10 WAYS THE WOMEN’S MARCH INSPIRED ME

Written on the bus back from DC, Kate Atkinson shares 10 ways the women’s march inspired her…

Kate on the bus to DC

It’s been a hell of winter. As revered actress and feminist Meryl Streep so accurately said, opening the floodgates for women world wide: “In the last few months, at times, I’ve felt as if I “lost my mind.”

Melodramatic much? Not for me. I’m a news media professional. I thrive on absorbing information and understanding people, brands, and causes. And since 11/9, I’ve spent late nights burrowing into internet rabbit warrens. I have spent anxious hours trawling the web and raging with friends via text, levels of research I never conducted when I was at University studying for my BA in journalism.

“Why do this to yourself?” I have repeatedly asked myself. But for some reason, the outcome of a Trump victory stirred me up deeply. It awoke a furious sleeping anger I never even knew burned in me. I have psychoanalyzed it and self-helped it to death. Answers have been hard to come by. And as if my own mental struggle wasn’t intense enough, friends have come forward and told me they aren’t okay either. Some told of to sexual assaults they’d buried for years. Men who’d groped them as teens and made them feel insignificant—which they’d shrugged off as just another teenage learning curve.

The day after the inauguration, a friend and I got up at 4am and got on a bus to Washington DC to march in solidarity for not only women, but for all whose freedom and human rights feel at risk under the incoming administration. We were joined by 3 million marching globally, all of us saying: “ENOUGH.” And actually, “fuck you” to the patriarchy.

In the lead up, I read a media stories talking about this being a “flawed” protest, questioning why it was just for women, asking what purpose it would serve. I’d partaken in aggressive social media discussions and been reminded over and over (at times on a personal level) about the futility of protesting.

Well, this weekend was the most inspiring of my life. Read on for 10 reasons why:

Kate and her bus mates

1. HUMANITY = POWER
The reason the current state of affairs is so alarming, is that the bad guy appears to to be winning. Sexual assault and quite frankly, basic human values, are second to power.Or are they? The marches reminded me that WE are the power. Throughout history, we have been reminded of this by figures such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou. Collectively, we can move mountains. The only thing holding us back is self belief.

2. CREATIVITY AS CATHARSIS
I saw a woman brandishing a giant crocheted reproductive system. I saw giant moveable sculptures. Puppets, a tribe of Donald Trump horses. Paintings that could have been at MoMA. I made a new artist friend who GAVE me a sign, because she’d painted several to deal with her inner turmoil. I saw people on stilts, rappers, instrumentalists, singers. All using their talents to support the same cause. As well as the funnier signs—”WE SHALL OVERCOMB” being a fave—some really pulled my heart. A two-year-old with a sign saying “I love naps but I stay woke.” Creativity helps us heal. I will be painting, paper mache’ing, croche’ing and dancing more in the future.

3. OPEN CONVERSATIONS
So forgive me if I’m oversharing in my post-protest bliss, but I’ve had two pre-cancer operations on my cervix. And yes it was scary as shit. A while back I would have been ashamed to share this, now, absolutely ZERO fucks given. Why? Because why is that shameful? I’ve been lucky enough to milk my healthcare system at home in Australia. Other women in this country would have turned to planned parenthood. It’s a lottery of luck I wasn’t born in a red state. Just today, the NY Times reported that the death rate from cervical cancer in the US is considerably higher than previously estimated and the disparity in death rates between black women and white women is significantly wider.

This whole shit show has opened a dialogue for issues that matter. Who cares if you’re depressed? We do. Who wants to hear about your time feeling ashamed for that? We do.

4. REALITY IS UNDERRATED
Ever found yourself writing rants at a computer screen, diving deeply into the lives of people you don’t know? A few days before Obama left office, he said: “tired of having arguments on the internet? Try speaking to them in real life.” We CAN connect in person. In groups. We are not our computers and our phones. Make a friend. Have coffee. Share. Talk. I am overwhelmed by the blowing up of my phone by women in the last few weeks. Launching fashion brands, needing help in connecting people to do so, media professionals trying to create their own movements and how to all not normalize any of what is going on.

5. NEW FRIENDS
I went to a group pre-march meeting – sober – and I met new people I’m now emailing about doing more “good stuff.” Including Elizabeth Azen, one of the nastiest women around with new kickass brand The Dynasty @thisisdynasty. I also made two new artist friends on the bus and spent all day with them, cracking jokes with one common cause – equality . Repeat: we are not designed to be digital humans. One side effect of standing up for what you believe in is the rad new people you will meet.

