Holding space

Holding space

We met at the airy art gallery on the Carenage (Art Upstairs) that overlooks the water. All week, I’d been looking forward to the meeting and fleshing out of our collective and discussing our first event.

As a creative and advocate, being part of something that brings transformation and makes meaning for others has a tendency to cause my heart to constrict and find breath again every at the very thought. So all week leading up to our meeting, I would jot notes in my phone or computer when an idea came to me. I did not want to miss a thing.

Not intending to have the meeting on International Day of Women, it was a delightful serendipity to later realize that we would be meeting on this day. As a person who is big on signs, this was a good omen, to me.  The stars aligned in support of our vision. To say I was excited about our meeting would be a gross understatement. 

And then the morning of our meeting came. I walked into the gallery feeling frazzled and on a breaking point because of an experience that had unfolded earlier the same morning. I was emotionally heavy. 

Until you get past your fear and mistrust for other women, you will never truly understand how powerful the fellowship of other women can be, and you will never be able to be held or hold space for other women. – FemmePowered

Holding space. What do I mean by holding space? Holding space is the process of bearing witness to another person in whatever they may be going through without judging them, trying to fix them or inserting yourself into their situation (by making it about you, taking over their story). Holding space is about being a means of comfort and support with your very presence, empathy, and attention. 

Our meeting quickly became a support group of sorts, as I poured out my heart and shared on navigating a situation where there is no win-win, and how hard that was for me as someone who liked happy endings and things put in neat little boxes.  And I was held. I was heard. I did not feel judged and I did not feel shame. I leaned in to the care, empathy, and grace of our collective and I felt perspective, grace, and understanding wash over me. 

They held space for me. And what happened next was something beautiful, amazing even. We held space for each other. And for about three hours, we put down our guards and shared our hearts, and spoke about issues such as how the system fails children held in care, creativity, race, cultural appropriation, being misunderstood, artistic theft, classism, on being seen as angry black women, on being angry, Dr. Phil’s teachings, feeling like an outsider because of the colour of one’s skin, the need for safe spaces, Trump, vulnerability, Obama, being biracial, authors we love, cultural erasure, podcast we were listening to, and more. I sat in the meeting and just let tears flow. And I felt no shame. I was home. I was held.

Coming into the meeting, we each brought a token to represent what this day, International Day of Women, meant to us. One brought a lovely drawing, one a vintage key, one a beautifully written poem that brought (more) tears to my eyes. I brought my trusty old MacBook Air, aptly referred to as my emotional passport by one of the women. It’s true. So much of my emotions have been transmuted into this banged up old 2011 MacBook Air that gets slower by the day. But she is such a big part of me.

On this day of women, my wish is that you find your safe space of women and lean into the fellowship, dimension, and beauty that women can offer each other. There are women out there that will allow you to be yourself and embrace you with your quirks and insecurities. They will see you as part of their story and journey and not their competition. They will see you as kindred and safe spaces. They will need you as you need them. They exist. I know many of them. I have not always walked well with women, but when I was open and ready, I found my people. Or my people found me. You can be you and still be at home, and find a home in other women.

Happy International Women’s Day. Watch this space for information on our collective. In my heart, I know the work we are about to do will be a game changer. I hope you become part of our journey and story.

Carlana Charles is the visionary and editor-in-chief of FemmePowered. She is a womanist, writer, speaker, story midwife and facilitator of meaningful and engaging conversations. When she is not working in or on FemmePowered, she can be found resting, baking, reading or scribbling furiously in her journal whilst sipping wine or coffee, sometimes both at the same time. She is currently working on her first book and hopes to release it in September 2018.

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