I have been staring at this page for far too long. I have been staring at this page since last Wednesday, when the nation spotlighted a slab of rock. I have been staring at this page since I was born.
I knew I wanted to write about the anti-abortion laws. I knew it when my throat tightened in sync with the lawmakers’ noose. As the restrictions closed in, so did my airways. My hanging mouth could not find the speech to adequately dictate my horror.
And so, I remained silent. At first. But the words left unsaid start swelling at the base of my throat. That’s the thing about bottlenecks: the contents don’t disappear, they just collect into a state of pressure. I’ve found it’s best to twist the cap off these things early on.
I sat at the living room table, poured myself a big glass of cab, put on some Lizzo, and embarked on my latest quest: to blog about abortions. You know, just your average Tuesday night.
And what a quest it was.
The first draft of this blog was a languid painting of bodily autonomy; a poetic attempt to describe why having a choice is the only choice. This was how it opened:
My body is not a plotted roadmap of known destinations. There are no grids here, no marked capitals. My body is untamed, unruly. It sprawls with ideas that burst like bluebells in spring— sun-soaked and wild. My body is a biological phenomenon. My veins aren’t just veins; they are rivers. Rivers that cut through lonely forests, forests that give way to fiery sand dunes, which then dissolve into buoyant seas. I am still uncovering new things in this cavernous place — planted desires, tidal-wave dreams. I will spend my lifetime exploring this strange land. I may not be its architect, but I do know that I am the keeper of its keys. It is not yours to enter without invitation, and it is certainly not yours to conquer by force. And thus, my body is also my gatekeeper. The varied landscapes of my ungovernable soul are pillared by bone, muscle, and truth: the only viable guards strong enough to withstand, flexible enough to bend, and bright enough to give light in these dark times.
I liked this draft. It made some good points. It went on to discuss bone, muscle, and truth. The ending was sassy.
And yet, there was something missing from its flowered language. It wasn’t angry enough. While it hit on choice and privacy, it failed to encompass the extent of my fury.
It didn’t talk about how the bans don’t stop abortions, they stop safe abortions. It didn’t talk about how providing a safe abortion could lead to a century behind bars. It didn’t talk about how a 14-year-old rape victim could be forced into motherhood, or the overall cruelty in the idea of forced motherhood. It didn’t talk about how 6 weeks pregnant is just 2 weeks past a missed period — which is super common if you’re stressed or on medication or for a myriad of other reasons. (I haven’t had a “regular” period in 10 years.) It didn’t talk about women of color, and how in the states in which abortions are being banned, black infant mortality rates are some of the highest in the country (and are always higher than those of white women.) It didn’t talk about the other facets of this issue — birth control, foster care, miscarriages, accessible healthcare, sex education, the separation of church and state.
My argument needed more teeth. I tried again, with a different tone. My second draft began like this:
Should we just go full V for Vendetta on this patriarchy? Start an underground vigilante group? I’m not big on the Guy Fawkes masks (I have sensitive skin), but we need to make a point. I’m thinking Handmaid’s Tale, but those dresses look really stuffy. So like Handmaid’s Tale, but modern and badass. Badass Handmaids. So… I guess that means we’re going as ourselves.
That draft didn’t go far. As fun as it was to imagine such a scenario, I feared the sarcasm could downplay the seriousness of the situation. I was circling around ideas instead of addressing them head on.
The third draft was more direct. A heavy hitter. It began with:
I respect women. They understand gravity. They understand the gravity of their decisions; the gravity of parenting; the gravity of oppression. I trust women. I trust that they know what is best for them. To be told that they do not is to deny them of freedom. It is saying that they do not possess the self-awareness to make entitled choices — that they are not to be trusted, and should thereby be regulated; controlled. This has always been about one thing: power.
This approach was certainly more straightforward, but then it got super rant-y— which is fine, rants are good sometimes— but it’s hard to sail a ship in flames. It burned with fire, but offered no water.
I was on glass four and in the middle of draft three when my roommate, C, walked into the living room, where I was ceremoniously holding court for my murdered darlings.
“What are you writing?” He asked. I looked at the beheaded sentences splayed out before me. What was I writing?
“I don’t know,” I responded, followed by: “I mean, I’m writing about the abortion bans. But I can’t… I don’t know how to fit it all in… It’s hard for me.” He sighed, and said, “It’s hard for the country.”
I tried to shape my frustration into words. I’m a visual person, so sometimes it’s easier for me to describe concepts in metaphors. I love metaphors. I will metaphorically die on a hill of metaphors. “It’s like I’m trying to make a sculpture, but I’m just staring at a slab of rock.” I said. “I don’t know where to start. I don’t even know what chisel to use.”
C left the room. (In his defense, I wouldn’t know what to say, either.) I continued to string words onto the page, knowing they, too, wouldn’t make it far, but indulging myself in the catharsis of it all.
C re-entered. “Pick your chisel,” He said.
I looked up to see that he was literally holding three chisels in his hands. They were similar at first glance, all styled with a gold and grey base. But the “chisel” parts varied thereafter: one narrow, one wide, one thick. We live in Manhattan, so I’m not sure why C has three chisels to begin with, but whatever. The point is that he actualized my metaphor: Three chisels. Three drafts. Three ways to carve into solid matter.
I instinctively grabbed the first one: tall, sharp, dainty. Maybe it was the wine talking, but the tool I picked reminded me of my first draft. Funny, what we gravitate towards. It felt right. It fit me.
That decided it: I was going to revisit the first draft. But, as I passed the tool between my palms, I began to realize that when it comes to sculpting history, it’s less about how we chisel and more about what we are chiseling.
And thus, the final draft of this blog was etched into existence.
I have been staring at this page for far too long. I have been staring at this page since last Wednesday, when the nation spotlighted a slab of rock. I have chiseled at its core in three ways, expecting to sculpt all my feelings into a single post. But maybe that was my Achilles’ heel. Maybe this can’t be shaped alone. This sculpture never belonged to me exclusively; it belongs to all women.
Maybe that’s what we should do when our throats feel tight and our hearts feel heavy: pick a chisel. Pick one that feels right in your hands, that speaks to you when your words escape. There is no “right” way to tackle this.
My chisels may come in varied tones-of-voice, but there are plenty of tools in this metaphoric Home Depot. Yours could be a painting or a donation; a protest or a conversation. Choose how you wish to join the unfinished work, and then get busy striking at this daunting matter — at your own pace, in your own way. Just do something. Do not watch idly as this sculpture takes shape without you.
It’s an absolute mess right now, but I promise the finished creation will be a beautiful sight. How could it not be? It has been chiseled for thousands of years by some of the bravest people to ever live. It has been chiseled by you.