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February 5, 2017

To my Fellow Reluctant Activists: We were Made for This.

Lately, I find myself reading news articles, checking source validity, fact-checking video interviews, researching world history, and engaging in political discussions.

Over the past few months, I’ve written letters, signed petitions, made phone calls, attended rallies, and marched at our nation’s capital. My morning routine now consists of at least three phone calls to my representatives and one additional call to “the office of the issue of the day,” followed by a tweet and a post that hopefully, in some way, inform others of what I am learning.

None of this comes naturally to me.

I’m an introvert. I’m the person who loves snow days because it means I can enjoy quiet time without feeling guilty that I should be engaging with anyone.

I’ve yet to reach that point people talk about when they’ve had too many days without human contact and they start to go stir crazy. On the contrary, more than a few hours actively engaged with strangers, and I’m in need of isolation to recharge myself.

I love sitting in silence and have no need to make conversation to feel connected. I love reading and writing, crocheting and yoga, Hallmark movies and The Andy Griffith Show. I have no desire for suspense or intrigue. I like happy endings—predictable happy endings.

At 52 years old, and after a lifetime of denial, I was finally comfortable knowing these things about myself and had no desire to change. However, the universe has recently conspired to keep me living in a state of discomfort.

Often, engaged in debate, I find my palms are sweaty and my voice is shaking. I ask myself, “Who is this person speaking so passionately about a subject she barely understands?”

Politics has never been my area of expertise. Without Ms. Ellis’ “Law and Justice” lectures and the catchy songs from Schoolhouse Rock, I would be completely clueless as to how our government functions. But I’m beginning to understand that passions arise from unexpected places.

Often, it’s not until we take a step back that we are able to see the interconnectedness of life events.

Molestation and assault may silence a voice, but they don’t kill the message. We go through life trying to communicate, stumbling, falling, longing to be heard. We shout. We cry. We whisper. We are ignored, talked-over, dismissed, misunderstood.

For a period of time, we may give up. We go through the motions and conform because we’re tired from the struggle. This has, in our history, shown up as generations of women’s voices lost amidst the noise of the times. Across the globe today, it manifests as nations of women oppressed, abused, enslaved, and forgotten.

Voices are muffled, but the message remains, simmering beneath the surface, waiting. Waiting for the day when the pressure is so intense that the fear of speaking pales in comparison to the fear of remaining silent.

Although on the surface it appears to be sudden, the awakening happens slowly: Whispers begin. Thoughts are shared. Words are overheard that strike a cord in people who previously thought they were alone. One by one, communities form. Voices joined together create volume, and people begin to listen.

For those who aren’t accustomed to being heard, there’s a feeling of power, validation, and respect. Fears get pushed aside, and passion takes over. From quivering voices the message begins to seep out into the universe, starting as a rumble and growing to a roar.

This is where I find myself today. Empowered by the strength of other women, I’m no longer sitting quietly by while injustice occurs.

We may stumble. We may fall. We might be dismissed, talked-over, and misunderstood but we’ve been here before. We have lived in that space of fear, and it has shaped us. Like coal under pressure, we’ve emerged stronger and more brilliant, built for this time.

This time, we will not be ignored. We will cry cleansing tears. We will whisper truth to our babies and shout justice into this troubled world. We will reach deep inside our hearts and feel compassion for those who need it most. Having seen the darkness, we will bring the light. We will march, and write, and sing—and we will be heard.

And though we may be reluctant activists, we were made for this.

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Author: Denise Zirker

Image: Author’s Own

Editor: Toby Israel

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Denise Zirker