- …culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community. bell hooks – Teaching Community
I’m not the only one who is hungry for community. Last Friday an acquaintance and I agreed to meet after an event just to chat. With another woman we had created the idea of a cocktail hour together since we felt that at many planned events there was not the opportunity for people to actually talk and get to know each other.
So we decided to talk about our cocktail hour. Within three minutes our tête-à-tête had mushroomed into a group of seven women who pulled up their chairs or walkers and sat with us. We talked about nothing and everything. One woman sent her husband away, saying that it was such a good thing to have a few minutes alone. My friend and I told everyone about the hour we had planned that coming Sunday and to invite their friends.
On Sunday it greatly exceeded our expectations. Close to 20 women gathered in a circle and talked. We are finally stopped the separate conversations and had a check-in where each woman introduced herself. By the end everyone seemed excited about the next week
What will we do with all of these women. How will we feed our hearts and minds? I spent a wakeful night thinking about what I could say in my opening remarks and first check-in. I’m going to test my thoughts on you. Please remark and tell me when and where I am off base.
. . .
Hi everyone. I’m going to invite everyone to check-in but I want to say a few words first.
I’m thrilled that so many of you returned and that we have new women in our circle. And it is a circle. It is inclusive not exclusive. It doesn’t need a leader – it needs all of us to take part.
Here are the ground rules:
- Speak up for those of us who can’t hear well.
- And listen carefully and compassionately.
- And what is said here – stays here.
In this large group we may only have time for a check-in. In that tradition of checking in we need to be honest. We need to give a bit of a ourselves. It is too large of a circle to be manageable and to meet everyone’s needs but is it is a good gathering in which to give an update each week and see how we move forward.
We are strong women. We have survived a lot or we would not be here. We all have wants and needs, some of which are wildly different and some of which are similar if not the same. In order to make this work for us it will take courage. I see concentric and interlocking circles of women building a large community that can always accommodate more and can still live with less.
There are those of us who are hungry for conversation and discussion. Maybe about issues. Maybe about ideas. Maybe about what’s going on in our lives that we can’t handle alone.
There are those of us who have lived through great grief and for some it is new and raw. There are some of us who are lonely. We can scarcely face going home from lunch or dinner knowing how many hours will be spent alone before the next event or the next meal.
There are those that facing cognition issues – either for ourselves or someone we love. How do we handle it? What do we expect? Who will the support us emotionally?
Some of us have physical limitations. How do we live through them and beyond them?
We have the resources right here in this room. If we are honest and open with each other we will form alliances and associations that can help us navigate aging. If we expose our weaknesses, someone else may have the strength to help us get through a bad hour or a bad day.
During the coming week take the opportunity to knock on someone’s door that you haven’t visited before. Be open and when someone knocks, invite them in or invite them back, if possible. Connections and circles will occur organically.
For my check in today I will say that I have a had several people tell me that they “admire“ the way I overcome and persist. The truth is – none of you have seen me in the closet crying because I can’t get my shirt over my hand that wants to grab it and hold on.
So if any other survivors of the strokes or debilitating illnesses want to get together and talk – it doesn’t need to be a sob session. We can laugh at our frailties and learn hacks from each other.
Who is next?
Well, I for one got all teary-eyed reading this post. If you say all this to the Women’s Circle, I think it will be perfect. Nothing additional is needed. Do you have the book, THE GRACE IN AGING, by Kathleen Dowling Singh? I’m learning a lot from her right now through the pages of this book, and it might be something that some of the women in your group might like as well. Just a thought…
Thank you, Christin. your support means a lot. I will look for the book.
I can’t find anything where you could be off base. I wish you all success.
Thank you, Ramama. Here’s hoping…