“Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there.” – Fortune cookie, 2017
I ran for elective office in Vermont in November and won. Lots of energized women across this country stepped into the political ring, part of a so-called “pink wave.”
For anyone who knows me well, the decision to seek elective office was largely unanticipated. I was halfway through an interfaith seminary program and this was hardly the type of “service” I envisioned.
This happy introvert (skilled at extroverted endeavors) dreamed of a writer’s life rather than a final career housed in the public sphere.
The quick version of my story goes like this…Troubled by a series of votes that my local representative cast during the previous legislative session, I went to a local activists meeting in search of someone to challenge her.
Several folks in attendance suggested that I, me, myself, run for the VT House seat, to which I responded: “Oh no, absolutely not, but I’ll find someone.”
(My “absolutely not” declaration should have proved fair-warning, for I know how life abhors lines drawn in the sand.)
I queried neighbors and colleagues, and searched for a viable candidate to no avail. It was my husband Mark who concluded several weeks later, “I think it’s YOU.”
As I attempted to fend off this possibility, one deal-breaking reason after another dissolved. A four-person contested primary, which seemed to overwhelm me, was averted when one of the incumbents decided not to seek re-election. That meant I could enjoy Vermont summertime and begin the thick of campaigning later than planned.
I enrolled in Emerge Vermont, a program that trains women for political leadership. There, I expected to run head-first into the contradictions of trying to live an integrated life alongside this emerging avocation.
One of the very first activities assigned at that Emerge boot camp was to deliver a two-minute stump speech communicating our unique story and vision. The goal was to speak from a place of authenticity and vulnerability, and to leave the polished, perfectionistic veneer behind. I was running out of excuses.
I think my hesitancy to run for office stemmed from an unwillingness to live my life in compartmentalized slivers as politicians before me have modeled prolifically. The quest to live an “undivided life” as Parker J. Palmer calls it, not shaving off pieces of who I am or where I’ve been had become more paramount than ever.
I had participated in the Vermont Courage Cohort massaging these considerations over the course of a year. I had brought very specific questions to the Circle of Trust® experiences we shared and then probed and nurtured their revelations between sessions.
One question I wrestled with was – how do my visible worlds of profession, career accomplishment, and history come together with my less accepted and understood interior worlds of spirituality, progressive Christian formation, and passion for the common good? What would happen if these diverse aspects of me shone brightly together in the public sphere?
Another question that prodded me – would it be possible to examine and resolve complex social issues in nuanced ways, beyond the black-and-white, either-or discourse that permeates our current political landscape?
And finally, what would it look like to generously highlight hope and joy as a candidate running for political office? Not as a diversionary tactic or from a place of denial, but as a way to amplify the wholeheartedness already thriving all around us. A vital building block of the future, so to speak.
The good news is that I have the opportunity to try and am eager to begin.
Marybeth Redmond was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives, Chittenden 8-1 District (Essex Town), on Nov. 6, 2018. She will be sworn into office on Jan. 9, 2019 at the State House in Montpelier.