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Monday, September 26, 2005

Chugging oxygen today

If you’re here today, there’s a good chance you saw this column by Connie Schulz in today’s Plain Dealer.

I am so profoundly touched that she found my meager plight as apt illustration, worthy of sharing with her many readers. If she thought it would help others, she could certainly use my example. As writers we are always searching for the universal truth in our experiences. That’s what I try to write about here on Creative Ink, sometimes satisfactorily, sometimes not.

But Connie’s column is about more than sharing my specific experience as harried working mother. It’s a shining example and testament to the power of women helping other women.

She’s a master. When she called last week to discuss the column and how she wanted to use my example, she also asked if it was okay if she used my whole name and blog address. I was almost speechless.

“Courage, Wendy, courage,” she told me. And that’s something about me that she understands so well. She knew what I didn’t say in my blog entry, about the pain of feeling selfish for wanting more in my life. She also knows what fears keep me from pursuing more. She has challenged me in the past to share more about what I feel because she, like most writers, knows that if I don’t, I may someday simply shrivel up.

So much of what I feel has been buried for so long that it’s scary to think of letting it out. I’m always casting around for that safety net, that cork I can stuff back into the bottle when it all feels to real and raw.

But then I remember her words to me: “Courage, Wendy, courage.” And I tiptoe into the unknown and feel the support of her and other very important women in my life leading me forward.

If you read here regularly or know me personally, you know that I love my family deeply. But I also feel blessed that I’m able to pursue my career in the manner I do. It’s an important part of me that demands to be fulfilled. It’s a paradox that we’re encouraged to be successful career women, yet made to feel horribly guilty if we so indulge.

We have to do better for our children by setting a healthy example of what it means to be a woman today. The more we talk about how we make it work, and the reality that it doesn’t always work, the more women will find comfort in our shared experience. Maybe then one less woman will cry in her shower from the frustration of constantly trying to do the impossible.

It was fitting that the first four people I heard from were my closest friends — Patty Banks, Jill Zimon, Lisa Best and Lisa Karnatz. I’m able to endure days like the one Connie describes because I have people like them who are always there to tell me I’m not alone.

That hasn’t always been the case.

The first time I watched the DVD, “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” I wept from a place that I didn’t often acknowledge, as a little girl who was shunned by other girls. It struck me that I had no one except for my sister who had shared my history in the manner of the four women in the movie and the book. And I was saddened to think of myself as so alone in this world. Yet it was a state I had willingly cultivated for myself. But nothing, least of all me, was growing in that solitary garden.

One of the most courageous moves I’ve made in the past few years of my life is to seek out new female friendships and nurture existing ones in a way that seemed wholly foreign yet essential to my growth and existence.

It seems to have paid off because today I am feeding off of their love, support and friendship … like oxygen.

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