Yesterday morning my daughter-in-law hosted a "jewelry party" at her house. The jewelry was nice (and of course I ordered a few pieces), but even more important to me was the opportunity to just sit and talk with other women. It was a small group, but they all knew I would be there so had come fragrance free. It felt good just to relax and enjoy the company of others.
Then last night I watched a broadcast from Salt Lake City of the general Relief Society (the women's organization) of the LDS Church. This program is held twice each year and is broadcast to LDS church buildings throughout the world, as well as over BYU-TV (which we get via Directv). The first speaker was Julie Beck, worldwide president of the organization. She spoke about the history of the Relief Society, which originated in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, and she encouraged the sisters (as R.S. members call themselves) to renew their commitment to each other and the organization, caring for each other and watching over each other.
Up until a few months ago, I had been an active member of the Relief Society for close to forty years, serving twice as president of a local group and numerous other times as a counselor or teacher. I have stood in front of other women on so many occasions to praise the goodness of Relief Society and encourage participation in acts of service and compassion to each other. And I have witnessed true charity in the interactions of women who truly see and treat each other as beloved sisters.
The combination yesterday of being with a small group of women in the morning and then hearing the words of Julie Beck concerning Relief Society last night brought home to me how much I really miss sisterhood. We all suffer losses in our lives for which we must grieve and then move on, hopefully filling the gap with something else of value. But I am not sure how to fill this gap in my life. In moments of selfishness and self-pity, I rail at the women in my own local group who refuse to change their behavior so that I can participate. Yet, such wallowing is so unproductive. I can't change the behavior of other women, and railing on them to myself only makes me more angry. And I don't want to become just an angry old woman.
One place I still feel sisterhood is through online blogs. There are some wonderful LDS group blogs that reach out to women, such as www.feministmormonhousewives.org , http://segulah.org/blog and http://the-exponent.com (my favorite). Blogs cannot replace the intimacy we get associating in person with other women, but they do offer a free exchange of feelings and ideas that helps to fill the gap.
Perhaps my greatest resource for sisterhood is with my own daughters and daughter-in-law, four truly amazing women who reach out to me on an almost daily basis. I love them and really appreciate them, but it is unfair and unrealistic to expect them to fulfill the bulk of my social and emotional needs.
So I continue to seek new ways to conpensate for the loss of sisterhood I feel in the isolation of chemical sensitivity. Even introverts need a little socializing once in a while.