“Our foremothers have established a tradition of supportive friendship and community that we would be wise to follow.”
The phone calls not yet returned. The unanswered emails. The looming deadlines at the office. The to-do list that never ends. The laundry is piling up, but the washing machine needs repair. “I’ll take stress for 100, Alex.”
Whether you are a mom juggling your kids’ schedules with your own, a college student trying to stay above water, a daughter trying desperately to stay positive while aging parents are declining, a professional achieving at the office - or whether you are all or any combination of these things – the demands on us can seem endless. Because they are endless.
I have too often fallen into the trap of trying to “be it all” – the producer at the workplace who delivers beyond expectations, the friend who can always be counted on, the wife who is still as completely mesmerizing as she was on the first date, the daughter-in-law who is truly “like a daughter.” My friends with kids teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes. Yet when they make mistakes in parenting, they are not as forgiving of themselves – the tiniest misstep can seem so monumental. And on top of the day to day items, there are the unexpected curve balls that life throws each of us from time to time.
In recent years I’ve met amazing women who strive to live their lives in their truth. To me, this means 1) pushing past society’s expectations to shine in all things 2) boldly pursuing the things that truly fill you up and 3) spurning perceived judgment from others. And they are committed to supporting and empowering other women. They share the wisdom they’ve gained, and the talents they’ve unleashed to help raise others up.
Unfortunately, too often women compete - for acknowledgement, for attention, for success, for love. Many of us spend time playing a comparison game and keeping scorecards. What a concept to realize that instead, we can support and cheerlead each other as we each pursue our unique and individual journeys. There is enough love, joy, attention and success to go around. We can use our own talents to help each other when our sister is overwhelmed. Why not ask for help when our own wherewithal has become more like “where-without?” We don’t have to DO it all. We don’t have to BE it all.
Last weekend, I hosted an event for 25 people in my home. But my plate was already full and my cup was already empty. Still, I wanted to be the consummate hostess. A close friend reminded me, “When I need help with a speech, I come to you.” She reassured me, “I got this for you. That’s what friends do.” She took me to the farmer’s market, she ordered food from various places on my behalf, and she brought over beautiful serving platters to make me look like a star. Above all, she reminded me that it is okay to lean on a friend.
I’m still learning the lesson that having a balanced life is an ongoing exercise. The good news is that every moment of every day of the rest of our lives provides an excellent opportunity to practice. You can’t give till your cup runs out, and then say, “Okay, I’m ready for some balance today.” These muscles need daily flexing.
Setting boundaries and letting go of the “shoulds” allows us time to get centered and to fill up. Carving out time to tune out the noise and tune in to what’s really important, allows us to see our true strengths and keep perspective on our shortcomings. Some of my personal go-to tools for getting centered are taking deep loving breaths, drawing with magic markers, singing in the car or shower, journaling, dancing, and spending quality time giggling with loved ones. For me, the more playful the outlet, the more effective I can be while in busy mode.
So how do you get centered and how do you fill up? And if you forget to fill up, who do you call upon for help?
Sisterhoods are not just about bake sales at synagogues and community centers. Our foremothers have established a tradition of supportive friendship and community that we would be wise to follow.
By nurturing ourselves and reaching out in sisterhood, we can recharge and fill our many roles with the joy we intend. We can be the teacher, the counselor, the provider, the nurturer, the advocate, the artist, the rock that others depend on, the leader. We can strive for the highest potential of our truest selves. How do we get there? The path is unique for each of us. It has twists and turns and is ever-evolving, but like most things, it begins with a single step. For starters, I’m going to get out the magic markers and phone a friend.
Bonnie Samotin Zev is a communications professional, project manager and segment producer, specializing in humanitarian issues, women’s issues, topics in entertainment, community, and human-interest stories. She is a cheerleader of collaborative leadership, and is passionate about creativity and self-expression without apology.
You can meet Bonnie and join a workshop she's facilitating at NCJW/LA's Sunday Salons: Conversations and Tools to Find Balance. The program runs from 10-2 pm, includes breakfast and lunch for $15, and aims to help women of many generations find balance, discuss real issues and challenges they face in their lives, and leave with practical tools for increasing happiness and self-fulfillment. Bonnie will be co-facilitating the Sandwich Generation workshop. Please visit www.jwcsc.org/lifetransitions to learn more about the program, including the Quarter Life Crisis and Third Chapter workshops.