My holiday miracles started arriving early this year.
It all started with my daughter. She emailed me during a private invite-only conference that she was attending as an invited corporate top executive. In her email, she shared how she felt that I belonged with the women she was with and wished I was there with her too.
My daughter, always in total sync with me, was reaching out to me in response to my obvious angst around current political shifts to the alt right, which are moving America far away from all the civil rights and equal privileges granted to women, and others like me, who fought and sacrificed so much to attain freedom for all women and girls.
I had long been searching to find my “lost” tribe of women and enlightened men, who are making a positive difference around the globe…most especially right here at home.
When my daughter reached out to me, I had just been meditating and praying, not only requesting to find my “lost” tribe, but also asking for the “right” and “perfect” ambassadors to show up to move my newest book, The Ageless Way, to the many versus the few. I knew that once in the “right” and “perfect” circle of women, both I and my newest book, will be in the right and perfect hands. I trust the rest will unfold organically.
The timing was fortuitous. The next day a private invite arrived in my inbox. It took me by surprise. More importantly, the timing was clearly Divine Intervention.
My body started shaking, moving me up to a higher energetic octave as I read the private invitation to a Talking Circle with Gloria Steinem and the women of Makers. No better time than now for women to come together in a women’s circle to release what was, and to open up to what presents itself. It never fails that we gain far greater clarity and wisdom when we sit in solidarity with other feminists in a Talking Circle. Once again, we gathered together to write a new chapter of our women’s “Herstory.”
Gloria Steinem is the one woman always at the top of my list of visionary leaders of our time. Gloria and “Ms.” magazine were game changers for me. Reading the preview issue of Ms. Magazine changed the trajectory of my life and my work. My kids and I paid a high price for my standing up for my freedom as a woman to choose to re-story my life as a single entrepreneurial mom and advocate-activist educator elevating the stories of women’s journey to equal rights. On my own, I never would have become a career counselor & coach for executives & entrepreneurs, as well as an entrepreneurial success story myself. At that time, women were just starting to enter graduate school and venture into male-dominated fields. Most certainly, I would never have ventured into corporate America to become the trailblazing female corporate bottom-line change agent and intrapreneur I became, if not for the support of the women’s Talking Circles of the early 1970s, (aka, Consciousness Raising Groups.) (Ah that’s where “uppity women” started. It’s back in our U.S. lexicon again today. I much prefer “Bold Women!”)
Now coming full circle after 40+ yrs., my daughter is bringing me back to embrace and celebrate our journey together as women past, present and future. I’ve long known deep-in-my-bones that this new book had to find its way to Gloria and to the multitude of women who are asking what is the future of women, and who am I if I’m no longer young. But I had no clue when our paths would intersect again. And if we did meet again, what might happen.
I arrived a little early to the corner building across from the Chelsea Peers on the far Westside of Manhattan. I stopped short of going up the steps of the rudimentary entry way. The small window of the large, heavy front door reminded me of SpeakEasys in prohibition gangster movies. I had trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that I was about to enter the former Bayview Correctional Facility, the last women’s prison in New York City.
I was shown the way to the event. I found a chair right up in the first row of the circle. Thankfully, I took a breath as I stood to scan the room. Videos were ready to roll on either end of the room. What would have made me faint had I not taken a deep breath beforehand, was the impact of Annie Leibovitz’s exhibit: WOMEN: New Portraits, which encircled the entire room. Long before start time, I was already being “forced” to open up to whatever showed up for me, and for every one of us together for those three hours in that unique never-to-be-replicated time and space.
The energy in the room was so alive with people (predominantly women) of every diversity across the spectrum. We all knew we were there for something sacred that happens when women come into a Talking Circle. This circle as with all women’s circles, celebrates women’s stories.
Being together in a Talking Circle surrounded by this level of feminine energy, both inspired and framed by Ms. Leibowitz’s images surrounding us, created a hearth for sharing our stories…in what was once the women’s correctional facility’s indoor basketball court…now being transformed before my eyes into a Talking Circle in the soon-to-be “The Women’s Building”…a building solely benefiting women and girls of New York City.
As if not opened up enough already, to set the mood we were shown a trailer of Nashira, a video story of the matriarchal community formed out of the tragedy of the long horrific war between the government forces and the rebel group, FARC in Columbia. (Makers.com)
Now we were ready to get down to what matters, our own storytelling.
We were introduced to two powerful older women of color who survived long sentences inside women’s correctional facilities. Both Donna Hylton and Cheryl Wilkins have turned their lives around through higher education and community building. Ms. Wilkins had received her graduate degree in urban affairs behind bars, and both women are now dedicated to lowering the recidivism rate by advocating for other women in and outside the prison system, encouraging education and skills training under the auspices of their Women and Justice Project. Through storytelling, these women conveyed the truth about women, justice and the abuse that continues for incarcerated women.
