I had some expectations going into the Warrior Mom Conference last weekend. I expected I would meet some new people, meet people I had only previously ‘met’ in a little tiny box on my computer and that I’d be able to squash my social anxiety long enough to do those two things somewhat successfully. Aside from getting super shy about meeting people I already ‘knew’, I was mostly successful.
I try to do a lot of observing when I’m in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable place – be that physical or emotional. Kind of like watching things from a seat in the way back, trying not to qualify, quantify or judge, just seeing and feeling. That’s how it was there, and that’s how it’s been this week as I’ve tried to navigate life after the Warrior Mom Conference.
What I’m noticing is that there was so much more that happened at WMC that I didn’t expect, things that are slowly and patiently unfurling themselves in my consciousness.
It was an environment that was the most emotionally safe space of its size probably ever. Not only was it emotionally safe, but vulnerability was everywhere, glistening like beautiful, prismatic jewels wherever you looked.
Wherever I looked, whatever I asked, whatever I felt, it was okay.
It was okay to be sad. It was okay to feel grief. It was okay to laugh. It was okay to be messy and raw.
It was okay to not be okay.
One of the more surprising things I noticed was my connection to other women. I used to be a practicing lesbian, so I’m all about ‘rah rah women’. I took Women’s Studies. I worked for a rape crisis hotline. I swore I’d never buy my daughter a Barbie. The prominent figures in my family are women. I was raised by a young, single mom. I have one sibling, a sister. I get women.
Or so I thought. At WMC I felt a connection with other women that I’ve never really felt before and I didn’t even realize it until I got home. Earlier this week, as I went about my normal(ish) life, I noticed I was seeing other women in a different way. I started really seeing these women… moms I didn’t know, moms at Trader Joe’s, moms at work, moms at the gas station. I felt this connection I hadn’t felt before. It hit me like a brick; when it comes to relationships with other women, with other moms, I’m guarded. Even with my friends who tell me about their messy, I still keep some walls up, it still doesn’t feel safe, I still carry shame around my illness and how it plays out in my life. I still judge myself very harshly for things I did (and do) when I’m most unwell.
But last weekend I sat with 100 other women who knew, who got it, who felt the same shame and said ‘it’s okay, you’re okay, we are OKAY’. They said ‘even though these illnesses have made it scary to look in the mirror at times, it’s not your fault, you are fighting, you are healing, you are (or will be) okay’.
Surrounded by that love and truth, the final fragments of the wall I’d been hiding behind came down. I saw these amazing women in ways I have never been able to see myself. And because of that, because of the connection we share, I could finally see in myself what I saw in them – beautiful, whole, loving women and mothers.
I feel so blessed to finally feel a true sisterhood with other women. It took 100 women traveling from all over the world for me to get there, women like me who dragged their anxiety along like a pissed-off, boneless toddler, to show up, to open their hearts, to show me the truth, and I couldn’t be more grateful.