Tag Archives: Marriage

How Women hold Space for one another : Acknowledgment as an act of the Sacred

by Hollie B.

lunation.com.au

I give thanks to my dear Sister who agreed to my sharing of this story. I have chosen not to use her name. Because that’s not what’s important in this Story. So for now, she is called ‘this Woman’.

This is a Story about why I believe all Women benefit from sharing Story in a Red Tent. I don’t so much believe that every Woman needs to speak to share their Story in the Red Tent. But each Woman may find healing through Being present with shared Stories.

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I know this Woman who is employed in a place where She sees the absolute worst in human behaviour. Anything awful You can imagine, this Woman has probably seen it, heard of it, or been exposed to a story of it in some way. I’m not exaggerating, and I’m not trying to bring You into a yuk Space, I just want to paint a very clear picture of how different this Woman’s everyday life is compared to many of us.

She has an awesome partner. In this case, her partner is a man, but it is not his gender that is important. What I take from this story is that her husband is there for her in the sense that anything awful that she needs to download from work, she can share with him and she knows he can take it. He works there too.

Home life is good for this Woman. Her children have grown and they are doing their own thing. She celebrates their maturity, knowing that their Journey is their own. Anything that causes stress from work, gets talked about before coming home, and left on the road. In other words, she doesn’t bring it home with her. She has a relationship with her husband, that although has had pain and grief in the past, is healed and in an Awesome Space now. She’s done Circles for healing her menarche and healing her mother-issues and letting go of the past and… In other words, right now, even though there are things that bother her in her worklife, and she knows there will still be Life Work to do, yet she feels fairly sorted.

Is that to suggest that this Woman doesn’t need an Experience such as a Red Tent? Like, she’s fairly sorted so she doesn’t need to sit around with other Women to talk about ‘issues’. She’s got her husband afterall. If he’s so Awesome, why would she need to go along to a Red Tent? She’s already got understanding and a soundboard for whenever she does have an issue. She feels supported at home…

Well, recent experiences have taught me that actually yes, she does still need the Red Tent Experience. This is not something I’ve come to on my own by the way. This isn’t something I’m coming at from my place of advice and an ‘I know what You need attitude’. Actually, it comes straight from this Woman’s mouth.

But the reason might not be what you’re thinking.

This Woman, wants to Be witness to other Women’s stories. She understands that everyone needs a place to share – to vent – to speak – to let go – and everyone needs to feel heard in that.

This Woman does not believe that She has ‘no issues’. But she does feel that the ‘everyday’ things she is haunted with are not for the ears of anyone outside of her industry. It’s not about being selfish. It’s not about coming and hearing everyone else’s ‘stuff’ and not adding anything to the energy. Actually, it’s about finding the Right place (for her) to share her stories, and entering the Sacred Space so that it is held Sacred. For this Woman, she feels depth in being the Witness. She isn’t there to give advice, or story-compete (Oh Yes I’ve seen lots of that), nor is she in the Red Tent to suppress some sort of need to feel special by being different.

Put simply, this Woman finds depth in the Work of witnessing other Women’s stories. In the act of acknowledgement – as witness to other Women and where they are in the moment – she becomes a Sacred Keeper of Tradition and Compassion. When she has something to say, she does. But for the most part, She helps hold the Space. She sits listening, without judgement – accepting of the Story as it is. She nurtures Women who do need to share. And She is content to Be.

Recently a number of events played out in front of me that really anchored this understanding for me. I saw many aspects of this Story. I heard the words ‘I’m fine’ while watching the body language that said ‘don’t fucken push me cos I will break – and I don’t want to break right now!’ I felt the acceptance of this Space while watching other Women go on the finger pointing mission of trying to ‘help’ and offer advice. I saw the break down of safe and Sacred energy with that pushing. I felt the pain of this Woman in not feeling accepted for where she needed to Be with other Women. I felt the distrust from Women who held expectations about sharing. The next day I felt Truth and Realness pour from the heart of this Woman as we shared together how that happened and where she would have liked it to Be. And it was in that conversation that I got clear around one very important aspect of the Red Tent.

