As 2020 begins, you might be realizing you want some things to be different this year.
Including your relationships.
A strong theme that emerges for us as women over 50 is the yearning for deep, life-enhancing relationships.
The reality is, many of us are Done With endothermic relationships.
Endothermic relationships are ones that suck energy from us or cause us to feel empty.
They feel unworthy of the time we hold precious. It’s not necessarily the people — we may love them dearly. It’s where conversation is focused that feels like a waste of time. You may find yourself asking: why am I spending time in this conversation? — in this group? — with this partner?
The women I interviewed for my book and the women in my coaching practice speak with amazing consistency about their healthy growing intolerance for endothermic relationships.
“I cannot abide superficial conversation anymore,” said one. “Vapid conversations. Topical talking. I have no time for it,” said another.
I discovered, for myself, that I choose much more carefully where I commit social time given the commitment I have to my work and my spiritual growth.
Enter the kind of relationships we WANT.
Exothermic relationships are ones that ENLARGE US.
They bring energy and spaciousness. They build on what’s important to us and expand it to become more.
One of the ways women are filling the need for exothermic relationships is by belonging to a women’s group — a “moai” as it’s called in Japan (one of the Blue Zones of the world where people live the longest and happiest lives).
Women who meet regularly with other women and connect on topics of deeper import, find it to be life-giving, especially in the fifth, sixth, and seventh decades.
I want those kinds of relationships for you.
(If you’re reading this blog, you are probably one of the women who knows something else is possible.)
The exercise below is to jump-start your exploration of inviting — or finding — such a group.
Exercise: Holding a first Women’s Group meeting
Reason for this exercise:
We are learning the importance of creating sisterhoods where we can be witnessed, celebrated, and invest in deep connections. This practice is well worth the time and thought it takes. It taps into one of the key elements that makes for a satisfied life over 50.
Scan the women in your sphere of awareness. Do it with an expansive view rather than an analytical one. They may or may not be close-by geographically – this exercise is just as valid for women who live at a distance, with whom you can connect by phone. They may be friends, associates, colleagues you’ve not seen for awhile, neighbors, women at church or in your spiritual community, people you’ve met at lectures, classes, or workshops, those you hardly know but with whom you feel a connection. It may be the friend of a friend you met at a social gathering. The soft scanning will bring into awareness women with whom you would enjoy engaging on topics that involve reflection and contemplation. They will naturally have the skill of listening, reciprocity of spirit, and reliability.
Don’t be surprised if they aren’t women in your usual social circles. Choose those with whom you feel a gentle bond.
Identify two women you would feel comfortable reaching out to for an exploration of their interest in gathering regularly for lightly structured conversation on spiritual/contemplative/purpose-oriented topics. (This is a distinctly different get-together than to discuss politics or share problems! Make this difference explicit.)
The first step is to invite them for an exploratory first gathering with no pressure to commit to anything further.
A good guideline for a first meeting is sixty-to-ninety minutes. Choose a quiet comfortable place such as one of your homes or a quiet community space. You can also meet by phone using a bridge line, Skype, or Zoom. Keep in mind that video is NOT necessary.
Use a simple outline to guide the first informal meeting. The outline can be:
1) Why you chose to prompt the conversation (you would enjoy having a regular connection with like-minded women),
2) That you heard about the increase in women’s groups who meet for the purpose of sharing about each others’ lives, often with the focal point of a poem or spiritual reading as inspiration
3) Your attraction to having this kind of gathering as opposed to a political discussion or strictly social meeting (which we all seem to have plenty of elsewhere!)
4) A simple reading or poem that captured your attention recently, followed by an invitation for each woman to respond to it. (What does it evoke in them? Does it relate to their lives in this moment? How, or how not?) It could be a reading that focuses on connection, community, gratitude, faith in difficult times, being authentic, inspiration from the natural world, etc.
5) Follow with an invitation for each to take 10 minutes to share what’s going on in their lives right now. (mentioning 5-10 minutes keeps from anyone dominating the time). The emphasis is on listening, not problem-solving, analyzing, or advice-giving. You will need to model this!
4) Though the above steps are simple, you will likely find yourselves at the one hour mark already! Ask if there is a desire to meet again in this same manner. Invite the other women to give input about how often they’d like to meet, and where, and if there are other ideas for a process.
Important: there are a few non-negotiables that need to be in place for this to be a roots-growing group. The most important one is a commitment to regularity. Another is agreement about having a light process such as beginning with a reading and having a timed check-in, as well as a clear start and stop time. (Don’t let the stop time be raggedy! Keep to the discipline for everyone’s benefit.) Other things are negotiable: rotating homes, having light snacks, etc.
5) Don’t go longer than 4 weeks before meeting again. Identify the place — and whether the group would like an email reminder and/or the sending of a reading ahead of time.
After you’ve met twice, you can check in about the guidelines you’ve agreed to (regularity, place, process, facilitation, and confidentiality) to see if the group wants to tweak them.
My experience helping clients start these groups is that you will need to play an anchor role for the first several meetings, including reminder emails. Stay with it! It usually takes four meetings to really gel and feel intact. This is normal.
If you only get to the first two parts of this exercise (scanning and naming a few women with whom you’d like to connect with regularly), that’s great. Sometimes we realize there are more women “out there” than expected whose company you would enjoy!
Keep in mind that the women you identified may be yearning for exactly the same thing. THIS IS OFTEN THE CASE. So, if you don’t feel comfortable calling a first meeting yet, reach out to just one of the women and invite her for coffee. If she’s not local, invite her for a phone call. You can follow the same general guidelines, seeing how the connection feels and whether she would enjoy connecting regularly. Some women meet for “tea” via Zoom every month and love it. (I’m in 3 groups, all of them virtual, and one we call “tea time.”)
This exercise sounds deceptively simple. In some ways it is! But if it was as easy as it sounds, we would all have tribes or groups where we can bring the fullness of who we are and talk about things that matter. Many don’t. So take your time with it.
It can make all the difference in your life.
And if you want help putting this into play, please reach out for a no-charge 30 minute call! I’d love to help you create a women’s group to enhance the life you want in 2020, especially as a woman over 50. BookCallwithSue