It was five thirty in the evening and I'd been blocking traffic about twenty minutes when the police care pulled up behind me. The knot in my stomach doubled in size. I looked in the rearview mirror at the policeman and saw beads of sweat running down my forehead. The pantsuit I was wearing, not designed for automobile breakdowns in July, was too hot. My Jeep Grand Wagoneer was a massive eight-cylinder lump the size of a killer whale in the road. Five more minutes passed, still the SUV wouldn't start. All I heard was, the r-r-r-r-r of the engine as I turned the key teasing me that maybe, possibly, it might start. The police car just sat behind me. The patrol lights weren't flashing. He seemed to be talking on his radio.
Traffic was agonizingly slow, as one driver at a time moved past me, all of them glaring as they went on their way. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be out of this snarl of traffic, out of my hot suit, out of the situation. As the minutes passed, it became clear no one was going to offer help. I couldn't ask the policeman to help push the Jeep. Could I? He'd have to leave his own vehicle in traffic to help me push my car the 250 yards or so through the intersection, around the corner and into the nearest parking lot. Besides if he was interested in helping, surely he would have approached me by now. How could I ever move this massive vehicle by myself?
I put the Jeep in neutral and got out. With the driver's side door wide open, I put one hand on the frame of the open car door and the other on the steering wheel. To make this work I was going to have to push and steer at the same time. I leaned forward and pushed. Nothing happened. The policeman leaned forward to watch the spectacle of woman and Jeep. I could see him in my rearview mirror. My embarrassment deepened. Other drivers passing were staring at me, too. An average sized woman, in high heels and beige pinstripes trying to push her SUV. Alone. I was hoping that if all these drivers saw me trying to push the car myself, a Good Samaritan would surely offer to help.
The light turned red. Now I had to stand in place as the lights in the intersection ahead cycled back through to my traffic lane. I could feel the eyes of the do-nothing policeman and the other drivers watching. I was mortified. Time stood still. The light turned green. I pushed with all my strength. The Jeep rocked slightly. I pushed again with all my might. This time the Jeep rolled forward a few inches. I kept pushing.
Within a few strides, I was jogging… (as well as anyone can jog in pumps). I had to keep the momentum going. I had to get through the light. Here the pavement began to angle down slightly, so now the car rolled through the intersection. I had to cross the traffic in the right lane to get to the parking lot. I checked behind me, preparing for the maneuver, I saw something that took my embarrassment to a whole new level. For the first time, I could clearly see the entire front of the patrol car behind me, there were two policemen watching me push this enormous Jeep. Alone. That's when I burst into tears. It's no wonder no one was stopping to offer assistance. I was being tailed by the cities finest. With two officers on the job, no one else was going to step forward.
Thankfully, by this time my Jeep had enough momentum to rollup the slight incline I was aiming for and into the parking lot, into a space. After I locked the car, I walked the two miles home…still in my high heels, still in my hot pantsuit, sobbing the entire way.
I'd pushed that damn car all by myself! The warrior inside me is reliable when I'm in a tough situation. There's an old quote I love: "A woman ought not to have a wishbone where she needs a backbone."
I've seen the warrior in most of the women I've known. It's a core of steel beneath pillows of kindness, generosity and loyalty. We summon our warrior when we will give no further ground, when we are protecting what we love. We have an expression in my family for that time when the warrior appears. It's called, "being on a mission." This is the state of mind we saw in our mother when she was focused on a task the outcome of which she would not be denied. A certain look came over her. The way she walked changed. By general consensus, we kids all agreed that when Mom was "on a mission," it was a good time for us to stay out of her way. My grandmothers are warriors too. The warrior is the fearless woman who under normal circumstances, lives quietly, but when properly provoked reveals herself with unmistakable clarity. She helps us survive drudgery, violence, trauma and tragedy. Some days, the warrior merely helps a woman get a load of laundry done when what she really needs to do is stay in bed. The warrior reminds us that tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow we can begin again.
As I get older, I seek out my inner warrior. I want her to take her rightful place within me. Her tutoring speaks to me in subliminal voices, images, and intuitions. She reassures me when my spiritually independent observations are correct. She keeps the fires inside me burning. When I'm facing an important issue -- humanitarian, environmental, economic, religious, or political -- she prompts me to ask questions. If women really understood their strength, their power, I ask, what difference would it make in the world? If the minds, bodies and souls of women could be mobilized to work together, what would happen?
You may be thinking that I'm an idealist. You'd be right. I am an idealist. I believe down to my core that it's possible for violence to end. Completely. I believe it's possible for suffering driven by human hands to end. I believe it's possible for every child to be fed, for every human being to have medical care and an education. I believe in the end of suffering.
Suffering can be healed. In its current state, the world is the culmination of innumerable human choices. The violence, the suffering, the environmental issues we face are the result of choices, choices to take action and choices to be passive. One by one, each choice has added up to our current reality. If we can create this reality, we can create another one. What would the world be like if we were moved to action? If we are to dream, I say, let's dream big.
I am firmly convinced that the hand of woman is strong. The contribution of woman is necessary to the survival of the whole world. Let us mobilize the warriors within us. Let's mobilize women everywhere, women in the nations of Africa, in Guatemala, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Israel, and Iran. Sisterhood is built on love. The unity of sisterhood has the power to go beyond national borders; it can penetrate cultures, and dissolve hatred. The vision I see is not warriors as society commonly envisions them, not women in armor, toting weapons, and hell bent on destruction. Instead, let's be warriors who champion the vital feminine traits. We are the human reservoirs of compassion, tenderness, and nurturing. We warriors won't ask anyone's permission. We'll gather (as we already do) at lunch and in the stands of our kids' soccer games. We'll naturally build circles. We'll combine our individual visions and begin changing the world, one woman's choice at a time. We'll stand shoulder to shoulder and begin cleaning up this mess. That's what our mothers taught us. Clean up the mess, starting right where you stand. Together we can be, "on a mission," focusing on tasks whose outcome we won't be denied. There will be peace, cooperation, nurturing and love. We simply won't have it any other way.
As Jean Shinoda Bolen writes in her book, Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the women, Save the World, "Our beautiful blue and white planet, this garden island in space, our Mother the Earth needs our help. It's time to gather the women to save the world." (p.47)