Category Archives: Sisterhood

An unexpected couple

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grandmotherToday I want to share with you the story of a rather unexpected couple I know closely and that is, in a way, the confirmation of my last post on the importance of Sisterhood for women’s empowerment and happiness.

This couple, or partnership, as you may prefer, brings together two divorced women, one in her thirties and the other in her eighties. The first is actively engaged in social entrepreneurship, non-formal education and change, and is a freelance (sometimes) quite lost in the world. The second is retired and her main occupation is to build some new and empowering stories about her past, to be worried about everybody else in the family, and to complain about the loneliness and the body pain. These two women share the same living space and sustain each other through life situations that, as you may imagine, are quite diverse. They are actually a great match, not entirely free of arguments and conflicts, but so far they are doing quite well.

This kind of alliance, not so rare anymore I believe, has led me to some reflection on the values that drive people’s life nowadays, specially around the subject of time, love, intergenerational dialogue and rest/leisure:

Time to love, time to dedicate attention, time to be and to rest. Why society’s definition of success seems to be determined only by the amount of time people expend doing (a certain type) of work? What is work? How can we humanise work? Aren’t there any other measures of a person’s worth, that value other components of the human being?* How to love and how to fulfil the ‘love is as love does‘ maxim? And how to apply these principles and values in a relation with a old grandmother with her vulnerability and stubbornness, with her own way of being and (not) doing things?

On the other way around this situation has a lot to do with gender and gender equality, this mutual care and respect for each other that is Sisterhood. This partnership has been of utmost importance to a woman who is building her economic independence. And despite the refusal and frustration it often creates, I am convinced this is a win-win situation for both of them, from all perspectives.

It also reinforces the realisation that normality is a painful and unrealistic goal to aspire to, because the only normality that exists is our individual normality: What makes me feel good and happy? What is the best version of myself? What do I want to achieve? Who I want to be?

On the top of it, to live with the grandmother also represents an exceptional life experience, and the greatest and deepest intergenerational exchange one could ever wish for. To accompany a grandmother in her getting older is simultaneously tough and beautiful, it reveals a lot of who we are and is a mirage of how we will be. No time for hiding or lying, in front of you the wane we all will be subject to. No matter what, oldness is awaiting everyone who will have to joy (or else…) of a long life.

* Check this post for a great reflection on this subject.

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On Sisterhood and how to overcome difficult times

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women-friendsWho have not gone through a difficult period in life? All of us I would say. And each one of us has probably developed strategies to overcome these moments, altogether with the emotions and feelings that accompany them, moving forward in the path of life stronger and brighter. Some of us are specialists in this amazing capacity that is resilience:

The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.*

Today I would like to honour one of the most important factors that make resilience possible for many of us: Love and Connection. My subjective life experience has always taught me that Love and Connection (in all its shapes and sources) is the most important factor that needs to be present in my life to make it possible for me to feel happiness, gratitude and to overcome life challenges. Research on resilience also confirms that Love is actually the most essencial factor in shaping a person’s resilience:

A combination of factors contributes to resilience. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.*

And my life experience has also taught me that amongst Loving relationships, friends, and mostly women friends, have a special role to play. And why is that? Why do I strongly invite all women to develop and nurture authentic relationships with other women?

What I have experienced is that true sisterhood works as a strong source of awareness against male domination and can provide the tools to fight it and overcome potential damaging relations.

Very often women get trapped in romantic relationships with dominant men (or women), or violent or unloving relationships, that hinder their development. In a society that so obviously value and encourage couplehood people tend to believe that this kind of bond should be the source of all joy and fulfilment. Therefore it is difficult to realise that fulfilment and love can and should come from different people and types of relationships. On the other hand it is hard to accept when a relationship is not working and act upon this realisation, either to improve the situation or to break up and move forward.

In this context, to nurture loving relationships with other women friends functions as a protective factor against unhealthy relations with men (or women). Real care and respect for each other wellbeing and self-development is the key to make it work, as certainly no one who feel true love for another person would let her (him) be trapped in dysfunctional (violent, unloving, destructive) relationships without at least trying to raise her (his) awareness about it.**

In professional contexts women are very frequently affected by sexism, in a direct or indirect way. For instance they may be misunderstood and their skills seen as lack of confidence, they may feel insecure to address certain discussions or even to apply to a promotion, or even be used in a tokenistic way. In this scenario, I am convinced it is relevant that our women friends have a certain degree of gender awareness and tools of analysis of reality from a gender perspective, as it is not immediately obvious what the dynamics are under the surface.

Despite all I am convinced that Love is the main and primary ingredient that needs to be present. Under these conditions close spiritual alliances between women can be much more empowering and supportive than other types of relations and therefore work as real loving bonds that enhance self-development and, ultimately, happiness.

* Definition from American Psychological Association

** The definition of Love I make reference to is the one from M. Scott Peck (The Less Travelled Road): The will to expand the self with the goal to nurture its own and other’s spiritual development.