The Gathering: Community Building and Self-Acceptance

It was a monumental day for me: my 50th birthday. It was a monumental day for our country: the morning that Christine Blasey Ford testified about her experience with a nominated Supreme Court justice.

In the morning, I felt alive, and excited about the possibilities—of justice. By the afternoon, I knew that this woman’s honest, gut-wrenching, exposing testimony didn’t matter. Something in me was waiting to snap, I realize now, and it was that day that spurred me to stop looking at men to be our champions.

I needed my community. I needed to gather it, get clear, and get moving. I needed women to be our own champions. I’ll be damned if my daughter will sit and listen to what I heard when she is an adult.

It was time.

I’ve asked myself many times over the years: Why is it that I keep coming back to the idea of community, my community, women in community, and communities of women? Most of the work I do centers around women and bringing them together in one form or another. From my earlier work in theater and events, to my work now with Working Mothers Revolution, Working Mothers Evolution, and now to Women Hold the Key, I’m constantly seeking the comfort of women, the support of women, and the need to be in the spheres where women gather.

“Why?” is a question I constantly ask myself. Maybe it’s because I grew up motherless until I was six. Maybe it’s because I have always felt apart from the deep knowing of self that having a mother gives you. Perhaps it’s because I’m always trying to redefine what it means to be a woman and mother in the world of today, and maybe because I feel I constantly fall short.

Why is there always some part of me that feels that I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough—just not enough?

As I have explored those questions (and it feels like it will take me a lifetime and perhaps beyond to answer them for myself), I often wonder (with a deep sense of knowing the answer is yes) if all women ask similar questions.

As I’ve pondered and worked, what has bubbled to the surface is maybe not an answer, but more of a recognition that I continually need women to help reflect for me who I can be and who I’m meant to be. I need women to support me as I travel through my life to become me. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to find women far and near who have helped illustrate for me what it means to be, and I’m grateful for that learning. I hope I’ve given some of that support back to the women in my life.

I want all women to have that connection should they desire it. I want all women to know that they are seen, heard, and valued for whatever they bring to the table—successes and failures and all. As my friend Allison tells me, “I value you.” As my friend Julie says, “You are my family.” As my friend Shauna has said, “You are enough.”

If we could all have that, then my work will be, in part, done.

Women Hold the Key is the culmination of that idea. I am focusing on what it means to me to be part of a new community of women that feels as old as time and as elemental as a life force. I also ask myself, and by extension, each of you: What if we could be aligned to be/do/have our best?

What if I could recognize my tribe when I’m out in the world?

What if I could count you as part of my community even if I’ve never seen or met you before?

What if I could go into the world knowing that you are all there, a sometimes-invisible but powerful force beside me, helping me move forward, giving me strength and courage?

What if I acknowledged women for their support and contribution to making me who I am today, and who I will become tomorrow?

What if it helped other women reach out to the women they count on?

What if we could support women who don’t have the community they seek?

What if we could use that support to do good in the world?

How can we support those women who aren’t as privileged with the fortune (of color, birthplace, social status, gender status, or economic status) that we enjoy?

For now, Women Hold the Key is my answer. It may be small and insignificant in the scope of the problems of the world. It might not hold an answer to the larger issue of women’s equity and equality. It might exclude half the population, but it’s a start.

Ask yourself, “What if?” And join me as we seek the answers together.

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About the Author | Tina Shattuck

Tina Shattuck has spent the past 10+ years seeking to help women—specifically, mothers specifically—find meaning in the transitions of motherhood. When she's not working on community building for women, she produces auctions and events in her local community. She calls home a small farm on Vashon Island with her three teenage children, dogs and cats, and her husband of 25 years, who is a commercial fisherman.

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