There was a definite process by which one made people into friends, and it involved talking to them and listening to them for hours at a time.” – Dame Rebecca West
Nothing tops the power of a girl group. Whether you’re swamped with a crisis at work, unruly kids, or too much estrogen, you can always count on the harmony of other women’s voices to lift you higher.
Girl groups rock. And I don’t mean the musical variety, although I’m a fan of those too. But right now I’m applauding the whole idea of women banding together to form their own circles and support groups. Never in the history of womankind have we been so overbooked, so stressed, and so starved for emotional connection as we are today.
Blogging is, of course, a fine way to discover new friends with common interests. But blogging can’t be compared to forging three-dimensional connections in one’s own community. Like the quilting circles of my grandmother’s era, female support groups provide the personal contact that can keep a gal from unraveling at the seams.
But first, some definitions are in order. A support group should never be confused with a clique, which still has the hollow ring of adolescence. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines a clique as “a small, exclusive circle of people; a snobbish or narrow coterie.” A support group, on the other hand, has a large collective heart. It is typically formed around a positive agenda – to explore complex issues like new motherhood or breast cancer, for example. Individuality is welcomed and encouraged; sage advice is exchanged to aid the group as a whole. And the conversation is always therapeutic.
Over the years I’ve belonged to several women’s clubs, but the “Second Sundays” circle I helped form at my church is the first to spring to mind. Though the group eventually came to its natural end and has since disbanded, I’ll never forget how that incredible family of women coached me through some difficult challenges, from major surgery to my son’s graduation party. Meeting monthly for several years, we rehashed a variety of topics, including healing and forgiveness, letting go of our kids, rebuilding friendships, caring for aging parents, and caring for our stressed-out souls.
It was an uncommon grab bag of gals. Our ages ranged from 44 to 84, and we represented a wide variety of professions from social work to finance. The generational differences enriched the group. The older women offered their wisdom and experience, while the younger members helped the elders view life with fresh perspective.
If you’re inspired to form your own official girl group, here’s what to do.
Decide on a focus for your meetings. Keep the circle small, preferably under twelve women. If it’s much larger, there won’t be time for everyone to get a word in edgewise. Always commit to a regular meeting time at the same location, unless you prefer to rotate your gatherings at various homes. And for everyone’s sanity, keep the refreshments light, as in coffee or tea and store-bought cookies.
Above all, your support group should be about nourishing friendships and feeding the soul. So, forget the gourmet brownies but be sure to bring an open heart. — Cindy La Ferle
— Part of this essay appeared in slightly different form in The Daily Tribune of Royal Oak. The complete original version is reprinted in my book, Writing Home —
Top photo: My beloved soul sisters: Debbie, Norma, and Shirley