I recently went on a trip to a city I’d never been to before to hear a woman I’d never met in person speak to a group I’d only read about in the news and it prompted me to send my nieces a cartoon t-shirts I’m calling “THE SISTERHOOD OF THE NEVER IMAGINED EMPOWERMENT NOW T-SHIRT”.
It all started before the trip. Months before. Back in September when Anita Finlay, a blogger friend who is an actress in LA and author of “Dirty Words on Clean Skin”, called to tell me about a book signing and speaking engagement she had at the National Organization of Women’s state chapter conference in Albany, New York. After she explained the particulars, she went on to invite me to meet her in Albany, and almost in the same breath added in a kind of awed wonder:
“I never imagined when I wrote my book that it would lead to all this other stuff — speaking at NOW, becoming an ongoing contributor to a radio show, doing media interviews …”
My first thought was “how odd.” Even when Anita was still writing her book on sexism and the 2008 election I had so easily imagined and wished “all this other stuff” for her. To me it seemed a perfectly logical result of what she had done and what she was capable of doing.
Yet I too had never imagined the many strange and varied twists my own life would take over the years or the many people who would help me along the way including Anita herself or that I would have the opportunity to meet her in person for the first time in New York at a NOW convention.
Smiling at my own disbelief and anticipation, I bought my ticket, planned my trip to Albany and waited for the months to pass.
Given the hundreds of emails we’d exchanged over the years, it was hardly surprising that within minutes of seeing each other for the first time, Anita and I were laughing and chatting like long-lost sorority sisters. Over the next two days we cemented our sisterhood over margaritas, laughter, tears, sweet potato fries, lots of amazingly great meals and endless trips in the hotel’s shuttle van (a story for another time).
It wasn’t until my first morning at the NOW convention that I sensed that this trip would be something more than just a fun holiday escape. Something odd was happening.
I was hearing voices.
Voices from completely different people and in widely varying circumstances were saying almost the exact same phrases, word for word.
And no it wasn’t the margaritas, we didn’t have that many. Or the after effects of banging my head on the bulkhead of the shuttle van multiple times. That too came later and, I might add, while I was sober. Nor were the voices limited to the NOW conference, though that was when I started to pay attention.
On my first night in Albany as I waited for Anita’s flight to come in, I ate my salad in a corner table near the serving station and over heard a young woman excitingly tell her co-worker that she had been accepted into the program. I didn’t hear what exactly the program was, but she went on to say with amazement and wonder “If it wasn’t for her, I never would have applied. It wasn’t even on my radar screen.” While I was happy for the server, I didn’t think much about it at the time.
The next morning, Marcia Pappas the outgoing president of NOW NYS stood up and told with gratitude and awe how she, a former hairdresser, “never imagined” she would become someone who would move (and, in the case of Sen. Hiram Monserrate, help remove) politicians and shape legislation. She went on to name those who saw in her what she “never imagined” for herself and helped her to get there. She echoed Anita’s “never imagined” words from a few months earlier and the servers words from the night before, but still I just thought it was a happy coincidence. Until, my flight home.
After a two hour delay, it was well after midnight by the time we got in the air. I was just nodding off when a man and woman behind me started talking about her sleeping son. The conversation rambled around children and child care and then she said “I’m an architect. Now I work from home.” And then a note of wonder and joy came into her voice and she said, “I never imagined I could make it work, but my sister-in-law …” There it was again, that phrase “Never Imagined” and others helping her to see and achieve it.
As I fell asleep, my mind drifted to my four nieces and I wondered what are and would be their “never imagined.” So I wrote them this note:
Dear Nieces: I'm sending you this SISTERHOOD OF THE NEVER IMAGINED EMPOWERMENT NOW T-SHIRT because it is wacky, fun and I got it at that NOW conference. But also because it encompasses what I heard repeatedly over that weekend which I now wanted to share with you:
- Seek it — There is a whole world of the “never imagined.” You are more capable and life has more possibilities than your wildest dreams.
- Believe it — Your power is your own. It is your gift and your responsibility and you need neither permission or confirmation from others for it’s use.
- Take it — “Now” may be a one time opportunity. Second chances are a possibility, but later is never a guarantee .
- Give it — Your words and deeds can be the catalyst of great things.
- Become it — Be a part of a sisterhood of friends, mentors and organizations (school, NOW, TNA, BlogHer, etc.) who will help you as you help others to see and achieve their never imagined.
May you wear this t-shirt with a healthy dose of “EMPOWERMENT,” a strong sense of “NOW”, a life filled with the “NEVER IMAGINED,” and a “SISTERHOOD” that not only has your back, but will cup their hands to boost you up. I am so proud and honored that you are a part of my sisterhood.
Your loving aunt
And to you dear reader, whether you are male or female, I wish for you a Sister and Brotherhood Of The Never Imagined Empowerment Now!
I could probably use one of those “Empowerment” t-shirts. I could definitely use a pep talk. 🙂
Loved your post, Linda. Thank you for sharing it, Amiga!
Dear Virginia — If I can get some more I will send you one. I know how you feel. I think I wrote this as much for myself as for my nieces. Thanks. And thanks for stopping by. Seeing your comment, brighten my day.
What a great gift and awesome message!
Thank you! I hope they like it.
Linda, you made the entire trip so rewarding for me and the adventure is that much greater for your presence and friendship. This was truly a ‘jump into the deep end of the pool and see what happens” kind of experience and really does fall into the category of “I never would have imagined.” I’m so glad you wrote about this experience These t-shirts really are a blast. A picture is wrth a thusand words, as they say. I think I need to likewise make a list of everything that has happened this year and frame it — not for aggrandizement, not for anyone else’s eyes–just for me. I think you know what I mean…thank you, thank you, thank you for being such a pal every step of the way.
Anita, Thank you for inviting me. I had a such a blast too. But that it also helped me to remember things I used to know and live by – optimism and possibilities. That my friend is priceless! Making a list of everything that happened this year and framing it sounds like a perfect way to internalize and celebrate it all – the good, the bad and the freaking awesome!
The more I reflect on the journey of the last few years, the more I see that the benefits have so far outweighed the costs, that there is simply no comparison. My choices have, simply, led to a rebirth. I still have to pinch myself when I’m on the radio offering up my opinion — years ago I was terrified to be “on the record” about anything. I thought if anyone knew what I thought or felt, I would be rejected or ostracized somehow.
Today, I realize, I would rather attract like minded people or have a debate agreeing to disagree with someone at least open enough to entertain another point of view even if we never share the same one.
Showing up is a gift, always. I wish I had made so many of these choices sooner. Then again, I guess the timing worked out the only way it could have — when I was ready. The more I read your piece, Linda, the more I appreciate its wondefl message to your nieces. We all need mentors willing to open new doors and raise new possibilities…
I am late to the party but not to the message. Glad I linked on your link and must stop by more to read what you have to say.
Thank you Elaine!