I had planned to write you a big long letter today and do so many Karmic Balancing Gifts (I still will just after) and show you lots of knitting and then today was packing day for the Rally and several things that were supposed to be fast were slow and a few things that were supposed to be easy were hard, and now it’s past bedtime and I have to get up while it’s still dark to start riding my bike to Montreal and I’m just now eating dinner and…
Let’s talk about hard things instead. I believe in doing hard things. (Betcha figured that out already.) I think that if you are privileged enough to be able to choose to do a hard thing or not, choosing to do it has real rewards that can change the way you see the world, the way your brain works, and the kind of happiness you (eventually) have. I think challenge is good for you. I do not think this about hard things that you do not choose.
I know a woman who has HIV as a result of being raped during a genocide in her country of origin. I know another who thought she was in a monogamous relationship, and wasn’t. I know another one who has two HIV positive kids because she’s a refugee from a country where access to healthcare and medicine that can prevent mums from passing HIV onto their babies isn’t affordable, accessible or frankly, possible. I know HIV+ addicts and people with really bad luck and some who are sex workers because they ran right the hell out of choices at all. They are doing some really goddamn hard stuff, and they didn’t choose it, didn’t have the privilege to work against it, and the day that I tell them that I think the hardship they’ve endured was good for them is frankly, the day I open a (*&^%$ing moth farm.
The Bike Rally has something called “the big meeting.” We have all the participants there, and we talk to them about everything they need to know, and build the community they’ll need to get through this thing, and I had to give a speech. I talked quite a bit about how choosing to do hard things can make you happy – if they’d have been knitters I would have talked to them about that feeling as you take the pins out of a lace shawl that you really, really worked hard on, one that was a challenge. That part of you that feels the growth of a little self esteem as a result of the proof that you pulled it off – you know that one? Without using a knitting metaphor (which was really hard, let me tell you) I pointed out that the Rally can give you that feeling. I also asked the Steering Committee to share their reasons for why they do this. They do a ton of work to make this happen over a year, and I thought people might like to know why they do it. They gave lots of reasons. There’s 24 of them, and there were 24 reasons. Some of them ride in remembrance of someone else, some ride because others can’t. Some ride because it’s the lace shawl thing, some ride because they love the community, some ride because they feel like they need to give a voice to someone who doesn’t have one.
At the end, I gave my reason, and I’m going to share it with you here. Several of you have written to me very sweetly, because you are kind right down to your roots, and asked why on earth I am doing something that clearly hasn’t made me superficially happy this year (I cop to that) and that’s obviously really, really hard. I haven’t known quite what to say, but I do now.
Why do I do this? Quite frankly, it is my overwhelming belief that someone has to. Given our current political climate – given the pain and hurt of so many people around us, people who are seemingly invisible to the world around them – or visible in the worst possible way, those experiencing stigma, shame, discrimination, poverty… all the consequences of HIV/AIDS that occurs if they are unsupported practically and emotionally – when they are outside of a community – doesn’t somebody have to? Given a system where we know what we know about happiness and health, that it grows and thrives in a place where all that is minimized and choices and opportunities to do hard work and choose challenge are maximized – and given that we all have the power to change not just the world but the very lives of people who live in it…to make them happier, to make ourselves happier… doesn’t somebody have to, and doesn’t it have to be someone with the ability, luck and privilege to do it? I have a pretty beautiful life. Shouldn’t it be me?
This has been a very hard thing. It’s probably going to get a little harder, over the next few days… and I want you to know that as I’ve struggled, I’ve been so touched by the generosity you’ve shown me that has made every sacrifice worth it. I am grateful for you, everything you do, every donation, comment, email…. every action you take that proves that you want to live in a world that’s decent and kind and generous and a little bit more fair… I reflect on it often. You all are amazing. I am grateful when I think of you, I know PWA is grateful for you. You increase the amount of happiness in the world.
PS. We took these pictures of us, Team Knit, a few weeks ago when we were all together and doing what we do – knitting and being friends. (Also we are fairly good at cocktails.) I haven’t had many opportunities to say it, but I want to do it here – I am so grateful to Cam, Ken and Pato for having my back this whole time. This was harder than I thought it would be, and the real help they’ve been over the last year is more than I can say. Cam’s been an amazing emotional support animal and a very good listener, Ken’s always got my back when it comes to the details and covering me with the family, and Pato, he’s such a workhorse. Do you know he took my stuff to packing day for me today so that I could take the subway and get there before everyone to do my work? Thoughtful and practical. I’m sorry for all of it guys. You’ve only got to get me through six more days and then maybe I’ll be less crazy. I love you.
PPS. You have already done so much to support us – we are all fantastically, wonderfully above our goals. I do have a few quiet hopes that are as yet unrealized, and if you’d like to give any of us a push in absolutely destroying those goals, I’d love it, and overachieving is what knitters do best. We remain (along with all of you) Team Knit, and we’ll catch you on the other side.