Now that I’m circling back timewise, I’m thinking that there really is something about women and circles. And the way we instinctively gather together to share—quilting, knitting, gossiping, husking corn, peeling potatoes. I haven’t peeled potatoes recently, but I did participate in two women’s circles over the last few days.
The first one was when I visited a meeting of the San Jose chapter of eWomen Network. This is a national organization that works both online and in person. It’s a woman’s circle for the computer age. And at the luncheon I attended, it worked like a well oiled machine.
The goal is what they call “accelerated networking”–which I figure is the business version of speed dating. Each person is randomly assigned to 2 different small groups, which gather during the luncheon at designated places around the banquet room. Inside each individual little circle, each person gets exactly one minute to share her story– a 60-second sales pitch. I hear everything from financial planners to contractors to massage therapists. You can also ask for something you need—from new clients to public speaking engagements to a new roommate. After 60 seconds, a bell rings and your time is up and the next person starts. It’s like clockwork. No chitchat inside this little circle. You come prepared with a stack of business cards, and if someone is interested in your spiel, she hands you her card or takes one of yours–without stopping to interrupt the flow. If you’re not interested in each other, you don’t waste a card. Or time. Very efficient. Obviously the wave of the future.
In my two circles, I’m a bit of a square peg. I’m a guest, not a member. And I don’t quite fit into this brave new world. Especially since I have nothing to sell and nothing I can ask for– in 60 seconds from a group of strangers. Unless one of them has some chocolate in her purse.
24 hours later, I’m in another circle of women. Also mostly stangers. No one has business cards. No one is buying or selling. We get as much time as we need. Although even in one minute, sometimes we are laughing or crying.
This is the beginning of the weekend retreat. And the beginning of the healing process. Like pioneers on the open prairie circling the wagons, we gather in a circle and make a safe space. And the minute we are inside, everything outside disappears.
This phenonenon always astonishes me. That a group of complete strangers can come together and immediately let down your guard and trust every single woman in the circle. Maybe it’s because hearing another woman’s story is being able to see through a window into her soul. Inside the circle we are completely safe and secure to expose whatever is inside ourselves–gains and losses, dreams and nightmares, hopes and fears.
This particular group is gathered due to breast cancer. But in addition to cancer, inside the circle we share the same stories you would hear in any group of women. Stories about our husbands. Our children. Our bodies. Our divorces. Our jobs.
What brought us together is that we are all seeking the same thing: healing. But the source of our need for healing is not necessarily breasts. Or cancer. The common theme I hear is suffering. And that is not what makes us breast cancer survivors. That is what makes us human.