I understood already that Women need to speak. I understood already that for a long time Women have not been heard. I have also noticed often that there are times when Women just talk for the sake of it. I have noticed that even when You suggest as a facilitator that everyone can keep their opinions and advice to themselves, and just let a Woman Be in her Space, they just can’t help themselves giving advice and opinions and cutting People off. I have noticed that some Women have a need to agree and say ‘You’ll be right’ and ‘You’re strong’ and ‘You can do it’ in response to another Woman’s Story. And I’ve noticed that this is not only un-helpful, it’s fucking disrespectful.

Red Tent

My Red Tent and Women’s Spaces aren’t for feel good pep-talks. I facilitate Spaces for Women to Be. And to feel supported in that Being. In these Spaces it doesn’t matter who we are at home. What we do at work. What we have to do tomorrow. We just get to Be exactly as we are – in whatever Space – in that moment – without apologies. And we get to do it in a supported Space.

And what I became clear around, thanks to this Woman, is that I really want for the Red Tent Experiences that I facilitate for Women to feel the Power of sharing Stories, simply through Being Witness.

And then that got me thinking (it’s fairly on-the-go in my mind – when thinking is on, it’s really on until clarity is found). Although the Red Tent Experience happens in its own way, and Women share whatever they need in relation to that day, that moment; there’s still some things that some of us need to heal – and we don’t necessarily have a safe Space to do this in. Some of those ‘issues’ are older than ‘this moment and this day’, and we’re not necessarily sure how to bring them up. A ‘general’ Red Tent for sharing, although beauty-full and healing, may not always get to the deepest seat of what we need to heal.

It’s a bit daunting to bring up our miscarriages and our terminations and our divorce and how to raise our sons and daughters and our mental illness and our mother issues and our body image perceptions and… in a space full of Women who we have never met, or whom we only see every now and then. It’s particularly daunting to suddenly bring out the deep Stories of grief and loss that have been pushed down for a long time, or never given a Space. For example, it’s not easy to start talking about the abortion You never dealt with emotionally ten years ago, when the Woman next to You is talking about how she loves being a parent.

I always find it so deeply moving to hear stories from Women about things I’ve never experienced. Whether the Story is about joy or loss, it is the difference that I find mySelf inspired by. I feel honoured when a Woman shares something new to me. That is the journey of the Witness. It is quite beauty-full.

The essence of the Red Tent is the commonality of Being Woman. Always in the Story, even when we have not had the same experiences, it is the sharing that moves us. In one Woman’s Story of pain or hope or joy or loss, we find something of ourSelf. And we grow. That is True healing. That is how we fill our cup. Whether You are the Story-teller or the Witness. There is something for every Woman in the Red Tent.

And so, this leads us to the renewed, improved and fully awesome Red Tent Experience of 2013. We are diving deep. We are creating Space for Stories with intention. We are allowing room for Women to share and to respond authentically. We are opening a doorway for Women to Witness and find Truth around the Way we speak and respond. And we are Working with the Red Tent, to simply Be.

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", friendship, growing up, healing, Hollie B., international, memory, mother, place, red tent, red tent experience, ritual, sacred space, space, story

Feminism is Not a Four-Letter Word

By Keiko Zoll (Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, June 22, 2011)

Whether I call myself a women’s health advocate or Vagina Warrior, it boils down to this:

I’m a feminist.

(Shocker.)

What a loaded word, right? Images of unshaven armpits, gross looking white-girl dreads, floppy bra-less boobs, a man-hating smirk on my face, my fist raised in the air. Now, granted, if this describes you… um, cool! More power to you. But it’s not me. And honestly, that’s not what feminism looks like.