I can’t stop thinking about the mind-boggling incarceration stats shared about women of color and the heart-wrenching separation of mothers and children. These percentages and the incarceration stories revealed have left a deep mark on my psyche!
Without a doubt incarceration of women and mothers is a Feminist issue!
I was witnessing something so moving. I cannot find words for all the pain and anguish I felt in my body, and the deep sorrow in my heart and Soul for these women, and for all those who remain or will be placed behind bars. I apologize for what women behind bars suffered and endured and are experiencing as I write. My respect and gratitude goes out to these two women for the sacrifices made to serve other women in this way.
Then the energy in the space lifted even higher…perfectly timed—when Judaline Cassidy, the first woman of color in the NYC plumbers trade union shared her victorious story of making change happen in a male-dominated trade. We all were inspired to keep on keepin’ on. Now, this same woman is leading the renovation/transformation effort to birth “The Woman’s Building” out of the rubble of the former women’s correctional facility.
Then came Gloria’s turn. Always fully present with unmistakable prescience, she spoke about our times and our future roles as women, about justice and human rights across genders, and equality for all. Gloria also shared that for the last forty years she had been envisioning a Women’s Center in NYC to replicate the one created in San Francisco decades ago. A foundation was formed to find a suitable location, but it was disbanded when no appropriate property became available. Now her dream of creating a building dedicated to women in the heart of NYC is being fulfilled.
For me, and I’d bet for most of us in the circle, what transpired was awe-inspiring. Women stood to tell their stories, while others asked questions or added their insights. And some offered their services, like the retired firewoman who offered her help to knock down the walls of the old facility. Women from all walks of life and demographics were making story together in a joyful consecration of the new landmark building.
So typical of Gloria, as women rose to thank her for her courageous efforts to lift women and girls and to open doors for so many of us, she responded, “You are the DOERS, I only talk about it.” This is why she is a beloved woman’s woman.
There was so much more emerging all through the evening till the way too soon 3hour ending mark. By then I was so moved that I was buzzing. I was totally present from head to toe even as I moved in and out of being a witness to and a participant in this Talking Circle.
I glimpsed Gloria moving out of the closing circle and found myself like a drone honing in on her coordinates. It was my turn to gift my life’s work to Gloria in return for all she has been for me and for all women and girls. We connected with our eyes and a knowing that we’ve shared the bigger story of being a woman, and being Clio Feminists.
Before I got more than a few words out of my mouth, Gloria saw the book’s front cover as I reached it out to her. I can remember Gloria’s words oh so clearly: “Now this is a book I want to read!” as she pulled The Ageless Way to her chest embracing it as we spoke. We spoke words, but it was our Crone eyes that connected and in moments traversed the decades and the eons of women’s Talking Circles and storytelling that brought us together over the many years since we were ingénue activists and story gatherers. We hugged with deep respect and gratitude to be on this journey together, again, at this time.
Whatever happens now with my involvement in this new Makers community of movers and shakers, and with my new book, is now out of my hands. One of my abiding principles is to “Trust the Process.” I’ll keep you posted on what shows up.
What is even of greater import is that I have found my home base with Makers for my efforts on behalf of women, Mother Earth, and for all of us marginalized or under threat of repressive silencing.
By the time we got home it was midnight. I was still “high” by 2 am. It took a lot for me to get to sleep. Now a week later, I am still deeply moved and more committed than ever to our American democracy and to the evolution of progress.
Thank you for all of you who requested I share my story of Gloria, me and The Ageless Way. As you can tell, I’ve been processing a myriad of my takeaway bytes, feeling a bit too much in “aha” overwhelm to enter into the retelling of this sisterhood story until now.
I’ll close with my most profound realization: I have been gifted freedom of a whole ‘nother kind by my adult daughter bringing me full circle to meet with the #1 Maker of them all…the visionary woman whose courage, tenacity and unbound authentic presence gifted me the power to claim my own freedom long ago when my daughter was a little girl. My daughter’s and my personal story is one of sacrifice, deep Soulful redemption, joyful reunion and abiding love. A perfect holiday story for my daughter to be the messenger bringing Gloria and me together as older women still illuminating the way for other feminists to follow! Clearly a gift from the Universe!
Along the way, Gloria and I have both been compelled to continue on our Ageless Way advocating for women and girls…and all those marginalized or left behind in the shadows…as well as our precious Mother Earth, the Mater of all.
To my great joy and appreciation, after the event, a dear colleague-friend from across the country sent me two of Gloria’s quotes that arrived in her inbox that morning. She wrote me that she was amazed it had arrived just after I shared my photo op of Gloria with me and The Ageless Way. To my delight, my colleague wrote that she immediately knew these quotes were meant for me! Amazingly, I had never seen these quotes before. Combined, both quotes are a perfect closure for what’s to come, for our current and future role as the Visionaries with Wrinkles we’ve been waiting for to lead the way forward.
What story do you want to rewrite?
It’s together that we learn, we collaborate and grow. Please share your rewrite with me.