“I'm just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don't even know.” Gloria from Barbie (as portrayed by America Ferrera)
At the end of Annie Levy’s summer as an intern with Rise Gatherings, I asked her to help me draft a blog piece on one of her impressions. Annie and I would sidebar during our meetings many times to talk about topics ranging from the challenges facing young women to the summer Barbie movie and I always appreciated her insights as a bright and curious 20 year old. I was reminded that this next generation of women still feels what my generation and others before me felt: a pressure to be everything to everyone. She is already tacitly aware that even in the most progressive of homes, many girls are conditioned to be experts in pleasing and taking care of others, often making their needs and desires secondary. But fortunately, Annie, like I hope everyone discovers, is aware that doing for ourselves, prioritizing our own self, is a radical act.
Here is an excerpt from Annie’s writing:
As I’ve worked with Rise Gatherings I’ve admired the aspects that make it so supportive for women – the brilliant facilitators, the immersion in nature, the community, the mindfulness, and the other accessible opportunities to give care and attention to ourselves, I’ve wondered earnestly, “Why don’t more people attend this? If you’re financially able and could spare one weekend out of your year, why not?”
Tami Astorino, co-founder of Rise (and my mentor for the summer) explained that the biggest hurdle many women face is their own hesitation. Most of us really do understand that we’d benefit from everything a Rise Getaway has to offer, but the act of clearing a weekend and showing up feels daunting. Many of us dream of a break – a day, or a weekend off – but when the opportunity arrives, we hesitate.
The reasons behind that hesitation interest me! Are women afraid to step away because they truly believe no one can do all that they do (at home and at their jobs)? Or is it that they don’t want to pause their own hamster wheel because then the things they’ve been avoiding may surface, and once that box is opened, what will they find?
The more I talked with Tami, the more I realized there’s a tangible link to the aforementioned constructs we face as women and the fear of attending a retreat. “It’s like we cling to wearing our habits of pleasing and performing and productivity - like an old sweater - even when they don’t fit,” Tami said candidly. “Yes, we’re all busy and in certain patterns that keep us busy, but there’s a deeper fear. It’s like there’s a certain comfort in the tiring busyness of the everyday - and leaving it can lead to a vulnerability that we avoid, even when we know it’s where we need to go.”
At a Rise Gatherings Weekend Getaway, each woman has the opportunity to pause and reflect, to move in ways they want to move, and rest in ways they want to rest. Surrounded by women who also said YES to themselves, there is that opportunity to open up and have conversations with ourselves and others that an otherwise busy life keeps at bay.
I will remember Tami’s words to me this summer talking about this tension - “The fear and excitement of finding out who you are exists whether you acknowledge it or not. So, why not move towards it? In fact, what if we run towards it with open arms?! Holding the tension of holding it all together isn’t serving anyone.”
I’ve spent the summer admiring the work Rise does and its powerful outcomes. I’m inspired by the women who attend and open up. I’m left thinking about the issues women grapple with as well as the resources they have in themselves and each other. And I’m reminded of one more line of Gloria’s in the Barbie movie - when she tells Barbie, "That's life. It's all change."