Sometimes an evening with female colleagues is a rite of passage, a kind of test a woman can only pass by showing her authenticity. And sometimes a girlfriend-evening fulfills a basic need for time with those who share the same wiring.
Actually women have all kinds of ways of connecting. Sometimes the moments are brief—a quick lunch hour to catch up with a friend or get to know someone better. Other times it might be a special treat like afternoon tea—a chance to dress up and go someplace elegant, where the surroundings are inspiring enough to give us a fresh perspective.
Women have wonderful ways of marshaling resources to get things done. Whether in schools, corporations, or non-profits, some tireless committee members are at work even as we speak, coming up with creative fund-raising ideas, identifying societal needs and generally finding new ways to help others. In fact, there’s no energy source to compare with a group of women united by a cause—like the members of the Lake Forest Woman’s Club who hosted me last weekend. Continuing a tradition established by the founders of their club in 1902, they raise funds for scholarships and do it in style.
And yet what might be most impressive about women happens when we step aside from our default setting of doing-for-others, and actually let our hair down. Last year I finally decided to see what would happen if I invited a group of close women friends to join me for a long weekend in Cambria—the favorite California Coastal town upon which my fictitious town was originally based. I thought maybe two or three would be able to find time in their wildly busy schedules, but ultimately there were nine of us in a fabulous rental house where we cooked, shared meals and stories, exchanged gifts, and giggled like girls at a slumber party. We walked along the shore, hiked up into the Enchanted Forest that’s in my novels, trolled up and down the Main Street shops, then returned home to soak in the hot tub and watch the sun sink into the Pacific as the lighthouse flashed its beam across the water. For me, four of the women were life-long friends; all were friends of several years’ duration. But some of them had never met. I wondered how that felt for them, and saw special connections being forged.
This past weekend, I found out first-hand what it’s like to share special time with newer women friends. The trip began as a professional engagement. And being the guest speaker for this club’s superb book event was an honor. But somehow the trip became something more. A generous woman I’d never met invited me to be her house guest, and our mutual friend arrived from another city to be her guest as well, bringing with her another friend. Suddenly there were four women staying in a beautiful home. We fell into step as though we’d known each other for years. When we returned from a trip to the grocery store, we noticed we’d been tracking what the others might want. My favorite latte showed up just as I unpacked another gal’s favorite yogurt. Having enjoyed some elegant events and swanky meals out and about, we chose to spend our last evening together munching snacks in our jammies.
So what happens at these gatherings? We shared funny stories. And we also talked about life purpose and core mission, and how to figure out when we’re on track. What do we get from these gatherings? A confirmation that intuition is smart in its own way; a sense of belonging; a certainty of being understood.
How are women able to cross the threshold from formal to familiar? From the perspective of the head, it didn’t make a lot of sense to fly off to an unfamiliar city and stay with a stranger. But from the perspective of the heart, there was the possibility of synchronicity and synergy, connection and confirmation, acceptance and friendship. That’s what happens when women gather.
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