What are the connecting fibers between women?
In a study on friendships among women conducted a few years ago by UCLA, it was confirmed that the friendships between women are indeed special. Those friendships were described by Gale Berkowitz: “They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are.” The purpose of the study was to understand stress in women since decades of stress research was conducted on men. These researchers set out to better understand stress in women. And among their findings, was the discovery that women respond to stress with a release of oxytocin as part of the stress response that differs from men and “ it [oxytocin] buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect.” Furthermore women’s estrogen enhances the effects of the oxytocin. (and I contend that our artistic indulgences in color, fabrics, paint, glitter, and bling even further enhance oxytocin)
How many of us find peace and rejuvenation when we connect with our “sisters”?
In my teen years, I was truly blessed to have a sisterhood with a close group of girlfriends. We giggled during all-night slumber parties, drove the “drag” in our cars, went to the movies together, and all around excelled in school and extra-curricular activities. We dated and often double-dated, but our girlfriends were the closest bond that helped us get through adolescence.
Then in college, I was privileged to have dorm-mates and room-mates that continued to fill a sisterhood of similar-minded values and goals. We studied together, played dorm-pranks, planned weddings, and cried through the drama of young adulthood.
Later, as a young mother living in suburbia, I again found a sisterhood of other young women, most of us stay-at-home-moms. We had a baby-sitting co-op, a book club, and our own neighborhood garden club. We went to craft classes together, shared favorite recipes, compared growth charts, and worked together to develop a neighborhood playground. Slowly, we returned to school or the workplace as our children entered school and our sisterhoods took a new form.
In my fifties, I became divorced through no design of my own (which was emotionally processed through deep conversations with my closest women friends). Later I moved 2000 miles back to my home state and to Dallas. I called up one of my dearest of friends from the high school group; we reconnected immediately and over the next few months we organized a Great Girlfriend Get-Together--- where 15 of those high school friends held annual girlfriend weekends.
Then just this year, I organized a mini-reunion of my old dorm-mates; we had not been together since 43 years ago! Yet, as in the high school group, we fell into that immediate “sisterhood”. Over three days, we talked non-stop (including one night until 5 a.m.) just trying to cover the years. It could be compared to four planets in a common orbit for a small period of time, then they spun into their own individual orbits for 4 decades before coming back into a fleeting alignment. What is the fiber that connects us after so many years?
What is the fiber that connects my sisterhood of junkin’ friends, my sister Rodeo Queens, those great students with kindred spirits who participated in Lara Blair’s Photography Retreat , my friendships with our vendors and our friends that come to our shows? Yes, we share similar values, tastes, hobbies or talents. But I think it is more: we need each other. We have our tumultuous inner AND outer world soothed by the time we spend together.
My goal for this month is to reach out and connect with some more of those important women in my life --- where time and distance have put us into individual orbits—but for whom I need to thank for being part of the fibers that have woven into the fabric of my life. I will reach out to my professor/mentor from my university days who literally helped me find my life's career, my administrative assistant from years ago who just lost an adult daughter to a tragic case of domestic violence, and my dear friend from the stay-home-mom days who has suffered debilitating health issues over the past seven years. And I will cherish my 94 year old mother that I have the honor of sharing my home with. I will make a special point of telling my adult daughter (and the mother of one of my granddaughters) just how proud I am of the woman that she has become.
I will take long pauses to remember those influential girls and women of my life who have passed away and with whom I long to spend just one more day: my best-friend from high school who died in a car wreck, my laughter-filled friend of 25 years of adulthood who lost a long battle to breast cancer, my beloved professor who is living in the world of the "long-goodbye" Alzheimer's", my precious aunt who died at 101, and my grandmother-- the hardy pioneer woman whose house I have the privilege of living in today (see Mulberry Hill on Facebook).
Women who have contributed to shaping me into who I was, who I am and who I am going to be.
Who is it that could benefit from your contact?