6. YES WE CAN
It’s so easy to be a hater. It’s so much easier to say: “this is pointless, we are outnumbered, we can’t make a difference.” As the march showed me—we damn well can, and it starts with you! Show up. Read up. Stay woke. Get nastier.

7. FEMINISM ISN’T JUST ABOUT NEUROTIC BRA-BURNING BULLSHIT
Some men still struggle with feminism. Well—newsflash—I’m not really into some of the things those people “hate” about feminism either. I’ve accepted that being a woman means I’m expected to smile and flirt through life. I use this to my advantage and love it when it means I can get something for free. It’s like Madonna said, “I’m a bad feminist.” But equally, I’ve been shamed many times, personally and professionally, for being too outspoken. For not being “refined” enough. And feminism in 2017 is about an end to that BS. In our lives, in our careers. It’s fine to sexualize women. Women are damn sexy. But don’t patronize us. Like Carrie Fisher said: “Some women play hard to get, I play difficult to understand.”

8. SOBER STREET PARTIES ROCK
I’ve been to my fair share of bars and clubs. I’ve been a drinker many years. And you know what? This was the best dance party of my life. What could have felt like a wake, a day for tears, was the best “straight” high of my life. Need substances to lose your mind? Try raging down the street to the beat of a gazillion strangers from all over the country singing in time: “We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!” or: “This is What Democracy Looks like!” with glitter, and signs, and animals, and carnival performers, and megaphones, and parked cars with their own dance parties. Try screaming from a place you never knew you had, a guttural cathartic place you used to roll your eyes if people even told you existed.

9. REMEMBER TO RAGE
The systems are broken. They are not working. People will tell you to cooperate. But it’s time to rage against the machine. The mantra: “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me.” The media aren’t cooperating—neither should we.

10. IT BEGINS WITH ME
I’ve been on my own journey with self-care this last while. Not always easy. I’m not just talking about eating right and SoulCycle. I’m talking about that breaking that feminine perfectionist tendency for blaming myself, and giving myself a goddamn break. Move towards this, I am finding, and the whole world becomes more accepting of me. I haven’t mastered it. But none of us can participate fully, until we believe in what we are here to give.

So please keep marching girls who just wanna have fun(damental rights). I’m with you every step. Get nasty. Be nastier. Read, write, CREATE, and stay woke. And like the most badass feminist ever, the Wicked Witch of the West, once said: “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too.”

FACE YOUR FEARS…AT A SEX, DRUGS AND DEATH RETREAT

Personal development can sky-rocket when you decide to face your fears—as Rose Surnow discovered on a sex, drugs and death retreat…

Here’s me facing my fear of looking fierce AF.

I’m afraid of… basically everything. Swimming in a dark pool? What about sharks? Even though that’s impossible. Cute guy asks me on a date? He probably just wants to murder me and sell my pubic hair on Craigslist. Amazing job opportunity falls in my lap? It’s obviously a Ponzi scheme run by terrorists. So many fears, so little time!

Raised by intelligent but pathologically anxious parents, I was taught that the world is a land mine where nothing is safe. Wear a sweater! Wear a helmet! Wear a hazmat suit! Better yet, just don’t go outside. SOMETHING COULD HAPPEN. “Being Jewish is so relaxing,” said no one, ever.

So, it goes without saying I’d be terrified of things like sex, drugs and death. My greatest fear is probably having sex on drugs, and then dying. So, when I was invited to a mindfulness retreat called “The Taboo Weekend” to discuss these exact topics, I jumped at the chance. It was time to face some fears.

Organized by bohemian power-couple Michael Hebb and Angel Grant, the event is meant to help people open up about difficult subjects in order to live a more meaningful life. Hebb and Grant started the company Death Over Dinner, where they host dinner parties all over the world, to get people talking about death.

Held at a beautiful luxury retreat center in Atlanta, called the Inn at Serenbe the event was three days of discussion, meditation and reflection. And it was an incredible. I felt my heart break open a little more, my walls come down a couple inches, and my spirit get lighter and more free.

If you ever find yourself at the Taboo Weekend (which I highly recommend) or any retreat at all, check out my tips on how to get the most out of it. Because if I can get out of my fears and be present, literally anyone can.

:: PARTICIPATE FULLY ::
It’s easier to be a Skeptical Susan, judging life from the sidelines, than a Participating Pam. But Pam always wins in the end.

