When my daughter was five, she developed a seizure disorder that lasted into her teenage years. I wrote about it in a previous post called, “The Night the Bed Shook.” One night, while living in New Jersey, she laid down, fully clothed, and fell asleep in my bed. I took off her clothes and put her under the covers so she could sleep comfortably. No sooner than I turn away did I hear the familiar rattling of her bones, as if a train was barreling through the room. It was another major seizure.
I held her until she stopped shaking then threw on some clothes and prepared to take her to the hospital. When she woke her speech was slurred and one side of her face had no movement as if she had a stroke. I was completely helpless and hurting for her. I wanted to breakdown and cry but I could not. She was watching so I was compelled only to show her strength. I did not want her to worry. I did not want her to feel hopeless. More importantly, I did not want her to feel how I felt; alone.
I was a single mom, in a new city, working a demanding job, with no family for 300 miles and few friends. I was the encourager. I knew no one would understand my pressure or discouragement. I was alone in a situation I had no control over and I, in no way, could let my daughter know my pain. For a week, I sat with her in the hospital during the day so she was not alone. In the evening, after she went to sleep, I drove to the radio station in NYC and did my music programming and correspondences for the day, then drove back to New Jersey to sit by her hospital bed before she woke. Eventually, the pain of seeing my child’s torment was over shadowed by sheer exhaustion while trying to be everything to everybody.
One day, on my way to the radio station, I was listening to The Wendy Williams Show. She was a colleague so I would flip between listening to her and monitoring my own station. She was talking about “the sisterhood” and how we, as women, must do better to support and encourage each other. We have the shared experience of being women and should be more collaborative than divisive. Her words settled in my spirit and took root.
After my daughter left the hospital, medication and doctors’ visits joined my hectic routine of work and soccer mom duties. I found myself on ripping and running on auto-pilot. I was in my office and my assistant program director stopped me in the middle of my many tasks, and asked me about my daughter. She acknowledged I had been going nonstop since the incident. I did not realize anyone noticed. Then she suggested I take more time for myself, reassuring me she and others could carry some of the load. It amazed me what came next. She said, “Wendy was just talking about the sisterhood.” I put my pen down, stopped looking at my computer screen, sat back in my chair, and felt the first moment of peace I had felt in a very long time.
She was a mother and a professional who saw another mother and professional woman in a stressful situation. But she did not stop at observing. She acknowledged the commonality of our struggle, then offered encouragement and help. A group of women, whether friends, co-workers, or strangers, do not a sisterhood make. It takes more than just anatomy. To be a part of a sisterhood requires recognition of others, compassion for others, and a willingness to be there and support others. This transcends race, class, and education. The camaraderie of the sisterhood requires a heart for others strengthen by shared experiences of womanhood. It is not about self.
There is much literature that speaks of how (particularly minority) women, have divisive cliques where we hate on each other for our differences, failures and successes. Like crabs in a barrel, we pull each other down with our words, manipulation, and backstabbing ways. Women, in general, are not far removed from the days when we were considered less than even a slave. We had no voice and no expressed value to society. Such division only kills the power we worked TOGETHER to claim.
There is a Sisterhood that exists. Despite the countless female-on-female fights made popular by reality shows or YouTube videos, there are women who remember their challenges, struggles, and the lessons learned as they grew into womanhood and motherhood. They are willing to share their wisdom. In their empathy, they stretch out a hand to help. They are eager to see another succeed, understanding another’s success does not disallow their ability to succeed but rather blazes a trail to follow. The Sisterhood is real. The question is, are you a part of it?