Last year had me thinking a lot about friendships both new and old. One in particular last year hurt me a great deal and ended rather abruptly. It wasn't the first time, but as I was having a very tough time emotionally, I came to realise it hurt much more than I expected. I value loyalty and support immensely and I'm sure you'll agree, those 2 things are so important when you are having a difficult time. A friendship I had came to an end when I realised it was not reciprocal and no longer valued.
In the spirit of new beginnings and gratitude for amazing bonds lovingly held, I’m posting my piece which was published in Wild Sister Magazine's December 2012 Unity issue. I think about this trip often and how it really helped me when I was at a crossroads.
I am pleased to say that I am still part of Effy Wild's art journaling tribe. You can check out the class here.
As for the healing process, it is a journey in itself. This truthbomb from Danielle LaPorte epitomises it.
When Maidens Unite (Wild Sister Magazine December 2012)
As I grow older, I have become more aware about the power of friendship and the bonds women form. In the past 8 years my life has changed a lot. Getting married, having a child, health issues, job changes and moving interstate. During this time I have seen my friends experience some of the same events, and more. Among all of this is the silent understanding that we as women when united and supporting one another can overcome any problem or challenge.
At the beginning of the year I joined an online art journaling project, Book of Days by Effy Wild. We each chose a word for 2012, mine being Emerge because I felt that after a couple of years of being in the safe confines of my art room experimenting with mixed media, I should share what I have to offer beyond that closed door. Hundreds of women joined in Effy’s art journaling journey working through particular themes and topics. I joined the Brave Girls Club Soul Restoration programs to learn more about myself and delve deeper into my life goals, and Kelly Rae Roberts Flying Lessons class to network and pursue my creative dreams. I found in these amazing groups of women, kindred spirits. Together we pursue our dreams, share our stories, support one another on difficult days, and celebrate one another’s triumphs to discover who we truly are meant to be.
Another door opened when I was invited by my friend Lowanna to go on a two week holiday to Vietnam to sightsee in Hanoi, trek in Sapa and cruise in Halong Bay in a group of 10 women. At this point my word for the year became Evolve. This coincided with me setting up a website with the goal of blogging my art & life and starting a creative business, something I have always wanted to do but never felt ready previously. I made and donated art and cards to the handmade stall at my daughter’s school fair in May and it proved successful, I was buoyed by positive comments I received but soon after I doubted myself and questioned whether I made the right choice. Was I wasting my time following a dream which I might not succeed in?
A couple of months passed before I got my groove back. There were signs that I had to trust and believe in myself. An owl appeared in my backyard when I went outside to enjoy the silence of midnight and stargaze. I had never seen an owl up close before so I took this as an omen to delve deep into my creativity and just have fun with the process.
Just as I felt things were coming together, old memories resurfaced. An unwelcome door was forcibly opened and I had to confront something I had locked away. I knew that I carried 20 years of pain. I sought help and was told that I was suffering from trauma and with hearing that one word I realised how much it had shadowed my entire life. I have never been good at asking for help. But this time I knew I had to get it all out if I wanted to be free. I felt like I was asking too much but my loving husband and my beautiful girlfriends supported me without question. Not that I ever doubted that they would. Trouble was I doubted myself but I promised I would do what was necessary to begin healing. Vietnam was on the horizon and I just didn’t know if it would be the blessing I hoped it would be, all because I was confronting teenage me and her problems. A month later would be travelling with women I mostly didn’t know. How would I get through 2 weeks of dealing with this without the comfort of those closest to me?
Once again, I saw an owl in my backyard late one night. I heard the whooshing of its wings as it swooped in front of me across the backyard and into the darkness. I’m convinced it was significant. I researched online and discovered that the owl is the symbol of the Greek Goddess, Athena and in other cultures, a messenger of truth and awareness.
Mountain Maidens Unite!
