This summer we tried hard to find times when a group of women could gather, and we learned that it was almost impossible. Because women are working all day, going to children’s sporting events all evening, attending classes, serving on committees, wedging in house cleaning, laundry, marketing, meal preparation, along with weeding the garden, training the puppy, mowing the lawn, stacking the wood, painting the bedroom and on, and on, and on, and on -- they are “really busy.” There are busy women out there who have a lot on their minds and a lot going on in their lives, and fewer opportunities to “talk.” Among their concerns (to name a few): Serious illness and worries about the future of their children if they cannot be cured, the struggle to care for critically ill spouses and aging parents at the same time, financial distress and the need to work additional jobs to make ends meet, a fear that their children are engaging in dangerous behavior and a sense that the situation is beyond their control, frustration with jobs that demand more of them than they are contracted to provide, fears about violence in the world, dissatisfaction with government, grief over the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship. To these stressors we can add “being really busy” -- an absence of time to renew, revive, and revamp has become a chronic problem for women …. fortunately those who instinctively know they need support find ways to connect with one another at work and at home, for example:
Women are using lunch hour gatherings at work as a kind of comic relief -- there were two this summer. Sitting at a table, fifteen or so women will, rather than engage in one “big”conversation, quickly establish a more intimate connection with the two or three people nearby. They will look for shared experience, exploring topics which are usually light and almost never work-related, and several different conversations will be happening around the table simultaneously from one small group to the next. The lunches are mental health breaks -- filled with laughter, personal anecdotes, practical information -- a release of the women inside the various roles they occupy, and a way for women to really get to know the people they spend time with every day. But it’s hard to organize one of these on a regular basis, unless you have a space large enough in the office and a group that’s committed to getting together. It’s really worth doing if you can.
Women are using one-to-one connections to process and debrief -- eating lunch at the desk with a coworker, taking a walk with a friend before or after work or at midday, talking on the phone (sometimes Emailing) -- to process the more intimate details of their lives, to share with someone known and trusted what you wouldn’t tell “the whole world.” For a long time -- until we changed jobs -- I had lunch almost daily with a coworker who became a close friend; our favorite meal -- rye crackers, red pepper hummus, and carrots! Now I’m lunching and walking and talking with new women in a new place, and my friend gets up early to walk with a neighbor before work.
Women are finding comfort in simple rituals which are grounding -- this summer we explored the joy of bonfires. Sitting by a wood fire with a canopy of stars overhead, the busyness of the world slipping away and the stillness of the night coming gently on, women gathered to be together, more than to talk together, or do together. In RIVERS RUNNING FREE, Jesse Ford writes of a gathering of women around a campfire during an expedition up the George River in Labrador, saying she was overcome by the power of the silent circle flickering in the firelight. And as surely as bonfires are for toasting marshmallows -- we did in fact toast a few -- they are much, much more. Bonfires are an invitation to stillness and to unhurried appreciation of the beauty of the world and to the vastness of the universe. They are the timeless source of warmth and light upon which the creatures of Earth depend when darkness comes. And if we can no longer see beyond the boundaries of our small existence, bonfires draw us safely in and unite us against the mysteries of the night,. So this summer, contemplating all these things as friends and dogs joined in companionable communion around our fires, I began to understand what Jesse meant about the power of the circle, and felt that this might be the ultimate heart-to-heart talk ... when not a word was spoken.
From the Wise