Feminism looks like women and men who want to take the world by storm to make the world a safer, better, more empowered place for women and girls. If you want men to stand by your side and advocate with you, feminists can’t be man-haters. Are there some feminist man-haters? Sure. But if feminism is going to make any kind of global impact, it’s got to be a collaborative effort between both sides.

Why the heck am I talking about feminism? A few reasons, actually. First, to be an advocate for women’s health is a pretty fundamental aspect of feminism. It’s about leveraging equal access to healthcare. Second. Esperanza at Stumbling Gracefully has a post that asks the question Do we want too much? and third, Schmoopy in our Prompt-ly Writing Group posted a link to a Guardian article that asks Why is feminism still so afraid to focus on its flaws?

The two are truly interrelated and it got me thinking about stereotypes that even I’ve held about what it means to be feminist, who is and is not considered feminist, and what it means to want more than we have.

I took a few women’s and gender studies courses in college. I was both vice-president and then president our of GLBT student alliance. I performed in the Vagina Monologues. As a young empowered woman in my early 20s, I was rockin’ the feminist label and damn proud of it.

Like so many things in my early 20s, I wouldn’t really appreciate all of it until now, as I approach my (gulp) early 30s. Feminism has become less about the rallies and the petitions and the student activism for me. Feminism for me has now become an active effort to make good in the world for women and girls where I can with the strengths and talents I have to offer. I blog about infertility and women’s health. I blog about why we need to care about the cultural norming of misogyny in America. I support and promote the work of the Red Tent Temple Movement. I think very intentionally about the kind of world I want to shape for my niece and hopefully, my own daughter should I be so blessed.

I’ve been doing the SITS Girls 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (SITS31DBBB). Much like their Bloggy Boot Camp blogging conference I went to in May, I am out of my league here. I’m one of a very small group (as in, you could probably count us all on one hand) of infertility bloggers participating. SITS is a very Mom Blogger focused forum of support. I’ve stuck with it because I’ve got a lot still yet to learn about blogging and as I’ve come to realize from reading both Esperanza’s post and the article Schmoopy shared – I’ve got a lot to learn about feminism too.

Did I turn my nose up at Mom Bloggers? A little, yeah – I’ll be honest. Part of it was jealousy – I want what they have. Part of it was being judgemental – how can nothing but reviews and giveaways be good for the blogpsphere? But as I’ve spent the last 3 weeks interacting and networking with these fabulous ladies, I’ve realized my stereotypical judgments were wrong. The Mom Blogger niche is just as varied and valuable and has as much to offer as the ALI blogosphere. I’m realizing it’s time to stop passing judgment and start taking a closer look at blogs outside of my niche to see what I can learn.

Oh Diane is one of those Mom Bloggers I’ve met through SITS31DBBB and she posted a fantastic post on why the Mommy Blogger market is so hot right now. What followed in her post comments was a fiery discussion about why Mom Bloggers get all the attention from advertisers while may of us childless folks sit here twiddling our thumbs.

My point is this: Mom Bloggers – and Mom Blogging in general – can be feminist too.

The Guardian article elaborates:

“Women bear the children and, far more often than not, they wish to be the primary carer for those children. At its most strident, feminism can be mistaken for an ideology designed to make women feel they are wrong to want that.”

Mom Blogging is not counter-productive or counter-intuitive to feminist ideals. Even when I was in college, I got horrified looks from other college feminists who were shocked – shocked I tell you – that I didn’t really care what my degree was in because I eventually just wanted to be a SAHM and pump out babies.

This is the point: it’s not about creating an army of empowered career-women. Feminism is about having  equal access to and support for making empowered choices, be it career, motherhood, health or otherwise. Wanting to be a SAHM mom – like my own mom was when me and my sister were kids, a fact that I am so grateful for to this day – doesn’t make me any less feminist. The fact that the Mom Blogger market is growing says to me that women’s voices in social media and technology are rising, and people (especially advertisers) want to hear what they have to say.

