A few weeks ago, I ventured out with all three kids (10, 7, and 2) for their rescheduled dental appointment. The original appointment back in April had been cancelled amidst the shut down and they were overdue. I wore my homemade purple cotton mask, the letters spelling out VOTE emblazoned in bright white hand painted letters across the front. During the appointment, one of the women who works there commented that she liked it.
“Did you make it?” she asked. I had. “Do you sell them?”
“No!” I blurted.
“Because I would buy one,” she said.
It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve been paid for any of my labor. And an even longer time since I’ve been paid for things that I make. And while I used to make different handmade items and even sell them when we lived in Minneapolis, I’ve been focusing on my kids and family for a while now. Thankfully, my husband has a secure job (turns out that virologists are, well, essential) and we’ve made decisions and choices (and sometimes sacrifices) to make it possible for us to live on one income and for me to be a stay at home mom. But I’m not going to act like there aren’t moments when I feel deeply ambivalent about not having an income. Self worth is so often tied up with “career” and “money” and “income” in our culture, it’s hard at times to separate out the two.
Which is one of the reasons why I was caught off guard when someone expressed in interest in paying me for something that I made. While it definitely felt good for someone to notice and want to pay, I didn’t want to make any promises that I couldn’t keep. If she was going to pay me her actual hard-earned cash money for something that I made, I knew the whole process could send me down the slope of perfectionism, into the deep pit of “what I am making is not worthy” despair. I didn’t want to head down that late-night slope of obsessive cutting and re-cutting, painting over and over, tearing out seams that don’t seem quite right.
So I split the difference. “I’ll send you one in the mail here with a note including the name of an organization working to end voter suppression that maybe you could consider making a donation to.”
And, of course, the whole thing still sent me on a slope, but it was a slightly gentler slope. I still went ahead and cut and painted enough fabric for four masks, so that I would have extras when I made mistakes. And I ended up sending her two, not one mask, just in case. (In case of what? I’m not sure.)
And, of course, I was still disappointed in myself that I sent them to her with less than two weeks left before the elections. In spite of my best intentions and plans, it just didn’t work to have them out sooner. The organization that I included in the note was Fair Fight, which works primarily in Georgia but also all over the country against voter suppression. Voting is a non-partisan right that should be equally accessible for all Americans.
It was a good opportunity to remind myself of this: elections happen every year. I have been remiss in previous years for not voting and participating in every non-presidential year elections. And while, yes, this national election feels particularly pressing, the reality is that it’s the local elections, (and the local representatives), that have had a much bigger impact on my day to day life.
The message “VOTE” is evergreen.