in ways, I wrote it for every person in every county who was part of the legacy that we left together in 2018.

I read it at the ARC Choicefest party a few weeks ago. I was a little bit drunk, a little bit emotional and very unsure about interrupting the celebration to read something. But I did. And it was lovely. So here we go.

Apparently and ode is ‘expressive of exalted or enthusiastic emotion’.

So let’s call this….

An Ode to ARC

We are the women who get shit done

We are marchers and shouters, demo holders and graphic designers

We are trainers, bucket shakers, merch packers, poster assemblers, placard makers,

We are live tweeters, minute takers, treasurers, banner stitchers, and spreadsheet keepers

We are the women who get shit done

We are the women who would not stay quiet

Who raised our voices over and over

Until 66.4% joined us in a collective roar

We stand on the shoulders of so many others

Who refused to compromise when they were told they were extreme and unreasonable and oh so shrill

Who always kept their eyes on the vision

Repeal the 8th

Free, safe, legal

We are who we are because of the women who met and who rallied and who said the word abortion when no one else thought they should

We are who we are

Because of the women who were the first to wear a repeal badge in their village

Who stood at stalls in the rain with handmade banners and flasks of tea

The women who shared their stories and spoke their truth

We are the women who drove the length and breadth of a county to leave no door unknocked

The kind of women who say ‘I’ll canvas Belmullet on my own if I have to’

 

2018 arrives and there are AGMs and EGMs, discussions and votes

There are canvas guides, canvas training, there are politicians saying words we NEVER thought they would say.

There are hundreds of unread whatsapp messages.

Then there is some snow, and then there is a date in May……

Annual leave and unpaid leave is booked, the rest of life starts of be put on hold,

And there are 67 days….66 days….plenty of time and no time at all.

Emails and phone calls, press conferences, branding, merch, fundraisers, media plans, countless jumpers, videos, regional launches, advice from the helpful men, pop up shops, crowd funds and holy fuck we just raised half a million euro and Sarah Mon is the most recognisable face in Ireland,

Boxes of leaflets waiting in the hallway, photo calls,  Parents for Yes, Farmers for Yes, Grandparents for Yes, Men for Yes, Midwives for Yes, Dogs for Yes…. meetings, and of course…..POSTERS….. a little blue van that visited every county, stickers, ad mobiles, badges flying out in their thousands, speech bubbles, postcards, count centre passes, and so much more that we did not see and will probably never know.

Pavements pounded and doors knocked, enthusiastic yeses, hard nos, difficult conversations, stories shared, knuckles bruised from old letter boxes, anxious tallies and debates ‘was that a silent yes, or a silent no?’

We turn our backs and we hold our heads high

We find a way to smile

And through gritted teeth we say ‘I can understand your concerns’

Though our hearts beat loudly – it’s my body, my choice

24/7 and sure who needs sleep because on the 25th of May we would know

That we could not have done more

And that we all did our best

 

Sleep has turned into someone you used to know

Replaced by the bubbling anxiety and the raw unspoken fear

‘What if we lose?’

And we fantasise about what we will do when it’s all over

Cook a meal

Read a book

Get the ride

Go on holidays

Have bodily autonomy

And know that we could not have done more

And that we all did our best

 

And we hold each other together with coffee and hugs and ‘how are you doing?’ and jellies that burn the surface of your tongue

With doughnuts and pints and bags of crisps for dinner

With solidarity, love, humour and sheer bloody grit

 

Standing in that booth, shaking all over

Oh fuck it, what if I vote no by mistake?

Take a deep breath and mark that X

Mark it for me, for you, for her, for all of us

Take a deep breath and hope it’s all been enough

And know, that we could not have done more

And that we all did our best

 

And to everyone who asks ‘how do you think it’ll go?’

‘Oh it’ll be close, if it goes our way maybe 55%’

And I’m buying my own hype and we’re all buying the hype and the red alert and I think

I’ll pass out when someone says the words exit poll

And I hold onto whoever is beside me surrounded by anxious, tired, hopeful faces

Then the words

Margin of victory for the Yes side ….

And the room explodes

With sobs of relief and pride and joy

Tight embraces and beaming smiles on tear stained faces

Hands covering mouths and voices shaking

We did it, we did it

And it was so close…….we nearly had that sex number….

 

The results pour in and the yeses pile higher

And the RDS is a sea of tears and hugs and bursting pride and Gráinne and Sarah being absolute rockstars and I’m fairly sure I have never cried so much and everyone is in love with everyone else

And there’s beer and dancing and exhausted happy faces and a weight has been lifted and the work is not over but fuck me we did it! And 66.4 is officially the best number ever and my body feels lighter

And though we are all broken I don’t think we’ve ever been stronger

 

We are the women this country has always sought to shame and silence

We are the echoes of the Madgdalenes and of Tuam

We are the women whose names you know and whose names you will never know

We are the women who travel

We are the women who bleed

We are the women who will not be quiet

And will not go away

Who will not apologise

For knowing our worth and knowing our power

 

We are fighters and survivors

We are mothers and we are lovers

We are strong and we are resilient

We are light and we are fire

We are fierce and we are kind

 

We are the change makers

We are the history shapers

We are the women

Who get shit done

 

 

You can hear this piece being read over footage of different marches and campaign activities at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P_i5TgUiyA&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2k09GCRe7Td01e2CKBndDfVCsHYRm5iqdS29wwGQrP7PymmhpaxiGHIsM

 

 

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One thought on “An Ode…..

  1. Pingback: Albus Dumbledore and the lie of magical brotherhood. – Learning the World.

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