I remember having several close girlfriends in high school and in college, but I preferred my male friends. They seemed simpler to deal with. They were less complicated. They were less catty. I could trust them.
So, it isn’t surprising that when 13 years ago while living in Atlanta, GA, I was asked to join a women’s spiritual support group, I balked at the idea. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend every Monday night with a bunch of other women, even if a few of those women were actually close friends of mine. (I did manage to make a few really good girlfriends once I moved to Atlanta about 20 years ago.)
Plus, I was being asked to make a six month commitment to the group. “Oh, my God. What if I hate it?” I asked my best girlfriend, who was also considering joining the group. We decided that no one could force us to attend, so we would try it and hope for the best – and run the other way if need be.
What I discovered in that group was the awesome power women have to support each other, to intuit what another women need, to help them over the rough patches in their lives, to help them move towards their dreams and desires. That group became my weekly shot in the arm of spirituality, positive thinking, companionship, friendship, personal power, focused intent, and joy. Yes, joy. I never left a meeting feeling worse than when I came, only better. And I reveled in the other 12 women’s company and their support. (Well, occasionally we had our differences, but overall, we got along well and did support each other.)
When after three years of meeting on a weekly basis the group decided to meet just once a month, it was me who balked big time. I was in the process of moving out of state, but I couldn’t stand the idea of the group not seeing each other as often as before. For me, the group had become a lifeline. I wondered what I would do without the group once I was living in Illinois.
What I learned during those first three years, and, indeed, over the past 13 that we have remained “a group” despite meeting formally only every few years (I’ve flown to the weekend gathering each time), is that women have uncommon abilities. We are powerful and resilient beyond our wildest imagination. We can weather any storm…especially with the support of other women. We can be spiritual leaders and priestesses, creating awesome sacred space and rituals. We can be shamans, healing each other and ourselves. We can be intuitive and psychic, tapping into our highest wisdom to help others see what they cannot see themselves. And as a group, we are unstoppable.
This is not to say that the group and the women in it are not without fault. I have at times felt picked on or singled out, even though others said they were simply trying to support me and to help me move to the next level with whatever I was struggling with. I have even on one occasion felt totally unsupported by the group when it meant the most to me to gain the group’s support. However, a group like this functions much like a family, and some times issues arise that are harder to deal with than others. Sometimes members have issues with each other. And sometimes, the family just can’t go somewhere together. Thanks to the group, I can see that, and move on.
Unlike a traditionally family, though, we are sisters by choice. At these times few times of difficulty within the group, I didn’t choose out and neither did they. Well, maybe I took a short leave of absence, choosing to nurse my wounds, to rethink my position, to look at the group through new eyes. With such a high level of freedom of speech and an overwhelming ability of each person to really “hear” the other, I have found it possible to communicate and then come back into the circle and renew my commitment to the other women and the group. We all accept each other as we are…warts and all. And we love each other. If one of us was in need, we all know the others would be there. And we’ve proven this to be true.
It was such a huge privilege for me this past weekend to once again come into the circle that is my women’s spiritual support group. And it was a wonderful way for me to open to the work I am now doing – writing about Jewish women’s ability and role as creators of sacred space and meaning-full and spirit-full rituals and prayers. I feel humble, yet, oh, so blessed to be one woman among many in my tradition to take on this role…and one woman among 13 to continue the tradition of the Women of Wisdom, my women’s spiritual support group.
What if I hadn’t agreed to try my hand at a women’s group? What if I’d taken my earlier experiences, albeit immature ones, with women and just walked away from the opportunity to be part of this experience? I wouldn’t be the person I am now. I would have missed something wonderful that I have never been able to replicate elsewhere. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t, but the work the 13 of us did together has created such a deep bond and connection, that it would take at least three years of a new group meeting every week – and sharing at the deepest possible level — to get to that place with another group of women. But we could do it…
I was recently given the opportunity to join in a different type of women’s group that meets once a month. I jumped at the chance. I went and it was wonderfully welcoming and warm. There was no history between all of the women, like in my old group, and the purpose of the group was different. Yet, it felt good to sit in the company of other women. At the end of this month, I will attend that women’s group again, and I’ll enjoy the chance to be among other like-minded women.
In the meantime, I will relish the memories of my group, feel the connection that is there even when I am not in their presence, and look forward to the next time I can sit in our circle of women again. I’m so glad I gave the group – and the other women – and chance. Life would be much different, much less full, if I hadn’t.