I watched this beautiful video recently about a group of Chilean women who have tea together every month and have done so for over 60 years. http://nyti.ms/1IuvRPq
They are lovely, a bit weird and funny, and although I’m not ready to tell the same stories over and over again as they enjoy doing ;), there is something so beautiful about women who have walked together for so long.
There are a great number of women I look up to and am inspired by (and many men too! but for this post, I am focused on the women), some I have the joy of knowing personally through my work, my family and the wide network of friends from different places I’ve called home. Some I only know through reading their books, their articles or their poetry. I have imagined so many times what it would be like to have all of them together in one room, sitting in the same space, sharing an evening together.
It is a diverse and wild looking bunch. There are women with soft grey hair, wearing cozy cardigans and their mother’s pearls. There are women wrapped in colourful cloth, skin dark as the night and eyes full of both joy and strength. Some women are young, skin fair and jeans tight, they are eager, full of life and craving of wisdom. Some of us are early in our lives but not yet in our middle years, having wandered a bit, and finally finding our way. Some are a number of years ahead of the rest, having been part of the early days of women’s liberation, marched and fought for what we now know. There are writers, activists, mothers of young and old children, those who have welcomed children into their homes from outside. There are academics and poets, quilters and protesters. There are grandmothers and grandchildren, wives and those who refuse the institution. There are crafters and artisans, and homemakers and gardeners.
The room has a certain buzz in it, both from the wine we have opened and from the passion with which each of us come at what we want to say. We start off a little awkward and quiet, the eclectic group poses a challenge to a shared narrative, but somehow we know that it is there, a thread that draws us all together.
We start off telling stories of our lives. Simple stories of where we come from, who we are, who we are connected to, what we’ve seen. We share some of our triumphs and our failures, sharing moments of strength and those moments where we have fallen hard. As we talk, we begin to expose our opinions and we start to hash out our views on different issues, refining our ideas as we hear from each other and in some cases strengthening our positions as we hear the opposition. Some of us argue, some of us listen, each of us hear the other and take in what is said, listening to the story that unfolds in front of us.
It is a gathering full of life and excitement and possibility. But it is also a space that is undeniably safe. Each of the women in the room have known the pain of too much criticism, of feeling blamed and disrespected without reason, have brushed up against life’s harsh edges. We are passionate, but we are also gentle, full of a maternal kind of warmth and a cheeky sort of confidence that says you don’t have to agree with me, you can think what you want, but in time you will come around sometime to see it my way 😉 We laugh, we cry, we rage about the pain in ourselves and in the world, and we raise our glasses to the ones who have gone before us, to the ones that go beside us, in other gatherings we know nothing of.
These women, the ones who inspire me, they are diverse and no two the same. But we find our way to a common thread, a bond that holds even this diverse crowd together.
They are women who know who they are and what they want. They are women who despite the continuous struggle of equality for our gender, continue to fight, in different ways, fighting different battles. Each of them have seen the dark side of humanity, some in wars and poverty, some in personal turmoil, some in the underbelly of family, some in the darkness of a stranger. All of them have struggled, all of them have risen up, all of them have wisdom and painfully acquired insight to contribute as a result. All of them seek joy despite the darkness of the world, all of them laugh despite the pain, all of them rage and continue to feel the injustice despite how heavy it can be to carry.
We talk late into the night, our passionate speeches turning to laughter and light-hearted chatter. We talk about our loves, our lives, our families. We empty our wine glasses and eventually our wine bottles and we rest our heads on the backs of our chairs. Each of us quiet, the energy in the room stilled and calm. A slow smile spreads across each of our faces as we find the gratitude for that space, for that deeply held feeling of belonging and trust. For all that we have passed through up to that point and all that lies ahead of us. For the knowledge that we are never, ever alone, that this gathering goes with us when leave that room.
For now, I dream of such a gathering, feeling the wildness and wonder of having so much strength and passion in one room. I dream of living up to the standard of being one of them, finding my own way to make the struggles I have faced meaningful, to find wisdom out of places where it has hurt and passion out of injustice I have seen. I carry them in my heart with enormous gratitude, knowing that without them, without their words in the books I read, without their laughter sitting beside me wine glass in hand, without their joy at big life moments I have passed through, and without their collective wisdom, I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am now. Without their struggle, their pain, I would never have been able to make sense of my own. For each piece that connects us, for each aspect in which we differ, these are my teachers, my mentors, a group of wonder women to whom I give my thanks and my welcome, should the time ever come for us to raise our glasses and share an evening together.