Friday, April 15, 2011

The Art of Female Friendship

We may not have dressed quite as formally as the Empress Eugenie and her friends in the painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, but we all sure gave ourselves the royal treatment at our women's retreat last weekend.

In the end, seven of us gathered at Orveas Bay Beach House for a couple of days of good company, relaxation, gourmet-inspired meals and plenty of tea and coffee. (One boyfriend asked one of the girls why she was going to a place called Ovaries Bay. He's funny like that, but he wasn't far off.) Quite unanimously, we have all declared the retreat a magnificent success. 

The weekend was about sharing. Space. Food. And most of all, stories. Most of the narratives that we shared were similiar to what other groups of women would share in such a setting. We are really just your average ordinarily amazing women. Perhaps the most unique thing about us is that, combined, we share 75 years of twelve step recovery. Still, none of us consider ourself "recovered." Nor do we describe ourselves as sick, or defective, or deficient human beings. I don't think that I would be wrong if I said that all of us were absolutely grateful to be where we were that weekend, not just at Orveas Bay, but where we are in our lives.

Overall, we are a group of generally positive women, each just doing our best to live our best lives. A couple of us are recovering from overwork (including motherwork) and burnout. A couple more are actively working on workaholic tendencies in order not to become like a couple of us. Still, like so many women, most of us continuously struggle to balance our work lives against everything else including relationships, exercise, recovery, hobbies or other passions. At least one of us was seriously sleep-deprived upon arrival (darned toddlers, anyway). We are all at various stages in romantic relationships, from long-time married (me) to newly blossoming love and a couple of women thoughtfully pondering the possibility of remaining single for a spell longer. Not unhappily, I should add. Each of us had the opportunity to contemplate our issues with sugar and wheat, and one of us (not me) actually has the discipline to have given both up. She's our self-care hero, at present.

The pace for the weekend was set at slow to slightly slower. Most of us read, several of us meditated throughout the weekend, a few others strolled. One of us strummed a guitar. I for one climbed an outrageous trail, an activity that I swear nearly killed me, although the two women who were in front of me did fine. (Next time I am going to leave the beautiful beach rocks...on the beach). We made regular trips to the hot tub, one of us swung in a hammock on the porch even though it drizzled rain. We read some more, wrote steps, and a couple of us knit.
The spirit of womanly cooperation was captured beautifully on multiple occasions. Two massive meals came together, were served, and cleaned up, effortlessly. We came up with the fairest and most practical sleeping arrangements that we could manage, and smiled when the youngest of us admitted that she had the hardest bed, but with her tongue in her cheek proudly stated that as the youngest she could handle it. One of us (not me) sat patiently for nearly two hours helping another sort through a tangled ball of yarn. When it was time to pack up on Sunday morning, everybody came together to get tidied up. Again, effortlessly.

When we gave each other hugs before we climbed into our cars for the drive back to town, it seemed clear to each of us that we had shared something special. We all got to know one another, just a little better, and in so doing, came to know ourselves a little better too.

We are already looking forward to doing it again.

Your friends will know you better in the first minute they meet you than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years.
(Richard Bach)


  1. I've been thinking a lot recently about the women in my life and how important they are to me as well. The retreat sounds amazing and very inspiring.

  2. What a coincidence that I'm reading this while on a short vacation with my sisters. It seems that self-care like this is one of the hardest things for women to do. Maybe we need a national "Women Go on Vacation Month."

  3. How lovely. Some of my high school friends did a get together a couple of years ago. It was wonderful, funny and inspiring.

  4. There's nothing that can compare with the kind of understanding and support we can give and get from our women friends. I didn't realize what was missing from my life as a newlywed in my 20s. Now, approaching 48, I heard myself counseling my oldest daughter (28) that as a woman matures, jealousy, insecurity and perceived competition can make way for rich bonds. So glad you had this experience, Dawn.

  5. Thanks, everyone. Funny, I think, how much energy I expended on "boys" during the first quarter of my life. I have to say, I am pretty sure that it will be the women in my life who get me to the finish line! This retreat was so easy - I just picked a date that worked for me, and put the date "out there." It was easier than trying to get consensus on a date, let me tell you. I feel quite certain that we have started a tradition. Not the first women's retreat tradition I've that I think of it. Two friends and I used to head out to my parents' acreage every winter while they (the parents) were down south. That setting didn't have ocean views, but it was lovely nonetheless. It's the company that counts. Oh. And the food.

  6. I just spent a weekend at a women's conference (a bit more than a retreat, but fabulous nonetheless)and although there were 200, we all felt as one as we got to know each other.
    It truly is a marvelous experience to bond and share with other women.

  7. Sounds lovely! I have breakfast once a week with my 3 best friends and we all love it. And, we also get away once a year for 5 dsya for a girl's weekend - this is an absolute must.

    I'm not sure where or who I would be without my girlfriends. They are priceless to me.