How are you? Has anyone asked you today? Here is the question and the invitation to sit with however you are at the present, for a few minutes.
I had to contact my bank today for support with a practical problem. I sat on hold, the wait over 90 minutes long, and observed the various feelings that came up: frustration, resentment, self-pity, cynicism. I Just Wanted To Talk to Someone! When the call was eventually answered I made sure to extend extra kindness and good humour to the person on the other end of the line – what a day they must have been having. Realising this afterwards, I smiled to myself, having been through many far harsher states of emotion along the way. My need for a Real Person, for a connection that made sense, got to a particularly practical place today.
At other times this month, I’ve longed for the kind of connection that the photo above invites: haphazard, playful, unlikely, novel. The kind of organic conversation that just pops up and floats away again, maybe returning to mind later on that week, year or decade. I feel like Red Tents can offer this kind of spontaneity, that by being together for the purposes of just being, connections begin to spark and ignite each other.
There are the longer-formed connections with other people, too that ebb, flow, stretch and contract over time. What a gift these are. My young daughter is demonstrating some of her own grasp of these this summer, as we reconnect with old friends after year-long gaps: she needs some basic information to recap who will be present and when, then throws herself in again and will tell stories after play about the roles people now hold in her life, or the special games they shared. These are not always accurate to what happened, but are her own beautiful way of drawing connections between herself and the web of people that surround her. In a way, maybe this is what I also do but had forgotten to shine a light on it for myself – who am I drawing close and who holds a wider orbit?
Opening the circle – Pascale
It was about eight years ago that I entered a Red Tent in Streatham, in a friend’s home. Another friend had told me about it the day before as she knew I needed some form of community and sisterhood support at that time. I had just given birth to my son Khem, now eight years old, and I felt isolated because my extended family live in French Guiana and France. It was emotionally hard to be a mother, away from my mother. In my culture, a mother shares the new process of motherhood with her own mother and other females from her lineage. She is cared for, provided with advice, love and nurturing.
The minute I entered Melonie’s home that day, I felt a sense of warmth, kindness, compassion and friendliness. I intuitively knew I was in the right place and that was what I needed for my mental health. It felt awkward at times, when it was my turn to speak up for example, because I had been conditioned to believe I must be strong always and that showing vulnerability was a sign of weakness. I had to reeducate myself, my way of thinking and being as a new mother. I had to be vulnerable to allow others to support me.
After Melonie’s Red Tent, I attended many, many other Red Tents for five years. Each time, it was a beautiful, unique experience. I’d go home with more wisdom. And one day, because of several women’s requests and my own situation, I decided to create a safe space in my own home in South Croydon for mothers and kids. Every month women would come to my flat with their kids – it was a fantastic experience.
During this time, I created and co-created Red Tents with amazing women, mothers, artists and social change activists – we shared knowledge, skills, life experience and also worked around what it takes to be a woman nowadays in such a fast-paced world. How could we make it work when we raise young children and we want to be actively involved in our community? How could we contribute to a society dominated by patriarchy and capitalistic mindset by using the feminine values? Those were topics we constantly discussed in my space.
Red tents definitely take a stand in a world where women and mothers can be easily forgotten for all they do. Red Tents are a reminder of how powerful women can be and what they can do together.
Pascale is our Inclusion Lead in the Red Tent Directory supporting conversations, approaches and practices to ensure wide representation of people attending Red Tents.
The summer part will only work for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, but we wanted to share a quotation from this year’s book, ‘Red Tents: Unravelling our Past and Weaving a Shared Future,’ and encourage you to seek it out if you have yet to do so:
“It’s a form of liberation to choose to care for ourselves as we work to create spaces that include everyone. It’s a work of liberation to make those spaces, spaces where everyone can genuinely experience collective care.”
Calling all writers, bloggers and authors who want to write for us and create a little buzz about the power of Red Tents. We are looking for pieces about the book and how Red Tents have inspired connection in your lives. You might like to host a blog on a website you hold or write for future newsletters. Get in touch if this makes something in you light up. Let’s ignite our interests together: firstname.lastname@example.org.