A Tapestry of Women

"Circle of Women" Tapestry by Gail Speckmann Artistry

Early on in this blogging experience, I established myself as one who writes primarily from inspiration and about subjects that speak to me on a very personal, social, or spiritual level. Now, I find myself more introspective about my life and Life in general. So you’re probably wondering whether I’ve been inspired as of lately, since it’s been well over a month since I’ve posted. (Did you even notice? Don’t answer that!) My biggest inspiration this past July, was the collective and dynamic strength, power, and radiance that I found in the tapestry of women that made my 40th birthday anything but ordinary. Yay me! The celebration and encounters made it a “Sweet Summer Indulgence”, indeed! Now, do I get a free pass for not posting? :)

For almost half a year, whenever I would think about the BIG BANG – I mean my birthday – I would hear the word, authenticity, quietly whispering back to me. “Whatever you do”, the voice said, “do it as authentically as only you can.” You will never hear me say “40’s the new 30.” Not! Though the spirit of the saying is appreciated – in that 40 is indeed youthful, radiant, and all those wonderful things – I owe much of my growth and development to that additional decade of wisdom, so I’ll keep the change, thank you very much! 40 is 40 – sexy, confident, unapologetic, uncompromising, can-stand-on-its-own-two-feet, period! Its ferocity and flamboyance is what I’ve longed to don and parade for so long as a young woman, and the occasion of my 40th birthday party provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate with those women that helped to shape me in countless ways.  I decided to invite women who either influence or inspire me on a personal level. These were Sistahs, Mis Hermanas, Padnuhs, and true friends, even some who could not attend. But mostly, these were real women that make up a tapestry of genuine womanhood that I know is special. I wanted to indulge them with gratitude and love, and honor them as I embarked on this part of my Life journey.

First in my tapestry, is Mom, the woman who ushered my twin sister and me into this world 40 years ago, in what I’m sure was a messy birth. (Heck, she didn’t even know she was having twins until the last minute! I would have hit the floor!) Like the borders or edges of a handcrafted afghan, her role was critical in framing my tapestry in its coming together on my special day. From margins unseen, she spared me from the potential embarrassment of a less-than-ready-for-guest-bathroom…she dug, filled in, and beautified otherwise empty flowerbeds with a wonderful selection of flowers and plants (something that I certainly was not yet physically capable of doing), and surprised me with her choices of birthday outfits that I would have never thought she would have chosen. All I could say was “Wow, go Mom!” She waited patiently and attended to my rowdy children while we shopped. Her only goal was to make sure that I presented myself well. She did the things that no one thought of, or cared about, but in their absence, would have showed the imperfections that I tried so hard to hide.  While I got a chance to collect the compliments, it was she who worked quietly within and outside of the margins, ensuring that my birthday went off without a hitch! She was amazing in making my tapestry come alive.

The word ‘beautiful’ understates the sentiment of seeing each of my friends in their elegance, stature, and gracefulness. As I spent time with each of them, I reflected on the occasion of our first encounters.  While I knew they were there to celebrate me, I was overwhelmed by the gift of their presence. They were cohesive and independent, yet there was nothing off-putting about them as we danced, laughed, and shared just long enough to create a memory. Their presence made me feel JOY-full, blessed, “fresh-pressed”, and courageous!  This is how I wanted to feel on my BORNday! In my celebration with other women, I realized that it was okay to be included as part of the tapestry myself and not independent of it.

By my own admission, I did not always have a tapestry of women in my life, nor did I regard relationships among women this way. There’s been betrayal from unlikely sources, hurt, unreasonable expectations, misunderstandings, and rejection, which made my tapestry dull, lacking, and uneventful, a far cry from anything as striking or elaborate as a tapestry. I realized it takes work to be a complement to others, without having the desire to constantly stand out. To my surprise, I could still be an independent woman, a decision maker, remarkably feminine, and at the same time, remain in relationship with other incredible women.  Interestingly, these women have their own tapestry, separate from mine, which I must respect, celebrate, and honor.  Somehow, within their tapestry and mine, we can and do, reveal a bond that is more beautiful because of their connectedness. 

Unlike a quilt, there are no visually discernible parts that can stand alone in a tapestry. It is complex, layered, interweaved. It looks best when its intricacy and oneness is displayed, right side up, and not with all the nips and tucks on the backside that hide loose threads and character flaws! In this way, there are no expectations, and certainly no judgment, because everyone knows how much effort is required to make the damn thing! (Can I get an “Amen”?) Each individual element in the tapestry represents our strongest desires to express our own uniqueness; yet, because our intersections are so much more authentic, we understand that we are not to make ourselves look better at the expense of another woman. This tapestry then occupies a space that is sacred where women can just be women; a space where they can experience an outpouring of love that is truthful, something that we clearly deserve and want. It is a space where love transcends our own perceived successes and failures. 

Maya Angelou captured my sentiment best when she said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I will never forget how being in fellowship with dear friends on my 40th BDAY made me feel. Thus far, it has been a real high mark in my life.

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