I am wishing you well this July, and that abundance of some kind is present in your life. Maybe quiet, maybe flowers, maybe the feel of wind or water on your skin, perhaps memories or riotous noise, some abundance that lands as a pleasure. My own certainly seems to be of the ‘riotous noise’ flavour lately, both in my face and overwhelmingly joyous.
This month we hear from Melonie, who shares her story of how physical experiences were part of what drew her to seek out her first women’s circle. I wonder how such stories will play out in the near future, as communities emerge from the pandemic and perhaps begin to reform physical circles again. Are our bodies in need of the circle? What is that inexpressible need for proximity to others that seems to be satisfied simply by sitting together? We would love to hear from you about your own journeys in navigating your tents through various degrees of physical distancing, or not – are sisters being drawn together again to share their experiences and knowledge of our diverse embodied lives?
Besides ‘Opening the Circle’ this month we’d love to hear from you, and have a very short form below in which you can share your perspectives with us, if you would like. We’ve been talking about the new book ‘Red Tents: Unravelling our Past and Weaving a Shared Future’ for a few months now and would be grateful to hear your views too – see below for how to contact us.
Opening the circle – Melonie
It was a long time ago that I sat in my first circle of women. I had spent 10 years frequently going to doctors: I was diagnosed with endometriosis, told there was no cure, put on the pill and told to lose weight for surgery. I realised my hormones, emotions, libido and sense of self were flatlined while taking the pill. I decided I needed to come off it, and made a decision to seek alternative help. So, I attended my first ever circle of women.
As the circle opened and people began to share, it was a scary feeling knowing that the talking piece was coming round and that it was getting ever closer to me. I’d never experienced anything like it. I rehearsed my share over and over as women spoke freely around me, some with tears, some with anger, some with laughter, some with silence…
…and as it came to my turn and I took the piece in hand I cried. It was a life changing moment. To be witnessed, heard, held without judgement in this circle of strangers. It was like being ‘seen’ for the first time and being given permission just to be ‘me’. In fact I WAS being SEEN for the first time. Away from the ‘I’m fine’ kind of conversations of day-to-day life where no one I knew went deeper. Where I didn’t go deeper.
Needless to say, the rehearsed script went by the wayside!
There was no question about it after I left that first circle. I had to find one near to me. After looking around I found that there wasn’t one close enough and so I decided to start a Red Tent.
Simultaneously, during this time I was taking my health into my own hands. I changed my diet, started supplements, castor oil packs, yoni steams, bought cloth pads, started talking to my body like I loved her, started thinking about the magic my womb did each month without me doing anything. I started asking myself questions about whether I loved myself, where I was in competition in my life and whether I was willing to change.
My first bleed after coming off the pill was pain free. I passed my whole uterine lining in one piece and didn’t feel a thing.
After pushing back appointments and having more pain-free bleeds I went to the specialists and told them what I’d been doing, and that I didn’t think I needed surgery. They said ‘are you saying you want to be discharged? Because if you are, WHEN you do need us you’ll be at the bottom of the queue’.
I’ve never been back…. That was about 6 years ago. I get painful bleeds from time to time when I’m not loving myself, or I’m working too hard and not practising menstrual cycle awareness or have an awful diet.
After a childhood of not knowing about my bodily processes, and painful periods that were just not talked about from the get go, I became a primary school teacher and was given PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) to lead. I fought to improve puberty and period education, body knowledge and confidence, information around consent and self-esteem. I fought for 15 years. Slowly getting further but never to a point where I could truly say lasting impact was made in the schools I worked in. When I left schools and local authorities I started working with families, determined to make a difference in young peoples’ lives. This led me to write my book ‘How to Support your Daughter through Puberty – a Practical Guide for Mums’. It’s the first in a series, the next being for dads.
From that first circle I attended seeking help, it was like I had opened a door to a part of me that had been wanting to express herself forever. It had been tightly shut because it wasn’t the ‘done’ thing to be listened to without advice being chucked in, without tears being hastily wiped away and tissues thrown across to me.
I recognise the need for us all to feel confident when speaking about puberty and bodily and emotional change, for us to be there when our children need us and be able to answer their questions and explore their concerns. Together we can really make a difference. It might just be that we can do this by having open conversations about things that matter to us within Red Tents.
Red Tents are like a sanctuary to me. I never ever fail, no matter how tired, emotional or brain foggy I am, to leave the tent energised, heart-full and happy. I never knew such places existed where we could just come together with no agenda, no pushing, no judgement.
You can buy ‘How to Support your Daughter through Puberty – a Practical Guide for Mums’ from Amazon worldwide or by emailing email@example.com
Share your thoughts with us directly
A chorus of voices is one of the ways that a reader described their experience of ‘Red Tents: Unravelling our Past and Weaving a Shared Future’. We want to know what has landed for you in reading the book, what you have enjoyed, or even what conversations has it led you to have with others. We would love to know in a sentence what you think. Tell us here – redtentdirectory.com/feedback/