So … This is the first of my monthly posts where I will be recommending a book/article/poem written by a woman for women! Except—this week, I am not recommending a book/article/poem. Instead, I am suggesting/begging/pleading that you watch one or, preferably, both of these YouTube videos of talks given by my new she-ro: Connie Schultz.
OMG!! This woman is AMAZING!!!!
Ms. Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of two books . . . And His Lovely Wife: A Campaign Memoir from the Woman Beside the Man (she’s married to the Senator for Ohio, Sherrod Brown) and Life Happens: And Other Unavoidable Truth (both books are on their way right now to my house via Amazon.) She is also an incredibly moving speaker!
I first became aware of Connie Schultz last week when my wonderful daughter-in-law Melissa sent me the link to a TED Talk Ms. Schultz gave in 2016, and I will forever be grateful to Melissa for making the introduction!
A Woman Over 50: A Life Unleashed
The talk is called A Woman Over 50: A Life Unleashed, and “unleashed” she is! No apologies here! This is a wildly inspiring talk about how we, as women over 50, have so much to re/discover about ourselves and how important it is for us to remain visible and–most important–in supportive community with each other. Ms. Schultz, with great humor and honesty, tells her own story as well as the stories of friends who have made huge and wonderful changes after 50, women who have finally allowed themselves to come into their own.
Being Seen Can Be Terrifying
I’ve been thinking a lot about invisibility lately and about the risks one takes by putting oneself out into the world. For women these risks are palpable. Some of us have been forced into the shadows; others of us choose to stay there. We hold our light hidden inside until it feels like a weight in the gut.
I am thinking today about Professor Christine Ford. The courage it took for her to tell her truth and the response she has received for doing so. No wonder so many of us hold our truths inside.
I’m thinking of Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher the two brave survivors of sexual assault who confronted Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator after he announced that he would be voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court: “Look at me when I’m talking,” 23-year-old Gallagher commanded. See me. Hear me. I am here.
My discovery of Connie Schultz’s videos could not have come at a better time.
The Weight of Invisibility
I plan to explore the theme of invisibility over several posts in the near future. It’s an idea that fascinates me, and one that I have struggled with all my life.
As a child, I felt invisible. My mom (whom you’ve met in my welcome post– http://dianegottlieb.wpengine.com/hello-world/) was largely unavailable when I was small. It was confusing and scary. I needed her attention, so I could know that I existed—that I mattered. In second grade, I made a brave attempt to be “seen” –and to stuff my fears—by eating myself into an additional 40 pounds. (Quite a feat for a someone just over 4 feet tall!) It’s funny, though, my extra size just made me even more invisible. Anyone who has ever been more than a little bit overweight knows exactly what I mean.
In my day job, I’m an English tutor. Each fall, I help high school seniors write the dreaded “college essay.” It is a precious gift to be their guide in the process of naming who they are. It’s wonderful to witness them claim themselves on the page.
Witness: an individual who, being present, personally sees or perceives a thing; a beholder 
We need connection, to see ourselves reflected in other’s eyes. Babies begin to learn who they are through the mirror of their mother’s faces—Mom’s the first witness to her baby’s existence. We need people to be present, to hear us, and behold our experiences through our words. In order to feel truly visible, we need a witness.
I am in the process of writing a book, one that is incredibly dear to my heart. It’s about a group of formerly incarcerated men. An invisible population, to be sure. I listen to their stories, and I’m honored that they have trusted me to be their mirror. Hopefully, I’ll prove worthy of the task.
Connie Schultz as Witness
Connie Shultz tells her story, but she is also telling mine—and, I imagine, yours. Let’s do our best to see, to listen, to bear witness for those who have never been heard. And let’s speak up and come out of the shadows—let our lights shine bright.
Here’s the link to Ms. Shultz’s TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97d2P7U1Ukk
Here’s Ms. Shultz’s shorter talk called My Story is Your Story, a powerful tribute to her parents.
Word to the wise: have tissues at hand.
Readers. Let’s be witnesses for each other. When have you felt invisible?
See you next Friday!