Saturday, April 29, 2023

Sitting With The Sisters

I had a lovely conversation with a sister the other day and it was almost as if we had known each other our entire lives.

The topics melted into each other and before either of us knew it, over two hours had passed.

Neither of us was trying to impress the other, the very fact that we were both in this restaurant at this little corner table, comfortable in our own being, was more than enough.

We had only met a few times before through those intersecting ways that women's lives often do.

Before this engagement, I was interviewed by a member of my sorority whom I hadn't met. Her topic was about the ways we encounter and are empowered by Sisterhood. It is one of our founding principles, so I was eager to be a part of her national conversation.  

It was another one of those kindred spirit moments where even through the gaze of the computer, we felt the energy of the other and as women do, made declarations of seeing each other at the next conference or event.

About a year ago, me with a bit of my somewhat extroverted INFJ Empath self, went to the home of someone I hadn't met before. My husband was becoming good friends with the husband and as was their cultural custom, they were having a gathering for the November holidays. Not too long in the gathering, I was embraced by his friend's wife and her sisters. Since then, whenever we see each other at whatever event, we make a beeline to greet and we are not of the same race but share the Antilles, Caribbean as ancestral places. 

Or the book group with an older woman of another faith and race, a younger woman of yet another faith and race, and a woman of the country's majority faith and race. We connected over a hope for our community and love of literature.

Finally, while acclimating to my still-new-to-me environs of the Northeast and with Covid letting up enough for me to be out-and-about, I had another conversation with a woman who is from my ancestral homeland. We were only supposed to be meeting for appetizers for an hour or so and before we knew it, four hours had gone by, we had to order coffee (me) and tea (her). She has become a dear spiritual connection for me and whenever we see each other, it is as if we always knew the other.

I have been thinking long and hard about this place in my life.

Once-upon-a-time, I said that I didn't want anything to do with women.

It came from a place of pain, hurt, and neglect that I had experienced at the hands of my step-mother and step-sister while growing up. My maternal older sisters were already adults and on the other side of the country, so I never grew up with a mirror of myself in my home. 

What I had seen even with some other sororities when I went to college further pushed me away from being with people who were jealous of the other, comparing each other's purses or clothes. I was working a full-time job and going to college full-time so felt I didn't have much space in my life for catty behavior, definitely not over who was dating whom or whatever little tits-for-tats were replete in the dorms. I didn't stay on campus.

I kept my distance.

It was my now sorority sisters who helped shine a light on a possible other way and helped me on the path to heal my heart.

They showed what Sisterhood was and what sisterly love really meant.

When I left college and because I didn't join my sorority at that school, I still only had one or two women friends that I would call. I am more comfortable in the space of my own home. Then, marriage and children further distanced that chance to develop women relationships.

So it was a bit funny to me that when I was twenty-eight and answering the call on my life, that it was in my spirit that I didn't know when or how, but that I would be working with women.

I literally laughed out loud at that declaration.

Who? Me? Nah.

But it is funny how sometimes God, the Universe, will call you to the very thing that is part of your healing.

Over the past thirty years, I have developed some mothering and being-mothered relationships with some amazing women. 

I saw in them the hope and beauty I wanted for every woman, every girl.

Now, I am not the life-of-the-party and some of my friends do side-eye me when I say that I really truly am an Introvert, so I'm not the one they will call when they want to go to one of the parties or clubs in town. My Sorors know that in my head I want to be able to step and stroll, but I am just shy and uncertain enough that I will stand on the sidelines and cheer them on. But they also know the I am their biggest cheerleader and support, especially for the undergraduates that I have the pleasure of advising. They know that bit about me.

I am a deep thinker, one of my sister friends told me I was an intellectual and a scholar. 

Ringing in my ears was, who? me? I don't have my doctorate yet, but it has been my sisters who have said, well of course you are and of course you should. And have been encouragers.

Sitting with the sisters has been a journey of love and acceptance, space and some time to ponder, and for some who are deeply trusted, teaching and correcting moments.

Over the past month, I had the pleasure of watching women come into the fold, through two organizations of women. It was sheer joy and love to affirm for them all that we are indeed, sisters, and to showcase the beauty of what that means.

Today, I have some as young as nineteen and others as old and ninety. And each one brings a certain richness to my life that I hope I am able to replicate.

I can't imagine it any other way and am thankful I gave myself the time to be open to the possibilities. Like the women who walked to the tomb after Jesus resurrection, the women in my life have varying gifts and abilities, each one speaking life and possibilities into the other. I can only imagine the conversation and strategy that was happening on that walk to the tomb.

"You go, sis!" "You got this!" "Yessssssssss!"

As I continue to age and watch the changes in my own life, I imagine the wisdom and knowledge I want to be sure my daughters and their friends have. They know they can talk to me about anything and that I will not judge or try to momsplain away their concerns or denigrate their ideas. That is the other gift of sistering across ages for me. My daughters are also becoming sister-friends.

I think about them and the future when I am looking out over the landscape of this country and the ways that certain men have been trying to legislate away a women's rights.

Or the ways they think they can disrespect women, especially Black women, without consequences.

In Louisiana, they found out that there are brothers who will stand up for us and that we are not alone.

Women have long been standing together.

The women have always been leading and have always been identifying when oppression rears its ugly head. 

It reminded me of the women I met cooking meals for the protests, or the ones providing mental health check-ins, or the ones gathering women together for a breakfast so we could strategize how we were going to stand together against the encroaching apartheid state.

Women accomplish a lot without the male gaze and without the artificial competition that often accompanies spaces in this country.

What if, just what if, sitting with the sisters was the way we solved issues like poverty and homelessness, educational deserts, and health care? 

There are many women's organizations where my advocacy intersects and what I have seen, in these rooms with wealthy women who do not look like me and those who do, is that there is a sincere desire to use their resources for the common good, that without the glare of patriarchy, they are able to dream into the what-ifs and see the possibilities for society.

Many wonderful dreams have been fulfilled and seen over the past twenty years and all of it came about when I dared to open my heart.

I no longer chuckle whenever The Spirit, in her still-small-voice guides me through Wisdom to be a part of this or that women's group, or take part in this-or-that women's fundraiser for young girls, or to lend my voice to a cause for girls' empowerment. It has taken years, but I can't imagine myself not doing those things.

My sisters are like reflections to me.

They show me the better parts of myself and the dreams of where I can improve.

Like my daughter, they encourage me.  

In the Netflix Special on "The Light We Carry, " Mrs. Michelle Obama talked about her kitchen table, her circle of intersecting lives of sister friends who help her stay connected and grounded to herself, she talked about how important it was to have those moments of assurance and vulnerability with someone who doesn't want anything from you but wants the best for you.

She talked about the quieting of oneself and that in the falsehoods of social media, it was important to have people that you can be real with, that was essentially her message to the younger generation, to be able to be sustained over the long-haul, not the smoke-and-mirrors of an IG post or influencer status.

It was something I hoped I taught my daughters and those I encountered.

To be able to be real and authentic with someone is a gift, a treasured opportunity. 

Being open to possibilities and like we used to say in Girl Scouts "Make new friends, but keep the Old" that nothing is lost in time or space if we expand our view and add more seats to the table.

As we age, it is even more important to remain socially engaged and have moments of connection across generations.

It is another reason I am delighted that my window to the world includes women of many walks of life.

I can't imagine it any other way.

Sitting with my sisters is like lingering over a latte staring out at the birds playing in and out of the trees in my backyard, it is comforting and reassuring.

My sisters are like home. 

©2023. Taye Foster Bradshaw Group LLC. In the company of my sisters, enjoying life.

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