This is a post about friendship, connection and trust.
There is something about this conference - I don't even want to call it a conference - that defies explanation. I'm hoping that one of the 50 creative women who were there will find the right word for it when they write about their own experience there. Maybe there needs to be a new word to describe the atmosphere, the culture, the vibrating molecules in the air.
It isn't a surprise that when you put fifty creative, intelligent, innovative, talented entrepreneurs and writers under one tent that sparks will fly. What is surprising is the sparks aren't created by the clanging of pointy elbows jockeying for position, recognition or posturing. The sparks ignite from ideas flying through the air and pinging off words of advice, comfort and wisdom.
Fifty successful (defined not simply by money, not by a long shot), driven women sit in a circle and talk. Creative types, people who like to be seen and heard and felt. Women who want to make a mark in the world, make a difference.
You'd think there would be too many Egos to fit in the
It is a circle of fifty successful, innovative, driven, creative women and we're all rooting for each other. It's that rare gathering where nobody there wants to see you trip, or fail.
There is a trust, a bond, a something (this is where I need that word, that one that may not exist yet) that allows people to open up, show their insides, share their dreams and fears without fear of judgment or gossip.
|The Blue Iguana Inn, Ojai, CA|
I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it twice now, with my own eyes and heart - women who strive for the very same thing comparing notes, offering resources, high fives or a tissue to dry tears.
It's a huge ocean, and there is room for all of us. There aren't many new ideas, so as we bob around in this tumultuous creative sea, we can separate and watch each other flail, possibly drown, and hope we're the last one standing, the most successful, the first or the only, or we can band together and keep each other afloat so we all make it. Every last one of us.
It's a place of truth-telling; not just of your own dreams and fears, but of constructive criticism, or even outright concern.
Some of these women know me well. Better than I know myself. They know my heart, my dreams, what is in the core of me. I trust them with my life, and in the past year I have quite literally trusted them with my life. They couldn't cure my cancer, but they could lift up my spirit, or tell me they are worried because I don't seem right - too "fine" or too stressed or too depressed or anxious. When they ask me how I'm doing, they really want to know.
And sometimes, they don't even need to ask.
Over the course of the weekend, several of the people who know me best expressed concern about me and all my manic "I'm FINE-ness". I didn't seem like the Ellie they knew, because of all the heartfelt sharing we had done so many times.
Instead of turning a blind eye, or chalking it up to stress from cancer, or losing my Dad, or any myriad of practical reasons, they sat me down, looked me in the eye and asked me, "NO - are you REALLY okay."
And the answer - as it is all too often - is that I am okay, and I'm not. I'm still reeling from the past 14 months of loss and fear and illness. I want so badly to be totally fine - the old me - that I ignore any cracks or signs that maybe I'm not as far down the path of healing - not just physically, but emotionally.
Friends like these sit you down and ask you the hard questions and watch you squirm and cry and try to talk your way around it and back into "I'm fine" and they don't let up until they've helped you dig right to the core of you again.
We ended up laughing about everything they helped me understand about myself; we usually do end up at laughter, thank God. As I rattled off all the things on my plate - my continued fear of scans, cancer survivory (which I just turned into a verb), missing my Dad, crazy hormones from chemotherapy and peri-menopause, my daughter's upcoming tonsillectomy surgery and other struggles, I finally sighed and said "I have a big pile, don't I?"
Yes, you do, they said, gently and firmly. And you still need a lot of help.
"I'm in Pile Denial", I chuckled, not because I don't respect their advice or the fact that I'm still under stress, but because it's true, and I need a little funny with my truth.
Collectively we laughed, cried, stretched, grew, wrote, spoke our truths out loud and in our minds and hearts.
There aren't really words.
I come home hollowed out and filled back up again, grateful for the truth-telling love of my friends, and the new friendship seeds that were planted, just waiting to take root and blossom.
The amazing Sue Bob made a video, which captures this experience better than my words can:
A heartfelt thank you to Lee and Andrea for putting this together, again, and all the women who worked behind the scenes to help them and prop them up, too. And to everyone who attended, listened, laughed, cracked open and told your truth - thank you.