How to feel powerful

I drank a lot of tequila last weekend. I was in New York City with my three best girlfriends and no husband or child. Now, if this conjures up images of dancing on tables and last call before the after-hours club, you’re picturing the wrong kind of tequila drinking. This was survival drinking, the kind that numbs your despair and fuels your rage.

The four of us hadn’t all been together in a year. There was lots to catch up on. Yet the topic to which we kept returning was how powerless we feel lately due to the political situation. This a particularly insidious kind of powerless. The ever-present, boundless nature of it makes it impossible to escape, like Ebola or the Kardashians. And, when we feel out of control about such big things, like the direction of our country and the breakdown of our democracy, we generally also feel powerless about the little things in our lives, like whether we give the finger to the jerk who cut us off in traffic (he deserved it, swear to God), or the kind of mood we’re in when we pick our kids us from school.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of feeling powerless. Also, if I’m being honest, my small acts of resistance, like calling my senators and voting—while important—don’t exactly make me feel like a rebel. So, short of leading an outright revolution (who’s in?!), what’s a girl to do?

Here are five things that make me feel powerful:

1.       Eliminating “sorry” from my vocabulary

Sorry is reserved for situations where you have truly hurt someone’s feelings and they deserve an apology. Other than that, did I bump into you? Oh, excuse me. Did you bump into me? Excuse you. Am I sick and unable to come to work, your birthday party, or that parent-teacher event? Shit happens. Did I buy the wrong kind of cereal when I went shopping? Please be more specific on the grocery list next time. I could go on, but you get the idea. Try it for one week, one day, or one hour. I guarantee you’ll feel like a superhero.

2.       Punching something

I went through a kick-boxing phase in my twenties. I had a real knack for it, though as a skinny white girl vegetarian you wouldn’t have known from looking at me. In one of my first classes the instructor ended the hour by sparring with everyone for a few minutes. For everyone else she wore a protective face shield, but when she got to me she took it off. I gave her a bloody nose. We ended up becoming good friends, so all’s well that ends well, but no one in that class took me for granted again. I never felt more like a badass than when I was punching and kicking something on a regular basis. Over the years though, like every other kale-eating Maya Angelou-quoting white woman, I got into yoga and so gave up kickboxing. This, however, is no time for yoga. I’ve done all the breathing and sending compassion into the world that I can handle. I need to punch something.

3.       Stopping with the guilt already

Guilt is an emotion we create for ourselves. It’s nothing more than an attachment to a judgement that may or may not be real. With women, it’s usually a self-imposed judgement. Whether it’s mothering, working, exercising, or fighting the patriarchy, we’re never doing enough. For me, writing is something about which I often choose to feel guilty. Because I’m not a famous writer and it’s not my day job, the rational part of my brain views writing as wasted time. Precious minutes that could be used for working out, catching up on email, or doing the dishes. But, it’s one of the parts of my day that gives me the most joy, so I work hard to tell my rational brain to shut the hell up.

4.       Enjoying my amazing life

I didn’t get here by accident. Though often with the state of the world today, I feel guilty about enjoying what I have (see #3). Whether it’s my career, my beautiful family, or our nice home in a great neighborhood, I worked damn hard for all of it. I’ve experienced some gruesome lows over the years, where the life I have today seemed far out or reach. Yet here I am. I thank God for this every day, and right after that I also thank myself for the hard work I put in.

5.       Having an opinion

I grew up in the Midwest, where most conversations go like this:

“Hey, do you want to see a movie tonight?”

“Well sure, if you want to see one.”

“What do you want to see then?”

“Oh, I don’t know, whatever you want to see.”

Layer on being a woman, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t have an opinion until I was thirty. These days I’ve got a view on everything and you’re going to hear it.  Electoral college? Antiquated and undermining democracy. Imagine Dragons? Overrated. Travel in Italy? No to Venice, yes to Rome. Even if it’s a small thing, like where to go to dinner, I force myself to weigh in. Because the small things are practice for the big things. If you can’t tell your husband or friends that you want sushi instead of pizza, you’ll never be able to tell your uncle that you don’t want to hear his right-wing conspiracy theory crap over Thanksgiving dinner.

 

So, there you have it, five small ways to exert your power today. Try all of them, some of them, or come up with your own list. Just do something to get yourself out of the black hole of we’re all in right now. Our lives depend on it.