Many of you know that I traveled to the Oregon coast last weekend. For some, I was simply getting away. For others, I was headed to a creativity retreat. Still others believed I was gathering with friends. When I mentioned my trip to Manzanita, a coastal village two hours south of Portland with 8 other creative women, people wanted to know why I was going — what was the purpose of this trip. Being the purposeful person that I am, I was quick to provide them with what I believed were “reasonable” expectations for the trip — rest, rejuvenation, and connection.
However, the only real reason I embarked on this journey was that I said “yes” when Meghan (the lovely soul who dreamed the weekend into reality) asked. This simple utterance triggered a magical sequence of events, in which 9 individual women came together and created a collective tribe, that continues to unfold.
Rain was forecasted, but my polka-dotted rain boots never left the darkness of my suitcase because the sun shined every day. Discussions of the everyday — work and relationships — were peppered with the extraordinary — whale-sightings and moon-sets. We brought new creations — mosaics, collages, and photographs — into the world.
However, perhaps not surprisingly, for me when it really boils down to it, this is a story of voice.
My interactions with this amazing group of women began through their voices. I heard their voices through the lovely words they wrote in their blogs and e-mails, but also through their actual voices — some giddy, some knowing, some tentative — during our initial phone conversations planning the logistics for the trip. Some people spoke more, some spoke less. Some were louder and some were softer. Everyone had an accent.
When we arrived at our beach house, I was finally able to put their voices, names, and faces together. Some were different, not better or worse, just different from what I expected. In the quiet voice that I heard over the phone I found a strong wisdom. The voice of practicality was full of dreams. The voice of cynicism spoke of possibility. The voice that felt stuck found direction for the next step. The voice of frustration found hope. The voice that often wants to have it all figured out voiced her desire to just play. The broken voice sang sweet songs of connection. Voices of loss were full of joy. And, even though there were a lot of voices, the universe had room for all of them.
"The Tribe" Photo: Rebecca Murphy
As we worked on our mission statements, each person trying to find their own words and then excitedly sharing their voice with the group, I was reminded that one of my truths is that everyone wants to be heard. And over the weekend, we heard and were heard.
Some of us spoke things outloud that we had never spoken before. Some of us found healing from old hurts. Others found hope for new dreams. All of us were brave. It can be scary to share scars that we have buried deep in our hearts. What if people don’t understand? What if they judge? What if they hear the words that we are saying, but don’t really hear us? It can be even scarier to share our dreams. By speaking our dreams outloud, they become more real. What if our dream is silly? What if we try and we fail? What if we succeed?
We also heard the voices of our two tribal sisters who could not physically be there. Their poems and words were shared and we felt their spirits. Even the chantings of the tribal women who came before us sometimes found their way up through the fireplace as we shared, connected, played, dreamed, and loved.
By coming together, we began to identify, remember, and reconnect with our own individual voices, but we also began to hear the whispers of a collective tribe. When I flew back to Nebraska last Sunday, The Tribe’s voices stayed with me. As I dozed in and out of sleep, I still heard the voices of Meghan, Elizabeth, Emily, Melissa, Rebecca, Sophia, Darlene, Celina, Stefanie, and Lindsey. I continue to carry their voices back into my world and they are helping me to remember that I, too, have a voice. One that is authentic, vulnerable, wholehearted, imperfect, curious, joyful, and worthy of being heard.