On Monday January forth my friend Maki turned 18. In honor of this event, her mother Carolyn held a “Ceremony” for her on the night before her birthday. The purpose was to welcome her into the world of women. It was a rite of passage, and influential women in Maki’s life were invited to share their wisdom, and give advice on what it means to be a woman today. Isn’t that a great idea?
The living room has a vaulted ceiling, and the tall walls were covered with Japanese art, and Christmas decorations. The decorations displayed photos of the children as they have grow up over the years. As we sat in our circle however, the room seemed to transform. I became conscious only of the faces of the women around me, and the words they were speaking with such intensity and honesty.
We were quite a diverse group. One ” influential woman” was a 20 year old college student (don’t think for a minute that diminished her wisdom in any way.) Others were grandmothers. Some of us were married, others divorced, and some contentedly single. All in all we were a unique collection.
I’m anxious to tell you about the inspiring things I heard, but first I want to address the issue of men. I gave some thought to the idea that men may also have something of value to share with a bright young girl on the verge of womanhood. And certainly my husband’s curiosity about the event was unprecedented. He wanted to know what we did, what we said and what kind of clothing we wore. In the course of explaining it to him I asked him what he would do if he were going to give Thomas (our son) an initiation into the world of men. He didn’t know for sure, but he was certain that beer and nudity would be involved. In light of that, I think it is okay to save the “wisdom of men” for another occasion.
While in our circle, the women shared the joys and pains of being a woman today. They told their stories in poem and anecdote; with tears and laughter. They advised courage, love, trust and keeping an open mind. It would be impossible to share all of the ideas or emotions in this space, but I’d like to relay a few.
One of the women said she was a grandmother, though you’d never know it to look at her. She spoke of growing up in the Japanese culture in a time when women had little, if any, value; and how she had to struggle against her environment to consider her contributions worthwhile.
Another wise woman suggested that Maki look for friends and not lovers. Friends respect each other, they look out for each other, and they don’t take advantage of each other. This is a great piece of advise for women of all ages. How might our lives be improved if the important men in our lives were also our true friends.
As a gift, one woman brought a toilet cleaning brush, and a kite. She suggested that as women, we can choose where we put the emphasis in our lives. I could use more soaring in my life. How about you?
Carolyn shared a fabulous poem describing womanhood at various stages in life, from childhood to old age. She suggested that we continue to tailor our womanhood to reflect our inner radiant selves. In essence, how well we relate to womanhood at the various stages has a lot to do with how good a seamstress we are of our individual essence.
Another woman gave a piece of advise that could be helpful to all of us. She wrote “I hope you get what your spirit needs. I’m not sure how it will be wrapped though, so keep your eyes and ears open.”
I’d like to close with a proverb that was shared by a particularly delightful young woman who had a great deal of insight and humor.
Hang on to your youth, but not while you’re driving.