Many years ago, a group of women sat on the ground in a circle beside a lake in northern Ontario. We had been there for several days on a retreat led by a woman trained as a Shaman. The leader shared a story with us that she had received from a circle of Grandmothers who communicate with her in “the dream”. The Grandmothers showed her an image of the Earth encircled with black steel girders and told her: “The Sisterhood could spend all of its energy trying to tear these down and never succeed.” The Grandmothers then showed her another image of the Earth. It was still encircled with the black, steel girders, but this time, the girders and the Earth were wrapped in a beautiful white light that made it difficult to see the steel girders. The Grandmothers told her: “The Sisterhood must focus its energy on creating beauty and light. In doing so, they will not destroy the darkness, but they will make it irrelevant”. I am sure she used different words, but this is how I remember it.
This memory has been on my mind for weeks. I am not sure why but I know it has something to do with all of the chaos, destruction and uncertainty in the world of late. This story is a reminder that we are not powerless. It is a reminder that we do not have to be the leader of an army or a country to affect change. It is a reminder that there are things that each of us can do every day.
When I first heard this story, I was working for a small, industrial union; a strong union with a proud history and left leanings. While I loved working for that organization, it was not a healthy place for me. During my six years with that organization, I felt like I was “fighting” everyone; the companies our members worked for; the government agencies with responsibility for regulating and enforcing workplaces; leaders in the labour movement; and at times, the leaders of my own union. It was exhausting. I quit after a year of trying to get pregnant. I knew that the stress was making it impossible for me to conceive. When I resigned, I gave the union one month’s notice. I was pregnant before I left. When I told that to my male co-workers, they said: “Oh, too bad. If you had only waited another month, you would not have had to leave.” But it was clear to me, and to every woman I knew at the time, that the opposite was true. I only became pregnant because I had made the decision to leave.
Since then, I have tried to carry this story of the sisterhood in my heart. I have tried to approach my work differently. I have tried to position myself in jobs where I have the chance to collaborate rather than fight; to create rather than to destroy; to focus on solutions instead of problems. But I know the story is about much more than what we do for a living or how we approach our work. I know that it has to do with how we live our lives; how we treat each other; and how we treat the earth. I also know that it is about honouring the feminine; the power to conceive new ways of being; the ability to create new life, new relationships, new ideas; and the ability to sit in the void and wait for inspiration. And I know that I need to learn to do this within myself, before I can hold this energy in the outer world.