Last Saturday I joined some of my women friends to celebrate the opening of Virginia Stephen’s show, “What’s A Girl To Do?” featuring a collection of her felted hats. Whimsical, colourful, and exquisitely beautiful in composition and texture, her hats, not to be worn on the head, “explore many of the life issues that affect the headspace of the artist” during the last year – “balance, work stress, keeping the magic, dealing with weather, keeping up appearances, and the relationship between ‘less’ and ‘more’” – themes that resonated for me, my friends, and I suspect most of the mid-life women there to applaud and support Virginia.
I met Virginia last June at the women’s retreat I co-host with Chantal. I knew that our closing activity, wherein each woman chose a white envelope that enclosed one of a series of beautiful and thoughtful OmMyGoddess cards created by my friend and masseuse, Tami Hay, had held significance for her. So much so, that it inspired one of her hats. A delightful surprise that was accentuated later in the day, when over an amazing food experience at Wild Tangerine, two of my other friends recollected how their cards – chosen by their inner “Wise Dame wisdom” – were as significant, as both images and words had illuminated aspects of their being, or had brought into focus their current question or intention. Ahhhh that Wise Dame…
So this question of “what’s a woman to do?” (this one not a girl!) has been swirling around inside for the last week. I knew it’d serve as an entrée for sharing some current offerings that you, my women readers, could do. But more to the point, it’s invited this one to explore her own headspace, urged on yesterday when another friend asked, “Why aren’t you writing your blog?” and now awakened at 4:15 am by her own Wise Dame urging her to get writing.
I had an answer for my friend, foreshadowed months ago when I wrote that my journey “to move at the pace of guidance, to sense an emerging future” hadn’t concluded when I re-turned from my travels to Europe (a year ago tomorrow I made my way to Venice and Carnevale!), but had really begun with my re-turn to a reorganized workplace, navigating through its uncertain terrain. I’d anticipated writing here would be less frequent because I’d be wrestling with inside stuff, and I didn’t know if or how to bring it into a public space, sensitively and responsibly.
So what’s a woman to do, when she knows that writing here was intended to chronicle this journey, to give her a way to look back to discover emerging themes to inform her future, and she hesitates? What’s a woman to do, when she’s recognizes the gifts of her own Wise Dame to foreshadow and illuminate a way through that uncertain terrain, revealed here in her writing, particularly when she takes the chance and makes the risk to write and disclose?
What’s a woman to do when she goes to work, and every day works to convince herself that adapting well and a good attitude are the lessons to be learned, and many days realizes she’s not met the mark with either? What’s a woman to do, when she reminds herself to be kind and patient, and trust uncertainty, and instead feels a gnawing anxiety, burning irritation, clenched with control? What’s a woman to do, when she watches colleagues walk out and walk on and knows that she and those remaining are extending, as Margaret Wheatley writes, “palliative care”? And what’s a woman to do when she finally admits, out loud, without making nice or apologizing, that she hates some big parts of the work she’s been assigned?
What does she do?
She appreciates her wise woman friend who, last week, reading from Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak, spoke the words of Frederick Buechner in reference to vocation: “the place when your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need”, words that gave explanation for her distress: that while the work she’s been assigned meets the world’s deep need, it doesn’t meet her deep gladness, try as she might, to find or make it so. Words that made it possible for her to speak truth to power, giving her some inner rest from working to convince herself otherwise.
She, with that same friend, calls a circle to support women whose deep gladness is to lead, in community, with their Wise Dame wisdom — kindly, compassionately, intuitively, creatively, courageously.
She counts her blessings everyday for her colleagues with whom she shares care, for those days where the work is vocation realized, for the counterpoint that brings clarity, for a stability from which to make choices, for her health, her family and friends, her home, and her “kids with fur.”
She co hosts with Chantal, their second annual women’s retreat, Living and Leading with Heart: Women as Community Makers, in May.
She welcomes this morning, eight curiously-creative-kindred-sisters for their first ever, full weekend workshop of intuitive process painting, and schedules monthly weekend dates for next fall and winter.
And she offers a deep bow of gratitude and namaste to her friend who “champions” for her, her work, and her writing, and who gave her the nudge yesterday to write here, more often.