Every Monday, the Greensboro Women’s Joy Circle meets to share stories, sip tea, brag, write, stretch, dance, and meditate…every week it is a different constellation of women, and every week we explore a new theme as we continue to build daring, joyful lives. On Tuesdays, I share what we’ve learned with you.
Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed how difficult it is for some women to brag. We use bragging at joy circle to overcome the tendency to either self-deprecate or complain. It is both inspiring and exhilarating to sit in a circle of women who openly admit their creativity and strength and fortitude. But for some of us, bragging goes against the grain–is, in fact, downright uncomfortable. Often, we are the women who care for children and elderly parents and the disadvantaged or marginalized; women who pack lunches lovingly for the rest of the family and then forget to eat; women who are constitutionally unable to receive a compliment gracefully. We are fantastic givers, but have great difficulty receiving.
What is so important about receiving? Isn’t it more blessed to give? Well, yes, giving is wonderful. But be honest with yourself: what are you really giving? If you are caring for others all day long without a thought for yourself, does a little resentment creep into that giving? A little exhaustion? A sense of martyrdom? And what happens when you collapse from lack of self-care and are no longer able to give so abundantly? You give from what you are. If what you are is malnourished, exhausted, empty, drained, and unhappy, then the quality of what you are giving is…mmm, shall we say…subpar.
So yesterday’s circle was an exercise in receiving. We circled up for some gentle serpentine movement, celebrating the year of the snake with hip circles and snake arms and rolling cat/cows. We discussed shedding what no longer serves us, as a snake sheds its skin. We envisioned our bodies as one smooth long line of power, like a snake; supple, muscular. We rested our foreheads on the earth and let breath fill our bodies, light us up, and clean us out.
I had brought some herbal footsoaks and homemade body butter and, one by one, each woman placed her feet in the warm herbal bath, allowing her hands to be gently massaged with body butter, her temples to be anointed with rose oil. And, sitting there, receiving so much love and attention, each woman bragged. Not about the easy stuff, the obvious gifts and triumphs, but about the difficult, dark parts of our lives. The parts we hide away and are ashamed of. The parts that require the most of us and challenge us relentlessly every day. And sitting there, massaging fingers and drying sweet-smelling feet, I was struck by how endearing it was to hear them. I felt closer to these women, knowing their hurt and struggle; I felt honored to be caring for them while they shared the challenges in their lives. Most of all, I felt unburdened. I felt unburdened because I knew I was not alone. I felt unburdened because I knew, if I could feel so much love for these women while they shared their saddest and darkest places, that I too could be loved. Even there.
We dried our eyes and drank rose petal chai and ate apples. We danced to cathartic music (oh, the perfection of Florence and the Machine’s Shake it Out!) We promised to practice graceful receiving throughout the week to come.
For those this topic speaks to, check out Jo Anna Rothman’s wonderful Receiving Project. She will guide you through a free, month-long journey of abundant, graceful, open receiving.