Women challenge fear with support – and release creativity
As independent women running our own businesses or writing a blog which we share publicly we often feel we have to be feisty and independent. Challenge existing stereotypes of women. Feel strong and capable of changing the world even if it is one person at a time. We are on message and full of purpose.
This is all fine when you feel good, things go your way and money and love flow in. But when threatened with illness, separation from family, and a worldview that says it is dangerous to go outside everything changes.
This happened during the year of the pandemic. In England children are going back to school on Monday 8th March, which is International Women’s Day, and it was a year ago in March that we first went into lockdown.
Earlier in the year I had met with two friends for “afternoon tea” in a hotel nearby. We had enjoyed the sandwiches and cakes on the elegant rack and had felt a little indulgent taking time out for tea. But we realised it was so good to chat. Then lockdown struck and we realised that was no longer possible – and even that we should not meet in person any longer.
So we decided to meet once a week virtually and continue our chatting but also do whatever Art we felt like doing. It reminded me that when I was very young we had a teacher who read to us while we drew and coloured in pictures. It felt satisfying as a child and has been extremely comforting during this pandemic year.
Support and conversation without pressure
Because of the restrictions of the year our meetings became very important. We showed up consistently, and valued the support more keenly. As it was simply a “recurring meeting” in Zoom there was no negotiation or decisions to be made which felt freeing. and the support we gave each other had a reliable ever-present quality.
I have often noticed that when I or others really need support it can be hard to ask for it. When life is stressful even small decisions are exhausting. The fact that we were just there for each other every week meant that it felt an easy and natural activity.
We could talk or not talk. As there were three of us it was a little more relaxed as one of us could be quiet. Sometimes we were all quiet.
At the start we assumed we needed a focus and a theme and chose a Jug as one of the first. Then it evolved that we chose to draw something to hand… which usually meant it could fit on the desk next to a computer. The first time I drew something recogniseable it gave me confidence to share on social media. It was as though I was “doing it right”..
Support from women eases problems
There were real dramatic problems for all of us during the year. We hd a relaxed space to talk about whatever we wanted and people who kept on listening even if they were occupied. This made the space additionally safe and relaxing. A friend of mine who has spent time with Native American Indians tells me that they very rarely look each other in the eye when they are talking.
We shared our art work by holding it up to the screen for each other to see at the end. Getting work out into the world is a huge stumbling block for many business women. When you run your own business a part of you goes into everything you do – and of course that part can be rejected. Even if you rationalise and say “They weren’t the right people for me” it is still a rejection. That old fear appears – you know the one about being left out of the tribe and killed by a sabre tooth tiger while everyone else safely is telling stories round the fire. Simply sharing week after week took away much of that fear.
Facing a challenge with my own footprint
Half way through the year there was a dramatic thunder storm one night and my house was flooded. Getting a house dried and renovated takes an incredible long time and after staying with family eventually the insurer agreed to fund rented accommodation.
After one of our Art sessions I wanted to open the sketch book and leave my picture out for me to see. It gave me comfort. I needed to see that I existed and the painting was confirmation that I wasn’t just a pawn moved around in a brutal masterplan.
It didn't have to "look right" or be good or bad. I wanted evidence of my footprint as I moved into a rented flat.
During the year I had also been going more public with my poems but pictures and paint seemed a more immediate confirmation of my presence. A piece of artwork is much easier to see than a page of writing. It didn’t matter how many words I wrote I needed to see something clearly. Words are my main currency (both for “day job and for creativity) but I found the act of getting colours and shapes together infuses my words and is a more direct experience.
Enjoying the doing in the moment
During the lockdown in November we were heading into Winter and it was less pleasant to go outside. I had a lot of decisions about my house and although the insurance company provided people to do the work, there was a lot of negotiation and decisions to make.
I found I needed a stronger experience during our sessions and wanted to just slap some acrylic paint around and forget delicacy. Very little thinking was required! Again I wanted to leave the sketchbook on a chair to look at while I coped with the continued disorientation.
Building blocks of Colour and Shape
As I returned to my home there was a period of reintegration. My art got simpler .. basic shapes. Laying colours next to each other to see their relationship. Not asking anything of what I was doing, and not expecting anything from myself apart from being in the moment. Not needing it to be complete but happy to leave space.
Looking back I can see that my output reflected what was happening in my world during the year.
The support of my two friends and the consistency of our meeting allowed me to feel free to do whatever I chose. My approach moved from worrying whether what I was doing was acceptable to an immersion of how I felt in the moment. This is the transition promised by mindfulness, meditation, walking in nature and I found it in putting marks on paper and sharing. It is the journey of the artist, the creative, the write and the entrepreneur.
We develop our voice and our way of being in the world by doing it and refining it. Asking the deeper questions helps to bring our personal preferences and strengths in focus. But there is also another way. To do it and be it in the moment and simply notice.
We have all been challenged this pandemic year and we have all been creative and resourceful but without support or reflection it may go un-noticed.
This post is written to acknowledge International Women's Day and the role women take to support each other and challenge ideas of fear in the world. At Attract Readers we support this day each year in the way that feels important to us: to encourage women to get their voice out into the world through a blog.