Which brings me to my last point: does feminism want too much? Again, from the Guardian:

Worse, feminism has accidentally promoted the idea that it’s pretty easy to work and have children, with the right support in place. On even an average income, it’s never easy, even once children are at secondary school (though it’s certainly easier then). Your priorities change. Work is no longer the most important thing, for a while anyway. Ambition can dissipate.

Let me rephrase that: do we want too much? In fact, let’s drill that down again:

Do I want too much?

Take a look at what I grew up with: a mom who stayed at home for the most part, picking up seasonal part-time work to pad out Christmas and birthdays. My father still works almost 60 hours a week. He traveled extensively when I was much younger, leaving the brunt of the child-rearing to my mom. I’m stating this as fact, not to pass judgment. This was what worked for my parents and they were in agreement about their roles as caregiver and provider, respectively.

I grew up with a big, two-story house with two cars. My sister and I went to public schools and college. We pretty much got to do just about any lesson or extra-curricular we wanted. We lived in comfortable New Jersey suburbia. For the 18 years I grew up and lived in that house, this is what The American Dream looked like to me.

Is it too much to want the big, single family house? Is it too much to want a husband that brings home the bacon while I stay at home and serve as primary caregiver to our gorgeous genetic children? Is it fair to place that kind of burden on my husband?

Folks, I struggle with this. These are things I want really bad, I can’t necessarily have and boy howdy, I don’t like taking No for an answer.

But let’s step back for a second: in an time of record foreclosures, a flailing economy, and my seriously busted reproductive system, The American Dream I grew up with isn’t realistically even possible anymore.

Esperanza challenges us:

“The reality is, we might not get to be what we want to be, or we might have to sacrifice greatly to get there, and the same can befall our children. If certain lessons are learned; that frequently life brings disappointment, that sometimes their is no just reward for our efforts, that we must be grateful for what we have and stop continuously looking for more, that sometimes we won’t be happy, maybe, just maybe, we will wake up one day knowing how to be satisfied with our life.And maybe some day, if we’re very lucky, we can learn to be truly happy with what we have.”

I counter with this:

If the status quo was okay though, we wouldn’t need a feminist movement in the first place. And you know what? After all this, after this huge and rambling post, it’s not about feminism anymore.

It’s about being active participants in shaping a just world.

Feminist labels aside: where do we fit in to shape that world?

Where do you fit in? How are you helping to shape a just world?

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Filed under Feminism, Hannah Wept Sarah Laughed, Keiko Zoll

You Asked, I Answer: Infertility Questions

By Keiko Zoll (Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, August 27, 2011)

Our Infertility Journey So Far

Keiko and Larry, High School SweetheartsThat’s us from when we dated in high school, circa 1997 or 1998.

Where are you on your infertility path right now? Are you still leaning more towards a DE cycle than adoption at this point? And when can we look forward to your cycle?
There have been a few things since my last infertility journey update in June. Right now we are still leaning very heavily toward donor egg, although, and this is totally random: I may have ovulated on my own this week, but because I’m rocking the Zombie Leper Shingles, not so much with the sex this week. We are going to continue our “experiments in natural babymaking” again. And just in time for the hurricane: a light period. So no “we’re stuck inside and there’s nothing else to do” sex either. Awesome.

Right. So, still leaning toward donor egg but adoption is not off the table as a second option. The challenge right now is that everything depends on my insurance. I have, very luckily, rockin’ insurance that will cover basically half of our total costs. Right now, we’re looking at about $15K out of pocket.

The original game plan was to select a donor by the end of this year, get the ball rolling, and aim for an April/May transfer if everything went swimmingly. And right now, things are up in the air because I need to make a game plan should I leave my job, which is a very real possibility and soon. I promise next to my immediate family, my blog readers will be the first to know when things get off the ground.

How does your husband feel about you being so public about your emotions and your relationship? Has the blog affected your relationship? If so, how?

