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Soul Sister

athlete spacer There exists nothing that could douse the fire in our bellies whose flames lick our wounded hearts clean of anything that has ever ailed us, our love sworn in friendship between the cups of calendula that rinse us clean of anything we didn't ask for in the first place. Together we wriggle our roots back into the earth of our lives. We don't care what the compost that lines this soil. We are here to epanouir. (epanouir is French for 'to blossom')

– from the chapter Dance of the Wildmoonflowers, Freedom to Blossom –
An Invitation to Shine
, by Brie

Only when we fully embrace magic, creativity, self-love and acceptance in our own lives can we reach out and offer one another the quality of love that we want to receive. Some of my most painful moments from childhood and high school happened as a result of the competition between girls and women. Little girls were cruel and cliquey. Older girls were even worse. I'll never forget receiving a note with a picture of a model on it with a banner across the front that said Miss Perfect. That was intended to be me. I was ten. I went to pieces. A few years later in high school one of the girls in my school, whose former best friend had claimed me as her new bff, drew a devil's pitchfork, fangs, and tail on a picture of me from the newspaper that was hanging on the school wall. I had just won a race. My heart broke. I felt so sad, scared, and insecure. What I later learned about the female brain helped me understand my devastation:

The girl's brain circuits are arranged and fueled by estrogen
to respond to stress with nurturant activities and the creation
of protective social networks. She hates relationship conflict.
Her brain's stress response is massively triggered by social
rejection. The ebb and flow of estrogen during the menstrual
cycle changes this sensitivity to pyschological and social stress
on a weekly basis.
Louann Brizendine, The Female Brain

High school was part elation and part pain for me where friendships are concerned. I became part of the popular group in a peripheral kind of way. That meant I sat with them at lunch but wasn't invited out with them on weekends. I lived a 20 minute drive from town so that may have been partly why. I also didn't drink or do drugs, but got naturally high from dancing at parties and people seemed uncomfortable with that. I often didn't feel loved and accepted. I had high times with girlfriends occasionally to watch them drift towards others the following week. The situation felt fickle and I often felt extremely vulnerable.

I was lucky in that I did have one best friend for two years. We adored one another. When I was in the wraps of working my way out of my eating disorder she dumped me. I had written her a letter saying that I saw the same patterns in her and was concerned that things might get out of hand. I'll never forget her response to that letter at our lockers. She said, "I'm not the one who's sick. You're the one who's sick." Two years later she called me when I was at university (she was a year younger) and opened up about her bulimia. I embraced her, mailed her a copy of The Beauty Myth and a tape of inspirational songs and talked long and lovingly. She overcame her eating disorder. Several years later, I wrote her wedding vows for her and was in her wedding party. A year later, I had broken up with a boyfriend whom she had introduced me to. I was telling her about my anger about him keeping the equipment allocated to future projects from my presentations. She said, "I have to set a boundary here. It's like you're talking about my family." This is the greatest suffering I have known with a friend. It triggered me deeply as my need to be heard and understood went unmet. This friend, who was in therapy again and must have been exploring boundaries, was so focused on herself that she was unable to hold space for my experience. I am grateful to her for furthering my resolve to be able and willing to be the space for others. She taught me about what I am committed to in friendships.

But this experience is nothing compared to a young Ontario woman who in grade seven was teased because she was tall and strong, bigger than the other girls. By high school the negative thoughts she had been fed continued until she had severe bulimia and depression and was eventually admitted to hospital. She was released for a week under 24-hour suicide supervision when the family member watching her fell asleep. She hung herself. Next time you notice someone making a bullying comment on facebook or sending out a mass text or twitter that hurts, remember this story and speak out. Putting down others doesn't really make anyone feel good, except perhaps a wounded ego. And it can take a life. We now have access to all manner of exciting technology that can amplify our sense of connectedness and community or cause real harm. Don't you want to make conscious choices that reflect your values? I sure do!

My vision for young women is that you learn to love and embrace one another in all your follies, that you recognize and honor one another's' experiences and feelings free of judgment, that you celebrate one another's' accomplishments free of competition and that you build solidarity and trust so that schools and virtual environments both feel emotionally safe. All of that would have made a big difference for me.

Girls and young women are powerful and we can use that power to love one another or we can separate and compete. In an abundant worldview we can truly celebrate one anothers' successes, there is enough love for everyone and no one need be left behind outside the steely walls of cliques. How might your friendships become more inclusive? Ask yourself, "Is this thought/conversation/action connecting me to my sisters or separating us?"

One of my favorite life experiences happened when I was in Montreal. I started a women's spirit circle with a girlfriend for laughter, feasting, meditation and prayer. We called ourselves The Goddesses. I had more fun with my girlfriends than I have ever had in my life! I highly recommend starting a girls group. Keep it open and inclusive and founded in love and acceptance. You will be amazed at what happens when young women get together and envision the world they want to live in.

Next: Recipe for Happy, Healthy Friendships and beyond!