I’ve had this topic on my mind all week and have hesitated about putting it out there. However – and, perhaps, unfortunately – I run full tilt towards anything that makes me nervous. So. I’m lacing up my runners and sprinting towards this one. I will know soon enough if I made a mistake.
I was just telling a friend last weekend about how much I sometimes dislike talking to people. I don’t think he took it personally.
My poorly articulated point was that we get so tangled up in the messaging. There is too much jockeying and posturing in our conversations.
Getting in the final word. Trying to sound like the smartest person in the room. Trying not to offend. Being overwhelmed by the other person’s physical (or psychological) volume. Being afraid that the tone is off. Not being able to find a common ground between logic and emotion.
And, really, more often than not, we all just need to shut it. Now.
As part of this, I am feeling bombarded by the sisterhood of rah-rah support. The internet and Trib are blowing up with all of these “new” perspectives about how women need to support one another. “We are all good enough, ladies. And it is a-okay that the books are still. on. the. windowsill.“
I’m wondering if this perceived influx of sisterhood support is due to Liz Gilbert. She’s had a larger-than-usual internet presence lately as she has been promoting her new book, Big Magic. And, don’t get me wrong, I like Liz Gilbert just fine. Her thoughts on female empowerment resonate with me.
(Sidebar: Her thoughts on female empowerment resonate with me to the point that we’ve moved past the “Elizabeth” stage and we’re at “Liz” now. But she can’t call me “Missy” yet. She’ll have to work for that a bit more. Sorry, Liz.)
But I keep getting these vibes from the Universe that we, as women, need to back each other up all the time. There seems to be this perception that, without one another, all is lost. (And some silly male bashing along the way too. Stop it, girls.) And don’t get me wrong: I have some important women in my corner who do hold me up on the hard days. (And, ladies, for that I sincerely, deeply thank you. You know who you are.)
However, the message out there seems to be, “If you expand your business by opening an artisanal bakery, I will support you because you’re a sister. And I’m going to come in and chat and eat your cupcakes three times a week to demonstrate my support. And then you can help me pick out some new pants for my own ‘expansion.’ Girl power! High five!”
How about this: I am going to support you by congratulating you and not comparing myself to you. Please do the same for me. Yes, the cupcakes look beautiful, but I have frosting issues and I won’t eat them. Sincere best wishes.
A few years ago, I remember chatting with a woman about her new baby daughter and the exhausting dance between work-life and home/mom-life. She shared, “My husband and I have just two goals for this year: to stay within our budget and to keep our child alive.” We laughed, but I remember finding her perspective with the second goal to be so refreshing.
We’re going to keep our baby alive and help her grow and that’s pretty much it.
No stuff about needing to join a mom group and talk about sore boobs for an hour with the other ladies.
No earnest plans to join a mommy-and-me gym before the baby even starts walking.
No babble about setting a sleep schedule because children that are six weeks old need to understand the importance of structure and routine.
None of that. She was just keeping it simple and trusting herself.
Sigh…here comes the freak out. I can hear the comments now:
“You are so wrong. I would have fallen apart without my mom group because my post-partum was so bad.”
“Are you kidding me? Physical fitness needs to start on day one for our children. Maybe you’ve heard about this thing called the childhood obesity epidemic?”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. I swear by the _______ Sleep Method because ________.” (The spaces are used to show I never heard / understood a single thing about the sleep methods. And boy #3 is seven now, so whatever I may have vaguely learned has been lost in a fog of post-graduate lectures and dark chocolate.)
We don’t necessarily need someone next to us saying, “You go, girl. We’ve got this, sister! And how about we have a playdate on Tuesday? We can chitchat about nothing for two hours and watch our kids play.”
Holy cow. No. Or only if alcohol is involved.
I attended a conference today with some wonderful women with whom I happily communicate every day. We were just saying how much our mutual support eases the sometimes-stressful moments of the job. (My point: I do talk to women. I’m not always the don’t-talk-to-me-ever-ever-ever bee-atch.)
However, during one of our sessions, the presenters asked us to get into groups to discuss a particular topic. A woman was seated near our trio and politely declined our invitation to join us. Her response made us pause for a moment and then reply, “Good for you. Stay with your own thoughts and do your thing.” We then asked one another why, as women, we do feel compelled to say yes when someone asks us to join them.
(Sidebar: These presentational pauses happen all the time at education conferences: “Please turn to your partner and talk about _________ while I adjust my mic and look scholarly and fiddle with my powerpoint.” *Eye roll.*)
The three of us happily discussed the topic. And the woman nearby happily sat amidst her cluster of empty chairs and thought her own thoughts.
As I was driving home, I was reflecting on some of the empty chairs in my own life. Through death, there is one heartbreaking chair in my head that will never be filled again. And there are several other chairs that are empty, either because I asked people to leave or I was pushed away. I am okay with those particular chairs never being re-occupied. It may have been ugly when they were initially vacated, but I’m traveling light and I’ll leave them empty.
The empty chairs have value. There is no verbal static. Our heads aren’t filled with the sisterhood rah-rah either. We trust our instincts more when we have time alone for reflection.
Today’s gratitude shout-out goes to the empty chairs and the courage to appreciate and protect them. As a whole, we are more resilient and fabulous than we realize. It’s only when we get sucked into the silly, superficial, let’s-all-go-to-the-bathroom-together nonsense that we start doubting ourselves. If we sit next to that empty chair for awhile, we may realize that we so got this. And that we did all along.
The beloved, aforementioned husband would like to know why today’s entry is skewed so deliberately towards women. It just is, Bah. But I’ll let you sit next to me for a little while and, yes, I’ll even share these potato chips with you. And then I’m going for a hike.