I started this blog as a way to cope and initially, wrote under a pseudonym. I’d ask, and then nag my husband: “Did you read my blog today?” Sometimes the answer was yes, of course, and other times he’d play catch up the same way I do with other blogs I follow. There’s a certain degree of self-censorship that occurs; rarely do I write about some of the more intimate details of say, our sex life. But I have written about some nasty fights.

When I broached the subject of doing my video and revealing my name and face, I of course ran it by him. He was more than supportive and has continued to be even more so since then. Larry gets that my blog is more than just dumping my emotions for the world to read (which yeah, a lot of times it can be). He gets that this fuels a sense of impassioned personal fulfillment for me. And that as much as this blog is my space, Larry is very much a part of it. Sometimes, I even let him write here (and I hope to have him do it more in the future).

It’s hard to say if this blog has affected our relationship; it certainly factors into our life together, say, watching an episode of Castle together versus writing a blog post. Larry understands that my blog has become a platform for me to finally start figuring out just what the heck I want to do with my life, and in being supportive of me, my goals, and this blog, then it’s fair to say that yes, in that sense, my blog has affected our relationship for the better.

Infertility Support & Resources

Keiko Baby PictureMe at three months old. Chubby cheeks you could pinch right off.

I am unfamiliar with the donor egg process. How do you choose donor eggs? Do they have photos of potential donors? Are there specific requirements that you and your husband have for the potential donor?

There’s definitely a lot to answer in this one question. So first, let me point you to a couple of posts that might be helpful. The first is this helpful overview of the donor egg process from RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association. The second is a mish-mash of helpful info from RESOLVE of New England’s Donor Egg Decision-Making Seminar back in June, that I live-tweeted. The third is a post I wrote early last year about wrapping my brain around choosing donor egg as our option: A Donor For Your Thoughts. That post might help answer how we chose donor eggs.

As far as what we’re looking for in a donor… we’re looking at three basic characteristics:

  1. Brunette
  2. Caucasian*
  3. College educated with good academic history

That’s pretty much it. The * indicates that ideally, we’d love a donor of Japanse or Asian descent, as I’m half-Japanese. And to make things in a really nice neat little bow, it would be awesome if she were Jewish. But finding a Japanese-Jewish donor is a bit of a challenge, so we’ll settle on those top three for now.

Keiko, I’m a twenty three year old woman who desperately wants to conceive someday. I have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome and have been told that I’ll likely never have children of my own. Help.

First of all, I just want to say that I’m so sorry you’ve gotten this diagnosis. PCOS can be a very overwhelming disease when you’re first diagnosed, but take solace in knowing there is a huge online community out there for support and education.

So here’s my advice.

  • Do you like your doctor? Trust them? Feel comfortable at your appointments? If not, consider seeking a second-opinion from a doctor you are more comfortable with. You want to make sure that not only you have an accurate diagnosis, but a professional who’s willing to work with you whom you trust.
  • Do your homework, but do it in moderation. It’s easy to don the Dr. Google hat and get sucked into the self-diagnosis and worrying vortex. Pick up a couple of trusted PCOS resources. Check out a few online communities. But give yourself only an hour or less a day to do it- you don’t want to overwhelm yourself.
  • From what I know of PCOS, diet plays heavily into the disease, so it’s worth making an appointment with a nutritionist. I know there are also implications for other health issues so you want to make sure you’re giving your body the best nutrition you can.
  • Find other PCOS bloggers. Read their blogs, reach out, and connect with them. And find those online PCOS communities – I know they’re out there.
  • Seek out IRL support, too. Whether it’s a private therapist, a clergy member, a friend you can count on, or even a support group – it’s important to talk about how it’s affecting you emotionally.

That’s all I’ve really got. Since I was originally diagnosed with PCOS in 2000 but then went to college and had my head up my ass, I don’t actually have any good PCOS resources off-hand. I’m more in the POF/POI camp at this point. That said, I know I have many readers here who are in the PCOS boat.

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Filed under adoption, Hannah Wept Sarah Laughed, Infertility, Keiko Zoll, Reproductive Health