Platts: A women’s retreat
I couldn’t even remember the last time I used an Elmer’s glue stick. It felt so playful as I trimmed out pieces of construction paper and then caked them with the gooey adhesive. I smiled at the nostalgia, while simultaneously huffing with impatience because cutting straight lines had become no easier now that I was in adulthood.
The assignment was an open-ended one this month: Make a timeline of your life. That didn’t necessarily mean I had to pick out packs of pastel colored paper, funny stickers and photos, but for some reason I gravitated toward the traditional scrapbooking technique. It felt cathartic; like it was something I needed to do. So, for the assignment, I rehashed the 25-plus years of my life on a poster board.
This in-depth assignment commemorated a yearlong anniversary in Women’s Forum. At the year mark it was time for five smart, beautiful ladies and myself to take a retreat where we would each have an hour or so to present our life timelines. When we became a Women’s Forum group in 2015, I’m not sure any of us knew what we were getting into. I’m sure many women before us have felt the same. But what came out of the unexpected was truly rewarding.
Women’s Forum is a local nonprofit organization founded by Adelaide Waters. The organization is made up of small groups of six to eight women, all at a similar age or stage in life. Each small group meets monthly for three or so hours to discuss a range of topics. Sometimes the conversations are pressing matters in which one lady needs support. Other times there is a blanket topic we cover such as vulnerability or professional aspirations. Each meeting is different in subject, but what is always consistent is the confidentiality. Anything and everything said in Women’s Forum groups does not go further than the ladies in the room.
Waters started Women’s Forum in 2013 after being part of a group for 15 years in Chicago. When she moved to Aspen later on, she wanted to share a ritual that was so meaningful in her life with others. Today, there are 11 active groups and two more that will be starting within the year.
When my group began in 2015, we were collectively the youngest in the organization, all in our mid- to late 20s. Waters piloted our first six months of meetings to show us how they should be outlined, what topics to discuss, and, possibly most important, how to listen and communicate respectively with one another.
Since the start, it feels like we have touched on just about every topic under the sun. We’ve mourned loved ones together; we’ve celebrated new jobs and the achievement of ambitious goals. We’ve shared family and work struggles and helped cheer each other on through physical feats and dietary cleanses. Our conversations have always had one reoccurring theme above all others: They’re honest. There are no facades or made-up stories. There’s no need to embellish or exaggerate. It’s truthful, which can often be hard to find in others.
Perhaps that honesty is what made me so willing to share my life via horseback riding stickers, drama icon doodles, maps of countries I’ve visited and photos of loved ones that are no longer with us.
This assignment was difficult to say the least. But the honesty and openness we six have created in our group over the past year made it easier. When we sat down after dinner on our retreat, we each pulled out timelines that were entirely different from one another’s.
The evening included laughter, tears, jokes and confessions. We sat on the couches until the early hours of the morning. I remember around 2 a.m., after all of us had poured our timeline’s out to one another, thinking how lucky I was to have the privilege to know these five incredible ladies. They’ve been in Aspen all along, but I would’ve never had the relationships I do with them if it weren’t for Women’s Forum and Waters’ vision. For both of those things, I am grateful.
To find out more about Women’s Forum, go to womensforum.us.com.
Barbara Platts highly recommends Women’s Forum for anyone looking to make new connections and grow personally with the support of others. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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