So, Danielle, thank you for your warm and wise celebration of the ways that women relate to each other, the ways we bear witness, the ways we feed each other, the ways we push and push and push, the ways we excavate the layers of ourselves, each other, and the world. Thank you, Danielle, for honoring the brilliance of our gender. You make me proud to be a woman. Thank you.
I love, love, love Danielle’s post: In praise of women: magnificent, spacious, fiery witnesses.
Oh, yes yes yes! So much of Danielle’s imagery is familiar to me, resonant like the deep ringing of a gong: truth.
A woman makes a cup of her heart. This reminds me of my musing about whether the propensity to feel both deep sadness and deep joy is about capacity or contrast. But Danielle’s onto even more. She reminds me of the way women connect, often instantaneously, and of how a woman “carries your story with her.” Absolutely right. In this way, I am a repository of thousands of stories I have heard over the years, from intimate friends and casual acquaintances. I am composed, in large part, of the stories of the women I have known. Of their wisdom and humor. Of their narrative.
Sometimes people criticize me for taking on the emotions of others, tell me this is only bogging me down. Maybe it is: I have wondered before if I am simply too porous. But Danielle reminds me that there is a gift in this, too. That this is just part of what we women do. We carry others’ stories with us.
Women feed each other, literally and figuratively. Food is comfort, and it represents nourishment writ large. I’ve been reminded of this over the years, by the food my mother brought to me when I couldn’t see straight in the days after Grace’s birth, by the organized bring-dinner-over schedules that gathered around a neighborhood friend undergoing treatment for cancer, by my daughter’s firm preference for my hokey homemade birthday cakes over fancy store-bought ones.
This reminds me of a passage from Eat, Pray, Love, where Elizabeth writes about learning of a family whose mother and three year old son were both diagnosed with cancer in one year. Her reaction: “Oh, wow. That family needs grace.” Her sister’s reaction: “Oh, wow. That family needs casseroles.” What we realize is that casseroles are grace. Food is comfort, food is solace, food is a concrete way that we take care of each other. To provide bounty on the table is a way some people represent their spirit’s generosity.
Adjunct to the notion of women feeding each other is Danielle’s most provocative question: Who asks you if you have everything you need? That is an easy answer for me: women. Always women. My mother, my sister, even my daughter. My female friends. This kind of being mindful of others’ needs seems to me a quintessentially female trait. It is the women I love who both care about and anticipate what I need. They call after doctor’s appointments to see what the news is. They remember to have a nut-free cupcake for my son. They send a book through the mail, just because they read it and they think I might like it. They ask what I need, they ask again, they don’t stop asking, even when I don’t know what I need and when my tears threaten to drown both of us.
There is one quote that reminds me of these qualities. I sent it to Danielle today and that she included in her post’s comments:
“Women do not leave situations like this; we push up our sleeves, lean in closer, and say, “What do you need? Tell me what you need and by God I will do it.” I believe that the souls of women flatten and anchor themselves in times of adversity, lay in for the stay.”
– Elizabeth Berg
Women touch you. This reminds me of a story like the one Danielle tells. When my grandmother was very ill, in her hospital bed, my mother would massage her feet with lotion. I never thought of my grandmother as a particularly physically affectionate person, and I think this level of intimate caretaking was new for both she and my mother. But still, my mother sat at the end of her bed, rubbing her feet, a benediction, a way of holding her own mother tight as they drew near the precipice of death.
Women push. Yes, we push out babies. Of course. But it’s more than that. We push each other, too. I recently had a soul-rattling argument with a very dear, old friend. It threw me, bigtime. And I thought a lot about it. It pushed me to consider the ways in which I might come across as insensitive, uncaring. That is a pushing that is uncomfortable, but unimaginably useful. We also push through each others’ crap, to the molten core of who we each are. Push past the bratty and the bitchy, through the thick forest to the luminous clearing we know is there.