The Company of Women

[Editor’s Note: Susan Smith, an alum of more than one Women At Woodstock gathering, wrote to me saying that she’d just had a somatic breathing session, and it unleashed some wonderful thoughts – among which was the memory of writing this piece on her blog many months ago after she got home from Women At Woodstock. When I read it, I was struck by how accurately she paints the safe and open place that is Women At Woodstock, and the contrast of that feeling with “regular life” when we return home. Different stories, different contrasts, to be sure, but that feeling of magical possibility that elevates you when you’re together, well, that’s what happens when you’re in The Company of Women. I immediately wrote back and asked for permission to reprint Susan’s article here, and she said, “Of course!” Read on… ~ Ann]
By Susan Smith
Recently I attended a five-day retreat for women over 50. I returned feeling pumped, revitalized and ready for battle. Fierce, healthy battle, one I was well-prepped to win. No one was going to stand in my way.

A few days later, I had dinner with a friend who had just returned from a 10-day trip abroad with two other women. We swapped tales of our journeys excitedly. Then she wanted to talk about how different her boyfriend seemed to her upon her return. She thought his silence and disinterest in her might be a result of him trying to punish her for being away, but as we chatted it became clear that his behavior hadn’t really changed from what it had been over the last 10 years. So what was going on?

Which led me to examine that question. Because I, too, had felt something off in my marriage since attending that retreat. It was difficult to maintain the sense of purpose and excitement that I had packed into my suitcase to bring home. In fact, I’d waited a few days to unpack, for fear of finding it missing.

In the company of women, you drop all defense. You fearlessly dress up your true inner self and proudly parade her about, and she is celebrated. She is heard, she is completely understood. She is allowed to speak your truth without reservation. Vulnerability just doesn’t need to exist there, in that rainforest of warm acceptance and love.

Then you come home from the rainforest, straight into the desert. It’s like the Mojave at 2 AM in January. The air is dry but it has a deep chill that reaches up into the stars and has no stopping place.

The man in your life seems so silent. Is this new, or has he always been this way? While you enthusiastically describe your time away, he doesn’t seem all that intrigued. You can read the football score in his eyes on the third yawn, for God’s sake. His demeanor is that of a 4-year-old boy, having been told to be respectful to his grandmother. “Mommy, I was good, can I go out and play NOW?” He can’t wait to escape!

Remember, while you were gone, he was probably immersed in the company of men, a very different place to hang out (even if they were just on television).

But, even so, you get the message. Your true inner self is not welcome here, it’s too much to handle. Too much emotion, truth, passion, just too overwhelming.

So you silently and sadly undress her, your true inner self, folding her clothes carefully (after all, it’s not forever.) You kiss her goodbye and tell her just to whisper to you for now…to save her voice for another time. A time when she can come out and play, safe and sound, in the company of women.

[To contact Susan, click on her email here:]

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