I served our local League of Women Voters as the Voters Guide editor for two years. It was a volunteer position for which I was ill suited, but I did my best.
My volunteer service in this capacity had a tumultuous ending. With a bundle of at least 100 Voters Guides in my arms, I could not see the stairs below (not to mention I was probably a bit high on a newly prescribed cocktail of Elavil + Lamictal + Lexapro + Neurontin) . Down I went, and a nine month recovery followed.
Toward the end of my recovery, I was able to drive and walk with a brace on my leg. In order to accommodate the brace, I wore long skirts or stretchy pants with sneakers. This also helped to accommodate the forty fresh pounds on my frame which resulted from a deadly combination of daily ice cream and the inability to walk.
This did not stop me from participating in a lobbying day at our state capital. When I arrived at the PA Bar Association office for the pre-meeting meeting, I saw the convener stop mid-sentence as I walked into the room and look me up and down as if to say, ‘didn’t you read my email which specifically stated that you should be professionally dressed.’ I felt humiliated. Of course, it may have just been a projection of my insecurity.
There were many times during my recovery that I felt as though my appearance was scrutinized. Especially during those months that I was not able to walk, I developed a strong compassion for people who have permanent disabilities.
At the time of the lobbying day, I was an experienced advocate who could find my way around the capitol building with my eyes closed. I am certain that my fantabulous state representative and others (who, by the way, were elected in no small part because of the great work of the League of Women Voters and my Voters Guide – thank you, very much) were more interested in what I had to say than in my appearance.
I’ll talk a bit more about the staging of legislative visits and other forms of activism in one of December’s workshops, Theatre of Change.