|Mom made this shirt and proudly wore it to receive her blood transfusions at the hospital.|
This past weekend, I drove to Chattanooga to receive love and support from a group of close women friends. They offered and I accepted. You may read those words and not consider how huge that is, but I implore you to consider it. Our society does not do well with these kinds of things. We rush over it and through it and applaud ourselves for how much we can do on our own, how much we give to others, not to ourselves. We are extremely uncomfortable with receiving help and support. Our culture judges silently suffering martyrs, but we breed them without realizing our part in it.
So, when these women offered to hold me, tell stories, sit with me in silence, or whatever I needed, I accepted. I asked for something called a “woman boat”. The women sit on the floor in a way that their bodies, all in a row, make a sort of cocoon shaped boat or canoe. When I arrived at my friend’s house she had already set up a sacred circle. She had sage for smudging, a candle on an altar on the floor, and other items. I was grateful she had remembered these things and had thoughtfully created a sacred space for my healing. We smudged, and the smell of the sage was comforting to me. I told them what I wanted to do. That, in itself, was a big deal. I asked for what I wanted. I wanted to sing. Now, I don’t consider myself a singer in any way. I like to sing, just like my mom did. But I knew my voice was full of tears and I felt a little self-conscious about the act of singing a capella there all by myself. But my mom loved to sing, no matter what, full out, just 'cause. She loved to sing whether she knew the lyrics or not, and if she didn’t know the words, she happily made them up. So I sang in honor of my mom. I sang the songs I sang at her bedside when she died. I sang songs that reminded me of her. Then I was ready for the woman boat.
To set up the “boat" takes some doing. The women need back and knee support to stay in this position. Furniture needed to be moved and set up. I made the very conscious decision not to help. I didn’t move a single piece of furniture. I put no thought into how it might best work. This was a conscious choice. You see these women were there for me. I consciously received. I listened to my body and noticed what that felt like.
I have been in the place of those women. I have been one of the women who make the woman boat. I have heard on countless occasion women speak words of discomfort about receiving; “You want me to crawl in there? But I’m afraid I will hurt you. I’m too heavy. Are you sure you’re okay? I’m just worried about your knees. Are you sure you have back support?” I have watched and listened to women go through this struggle countless times. Now it was my turn. I heard all the same worries in my own head and had to chuckle as I shared them with these women. They too laughed a knowing laughter as I crawled into the “boat” of women and lay there in their arms. If one is comfortable with it, women will place their hands on your body. I trust these women deeply, so they placed their hands on me.
Sometimes the women will sing, or say chosen words of comfort and nurture. But for me, I wanted to talk about my mama. I spoke of the good and the not so good, the beautiful things about her and the not-beautiful. I cried and I laughed and I cried some more. At some point in the process, my grown daughter came in. She looked extremely uncomfortable seeing me there grieving in the arms of my women friends. But I want her to know, I want all of you to know, that we are empowered to create the life we want, the relationships we want, and the love and support we want in our lives. We do not have to suffer in silence. It is a good thing to be vulnerable. It takes great courage and strength to allow oneself to be seen, really seen. And there are abundant gifts in it as well. I know.
Later that night and the next day when I thanked these women for showing up for me in such a profound and healing way, they spoke of how I had been there for them in so many ways, and they were giving back what they too had received from me. It made me aware of the cycle of giving and receiving. It seems all too often we are most comfortable with the giving and not so much the receiving part. But the cycle is incomplete, stagnant and unmoving, if we do not have both.
I know my grief is still fresh and raw in the death of my mother. I know there are many more layers to process, to feel. But I can say that I trust myself with my own healing. I trust myself to ask for help and to receive love and support in a profound way. It takes courage and strength to be vulnerable, and I am a courageous and strong woman. I know this because I am my mother’s daughter, and she was a proudly self-proclaimed “Brave Bitch.”