By CMarie Fuhrman
I come from a long line of women who get the job done. No matter if it is making lunch for a haying crew of thirty hungry ranchers, or rallying resources in the last minutes before a Christmas morning gathering to make sure the late additions to our table would have gifts to open after dessert. We accomplish the task. My female friends are equally driven. I’ve been on a crew of five that made all the food for a wedding with over 300 guests. We stayed up all night peeling potatoes for salad and rolling up pieces of lunch meat for the buffet and got up the next morning in time to set it all up, dress the bride, get to the service, and smile in the photographs. My girlfriends and I have cut firewood, branded calves, painted, packed, and proved over and over that no matter the job, we can get it done.
And now many of those same women and I have joined the ranks of our sisters all over the globe to get other jobs done. Together we are marching for change, for peace, for climate, for the environment. I’ve joined sister-friends in democratic calls for action, given a thumbs up on every single photo another friend posts about wild spaces and our need to keep them. And I have sat in a classroom with the wonderful bloggers that I share this space with, and talked about the challenges and the rewards of being female and the best way to showcase those.
And I am tired.
It is the nature of almost every woman I know to work and work until the job is done. How many nights I stayed up late with my mother baking for a feast the next day. How often I have watched my friends grow exhausted as they take care of an older parent, a sick child, or an orphaned calf. After haying or branding, the women gather in kitchens. After funerals and weddings, there they are in church basements, stacking warm dishes, making plates of food to send home, their hands, callused, swollen, and kind, wringing at the aprons tied to their waists.
And now, I read their posts, their articles, written late at night, written in the moments between taking care of families, going to jobs, all in an effort to feed us information, to clean up messes made. Women, getting the job done.
And you must be tired.
This post is not an attempt to martyr or to point out what you must already know about the women in your life, or about yourself. And though it is written with a heart full of pride toward my family and friends and gratitude toward every woman who makes a stand, who works beyond her shift, who stays until the last table is clean, the last person fed, it is not the only reason for this post.
I write this as permission for you to take a break.
I understand self-sacrifice. I get that there is still so much work to be done. I realize that we have to keep the pressure on in order to create change. But, I insist that we have to be healthy to do so. That we have to have moments of laughter, or silliness, of doing something that has no end result other than to, for a moment, gives us rest.
This comes from a realization I had last week after an intensely busy schedule that included writing about racism, the sterilization of Native women, a phone call a day to our state senator, ushering around candidates for a job in the University’s MFA program, planning a surprise party for my 80 year-old mother, proposing panel discussions to a writing conference, leading class discussions about Standing Rock, and worrying about the snow that may fall on the road that connects me to home.
By Saturday, I was toast. I had forgotten to feed my dogs the night before. I forgot to thank friends who gave me a ride. Thank you notes, due a month ago, sat in stacks by my chair. The bird feeder was empty. I was disgusted with myself. I sat down in my favorite chair, the one that looks out our big windows only the tops and thick trunks of trees, onto snow, to the bird feeder where sometimes a flash of a blue wing so brilliant lands that I think June itself has come for an early visit. I started making a list that included everything from watering house plants to writing a letter to a local representative about a local mining companies lawyer and his lack of scruples. I tapped the stack of thank you cards, realizing that those simple gestures meant as much as the big pushes.
Then Caleb, my partner, offered a wonderful idea: Let’s go for a hike.
And not just a hike, a hike with no mention of the President or any of the current events that we have been worrying about. A hike with no cell service. A hike with dogs off leash. A simple, wonderful, escape into nature. And we went. And though, for the first mile or so, I was writing in my head, working on next week’s schedule, worrying about places wild and free being protected, the salve of the open sky, of the free and wild Salmon River, the sound of nothing, began its healing. By the time we returned to the car, I was exhausted and replenished.
You don’t have to hike.
Maybe your escape is a hot bath. Perhaps it is tea and a book; a book that pulls you out of now and into a steamy romance or a thrilling mystery. Maybe it is puppy videos on the internet. Petting the cat in your lap. A wondrous, glorious afternoon of sex with yourself or someone who deserves you. Go buy yourself some flowers. How about some fine underwear? Maybe you’d like a pedicure, a massage, a walk with a friend where you take note of the buds that will likely be on the trees right now. Look at the sky, note this place and all of the beautiful wonderful people that we are working for and with.
We need you.
And we need you at your best. This is going to be a long fight and perhaps there is some truth in the axiom that a woman’s work is never done. I think all of us are ok with that, we are wired for the work of living. But work will be there tomorrow. Even next week, if a week off is what you need. There will always be more dishes, more causes, more mouths that need feeding, and I know you will show up.
My call to you, male or female, who read this post, is to give permission to the women in your life to take a break. Bring them a cup of coffee or a smile. Take time to send a thank you card to someone who is inspiring you. Make sure you or they are eating well. Give yourself or a loved when time for exercise. Rent a silly movie. Laugh, play, sleep. Lose a game of Spider Solitaire and not care. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, even as you sow them.
Don’t worry. You and I, we are that kind of women. We will get the job done.