On the last day of the retreat we had a “sex lunch” which meant we sat in randomly assigned groups, ate fried chicken and took turns answering really personal questions about our sex lives. A dude in recovery confessed that sober sex was really intimidating. A beautiful blond talked about how her anti-depressants made climax impossible. And a hot German guy admitted that he didn’t like casual hook-ups and needed an emotional connection.

Everyone just spilled their insecurities like it was no big deal, and it was kind of an epiphany. Maybe our biggest insecurities aren’t that big of deal. Maybe we’re all just people doing the best we can trying to figure it out. I left that conversation feeling lighter than I have since I was a kid.

This was our bangin’-ass hot tub where I met my retreat boyfriend.

:: GET IN THE HOT TUB ::
I think it was Shakespeare who said, “Hot things happen in hot tubs.” So get in already! (And, if your retreat doesn’t have a Jacuzzi, what the fuck are you even doing there?)

On the first night of my Taboo weekend, I ended up in a Jacuzzi with a group of cute, young people because, doy. Slowly, everyone left to go to bed until it was just me and this hot guy named Brian. HOW CONVENIENT. We looked at the stars for a while and pretended to ignore the implications of being the last ones left. Then he walked me to my hotel room where we made out until the sun came up.

The point is you could die at any moment, so get in the hot tub of LIFE and make-out with Brian. Sidenote: straight men who go on mindfulness retreats are amazing lovers. Slow, sensitive and sensual it almost makes up for every single dude you slept with in college.

:: INTERVIEW A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR BUT, SOMEHOW MAKE IT ABOUT YOURSELF ::
The speaker who gave us a lecture about drugs was best-selling author, addiction expert and Holocaust survivor, Gabor Mate. Even though he’s 72 years old, he’s still fine as hell in that tormented Eastern European way. He looks like if Adrien Brody melted.

Gabor spoke a lot about the mind-body connection and if I can reduce his two-hour lecture to one sentence, it would be: Every problem in your life stems from not getting the love you needed as a child.

Obviously, that’s incredibly simplistic, but I can’t summarize his entire lecture here (but you should definitely watch his Ted Talk).

After hearing Gabor talk, I interviewed him about his life. I asked about his experience in Budapest during the Holocaust and then somehow we ended up talking about depression. Gabor has been on and off Prozac for decades, and I’ve been on Lexepro since I was 19. Then Gabor started asking me all these really personal questions about my life, my childhood, my family. Suddenly, I found myself crying about my parents’ divorce…when this motherfucker SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST.

I’ve never felt more millennial: “Oh, your grandfather was murdered by Nazis. That sucks. My dad didn’t support my art!”

By the end of the conversation, Gabor had me smiling and laughing. “How do you feel now?” he asked me.

“I feel great, relaxed,” I said.

“That is your true essence,” he replied. “That is who you really are.”

Gabor thinking deep thoughts.

:: STAY CALM WHEN A WOMAN GETS POSSESSED BY KUNDALINI YOGA SPIRITS ::
Weird things happen at New Age retreats. I was sitting in a small lecture with Gabor Mate when all of the sudden this woman started violently convulsing. Gasping for breath, jerking, and shaking, I thought for sure she was having a panic attack.

Apparently, she was experiencing some kind of “Kundalini episode.” Whatever it was, it was scary to watch. I was starting to feel a little panic-by-proxy, when Gabor started to calm her down.

“What’s going on, right now?

“I can’t control it,” she said.

“That’s okay. How are you feeling?” he asked.

“I’m embarrassed. I feel like I’m being too dramatic. I feel like I’m too much for people,” she cried as she flailed around.

Then Gabor asked us all to stand up and get out of our chairs and imitate her movements. “We will do it with you, so you’re not alone.” We started jerking and shaking and it was kind of fun. We looked like a group of white people trying to dance. Finally, she calmed down.

It was like magic. Gabor turned this weird, edgy experience, into a supportive, playful exercise. Everything was okay. She was okay. She just needed to feel like she wasn’t alone.

***

If there’s one thing I learned over and over again on this retreat is that we’re all WAY TOO HARD ON OURSELVES. I spent three days having radically honest and open conversations with all types of people, from all types of backgrounds. And the thing I heard most was how much pain people were experiencing at their own hand. And I’m no exception.

All our problems are rooted in not feeling loved enough. And it starts with ourselves. I realize this article vacillates between sarcastic and cheesy, genuine and silly, but that’s me. I had no idea what to expect on a sex, drugs and death retreat. But what I got was compassion. A real sense of compassion for other people, for myself and for life.

When you face your fears, maybe the world’s not such a scary place after all.