In late September, the Vietnam adventure with the Mountain Maidens began. After a few days I missed my family, having never spent more than a couple of days away from my 6 year old daughter. The Maidens were wonderful. We’re all mothers so my companions knew the right things to say to make me feel better when I was a bit teary after not getting to speak to my daughter for 4 days.
In preparation for the trip Mountain Maidens organised stationery, soap, toothpaste, beanies, mittens and small toys which filled 2 large bags. I finally went through the years of clothes my daughter had outgrown. I found many clothes from size 3 right up to size 5 including this year's school tracksuits which she'd outgrow before next winter in very good condition. I explained to my daughter what we were taking and why, and that I would take photos so she could see that they would be appreciated by their new owners.
On our first trek we walked to the school in Ma Cha. We walked around and peeked into the classrooms. As a couple of us looked into the Grade 1 classroom to see about 28 children, we knew this was going to be an emotional visit. I saw dirty faces, shabby clothes, some without shoes and their gorgeous dark eyes were all on us. I thought about how different life is for these children compared to ours. The children walk many kilometres to get to school barefoot in the mud, on rocks, through all weather conditions. I almost cried right then.
The classes took a break to line up in the schoolyard so we could meet them. I was kneeling in front of each Grade 1 child, measuring them up to see which of my daughter’s clothes would fit them. I started to worry there wouldn’t be clothes for each of the smaller kids. I wondered if I had something to fit the bare bottomed toddler age 2, who was piggybacking on her sister. I wondered if there’d be some clothes suitable for the younger boys. As I kneeled among the rows of children, I missed my daughter even more. In the end, I couldn’t keep it together and I did get upset in front of the kids. But every child in the Grade 1 class inherited a piece of my daughter’s clothing, so did some of the boys and the toddler. Tears were shed by us Maidens but we felt good that we made a small contribution to them that day.
Our trekking continued on to Taphin where we stayed at a homestay with a Red Dao family. I really enjoyed this stay. I must mention the food was to die for! Rain was pretty heavy the following day making the trekking challenging and slow. Mud squelched right over and into our hiking boots. The waterfalls overflowed and there had been landslides. It was a little worrisome walking on a landslide affected path. Not knowing what was underfoot was best not thought about.
Our other trekking destinations included Y Linh Ho, Lao Chai and Cat Cat. We faced some physical challenges as we wound our way around, up and down the mountainsides in rain, heat and humidity. Some of the tracks were really steep and slippery and the bamboo forest section was an experience! Fortunately there were no injuries, but there were scratches and bruises.
Our longest trek was on the last day approximately 16km (according to the itinerary) and other days we averaged about 9km. It was quite a moment when we finished. There was definitely relief that there were cold Tiger beers to consume but there was triumph also because we made it. We survived trekking in rain, mud and the heat. I was elated because I had never trekked before.
While trekking and having a new roommate each night for 2 weeks I got to know my new friends quite well. There were times when I wish the trip would never end because I felt connected to them and their stories. I couldn’t hold back tears when I felt their emotions. I saw strength and resilience as we walked and talked about life and loss. We expressed compassion for one another’s happy and sad times. Even though I didn’t know most of these women at the beginning of the trip, I will forever cherish our amazing time together.
If it weren’t for Kim, Travel Organiser Extraordinaire or Lowanna, I wouldn’t have had this life-changing experience with a beautiful and fun group of women, so Thank You. You gave me an experience which made my heart swell and an adventure I will never forget.
Tell me about your best friend, your tribe of supportive women or when a friend came through for you when you needed it most. Have you ever had a beautiful life changing experience? What happened? What changes did you make as a result of the experience? If you have written about it on your blog, feel free to share and post the link in the comments below.
Hello, I'm Sharyn: Gutsy Girl Chieftess, Founder of of Gutsy Girl and Gutsy Girls Will Rule The World. I am the Creatrix of Sacred Circle Leadership Training and Gutsy Mantras.
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