Women without women
Recently I marked a bittersweet milestone in my life. Walking away from what no longer made sense to me was both empowering and brutal. Years of coming to terms with what was reality and what was ‘what I wished was so’ had finally catapulted me from security to shifting sand. The robust joy and peace that I felt when I finally drove away was almost immediately replaced with the fear of the ‘now what?’ There was a journey that took me to the fork in the road – the milestone – and there was the journey that followed.
I would never have made it through without the women in my life. They each showed up like calculated moves in a chess game. There was no randomness to either their appearance or counsel. I had taken the path of incredible vulnerability and I was blessed I was not alone.
There was the wise woman that understood that I couldn’t see the things that were too close to me. I took refuge in her house, in her unconditional love that metaphorically wrapped its arms around me as I fell apart. Struggling between a grand exit and retreating back into the darkness, she listened. She allowed me to suffer, to feel safe and her words were only of support and kindness. She played the role that I am confident that my mom would have played if she had been here. She was gentle but firm. When she pushed she allowed me to react. So often she said the things that I wasn’t ready to hear but never inferred they were the absolute. It was perfect, she was just what I needed.
There was the honest woman that understood that I needed to see what was. She was family, I trusted her and reached out to her in my chaos. Her words cut like a knife but I longed to hear them. She validated the reality that I couldn’t see but deeply felt. She confronted my rationalizations and didn’t allow me to retreat into what wasn’t working just because I wanted to ‘will’ it to work. She was the one that I didn’t want to disappoint – the one that I felt most compelled to lie to that I was making progress- the progress that I knew I needed to make – but was not yet ready to honestly look at. She was my accountability. It was perfect, she was just what I needed.
There was the best friend. Our connection was both professional and personal, with no visible gateway in-between. She just showed up in my life as a colleague. Our connection was instantaneous but the trust has grown over the years. I marvel at the fact that God sent me a Buddhist as my closest friend and confidant. I learn from her every day and we travel through life together as peers and deep friends. She was my respite. As my journey took unexpected twists and I reacted to what was in front of me, she listened. Listened without judgement and with no agenda. She validated daily that every step, every decision was my choice. I desperately needed what she provided. She supported my forward motion but she allowed me to work through wanting to return. On the days that I slipped into the ‘what was’, she let me be there…and as I began to experience the pain of it all, she guided me back to the path I needed to follow. She allowed me choice. It was perfect, she was just what I needed.
There was the woman I hired. I paid her to listen to me weekly as I processed my stuff. She was friendly and we connected but she was not my friend. Her guidance didn’t allow blame. There was no room for it. I learned to deal with just ‘what was’. The what was of my past, the what was of my present and the what was as my future. Her counsel disconnected the emotion from the event. I could see clearly that the work I needed to do was within me. Both my power and my brokenness resided within my perceptions and truths. She was my teacher. It was perfect, she was just what I needed.
There was the woman that said ‘come in’. Sometimes the distraction of hurt and pain doesn’t allow us to attend to our life. She offered respite and shelter. A place to live, to eat, to be part of a family. I could be alone or not. She was my home. It was perfect, she was just what I needed.
As I reflect on the cast of women that touched my life, I worry and wonder about the women without women. What would I have done without even just one of these women in my life? They were like the spokes in a wheel – each one keeping me moving forward on this path – each necessary – keeping my journey smooth and strong amidst the potholes and puddles. I would have survived, as many women without women do, but I would have suffered for it. The lessons learned go far beyond my own journey and broader than my own path. We are all women that need women. Sometimes we are on the path and sometimes we are supporting others as they navigate their paths. It all makes sense – it is perfect – it is just what is needed.
Shirley Ramos is a principal at Dirty Girls Consulting, with a deep understanding that life is ‘messy’. DGC is about real women with a story supporting and empowering other ‘real’ women to be the best that they can be. Women work differently, think differently, and it is up to us to develop this difference into our strength. We explore breaking free of traditional standards, accomplishing professional and personal goals to create an authentic, fully loved life. Read more Dirty Girl Consulting blogs here.