A post about friends…

The intention of starting my blog is to highlight women I know well, women I have been inspired by, women I have taught, who have taught me and the women I love. This post has been on the tip of my fingers for several weeks buried by the responsibilities of the holidays and my studio. Sharing the point of view of others on my blog is my ultimate goal. However, I feel it important to share my positive experience as a member of Delta Gamma sorority while attending NIU. It is not my intention to pontificate about the exclusivity of sorority membership. In fact, that part of it is a little weird for me and I know seems unappealing and even offensive to most people. This post is about friends I have continued to enjoy and make a priority. Originally, learned from the example set by my mother who is now a 50 year member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. She has always been and had wonderful friends. My mother taught me to value and maintain my relationships with women and showed me how much life is enriched by having them. It is perhaps, the greatest value she taught me.

On this snowy Saturday, as I composed this post, I received an email from one of the 12 women about whom this post is written. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 14 days ago. She doesn’t know many details but is certain to go through at least a year of intense treatment. Lisa, I dedicate this post to you. I know you’ve got this, but you need to know that WE’VE got this too. We will do everything we can to help you fight this fight and will love you through every weird, tiring, funny, painful, and happy moment you will have.

The typical way that sorority life is depicted in television shows or movies couldn’t be farther from what I experienced during my sorority days of college. Sorority girls are most frequently represented by shallow, perfect-looking, mean girls who are only out for themselves and willing to humiliate and sabotage anyone perceived as competition.

The young women who recruited me into Delta Gamma, the women with whom I was recruited, and the young women we recruited were all darling, kind, funny, smart, self-deprecating and have become fixtures in my life. There are 12 of us from two different pledge classes, who have stayed in close contact and get together regularly. We graduated from college 25 years ago and since then have three annual events and add in other impromptu outings, lunches, dinners etc. when we can. My favorite is our annual holiday party. We take turns hosting this event and either kick off our holiday season or close the season with it, depending on which time works better for us. The tradition began 25 years ago and we have not missed a year. Each year we do an ornament exchange. So every time I unpack these ornaments and put them on my tree I am reminded of my loving sisters. This year, my holiday season began with this party and inspired me to see the chaos of the rest of the month through loving and grateful eyes.

In the beginning we shared secrets, clothes, academic pressure, dressing for themed parties and dances, countless crushes, late night talks, studying, workouts, heart breaks, meals, libations, classes, meetings, rush, philanthropy, advice, tears, make-up, cleaning duties, “flushing!”, and just about everything shared by people who live together. In the years after graduation we supported each other as we started careers, shared apartments, searched for “the one”, got engaged and married, started families, bought houses and became adults.

Now that we are in our mid to late 40’s we have been there for each other as we have experienced the declining health, illness and even death of some of our parents, divorces, second marriages, infertility, financial ups and downs, raising teenagers, and spousal or our own health challenges. Upon making our commitment to Delta Gamma we agreed to be her champion in her absence and her friend always. And we do just that.

When we plan any event, we tirelessly try to find a date when everyone can attend. This is nearly impossible but never causes us to opt out of the event. We know that some of us getting together is better than none of us. When any of us has experienced the death of a loved one someone takes charge to order flowers and an accompanying memorializing gift to be sent, signed by all of us. Whoever is available attends visitations and memorial services and it is always understood that who is there is also representing who was unable to be there that time.

We have made it a priority to meet and/or know of each other’s family and friends outside of Delta Gamma and inquire about them with genuine interest and concern. When one of us has recovered from surgery or health challenge we have even done our best to participate and help out with neighborhood meal trains and support. We don’t live close to

each other, but luckily, with the exception of two, we are all in northern Illinois. Recently, by the blessing of social media, we found out that one of the DGs from my pledge class had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Through Facebook messenger, 60 of us rallied together and sent her gift cards, meals, gifts for her daughter, and some even accompanied her to her chemotherapy appointments. Now, we have made a new group and are planning a reunion with DGs who pledged over a 10 year period.

We are a ways from the practically perfect bodies, faces, and hair of our college days, but every one of these women is more beautiful and stunning to me than they were 25 years ago. Pondering this, I realized because after all this time, what remains through every life event we endure, is love. It’s just love.

Concerns, Complaints, and Congratulations

I teach a gentle yoga class at my dance studio two days/week. The students in class are all women over the age of 60 including my mother who is almost 20 years older. Each of them comes to class with her concerns, complaints, wisdom, wit, humor, and willingness to practice yoga. They arrive stiff with arthritis resulting from old athletic injuries or recent falls. All of them experience post-menopausal balance issues and flexibility loss, a few have post-surgical limitations including the lack of ability to hang their heads, and many deal with chronic pain. Teaching them has become the highlight of my week. Each exemplifies what I adore about women. They are willing, coachable, and brave; and they have chosen to deal with aging through the support of others and lots of humor! These women faithfully show up for class; sometimes griping about how they feel physically, but always willing to share and reveal how they feel emotionally. As their yoga teacher it is my job to get them out of their heads and into their bodies; but I can’t resist participating in the gab session before class. In fact, I am often guilty of starting a conversation with something on my mind and they supportively chime in sharing their life experience in support of my tribulation. Each time we meet is an opportunity to vent, which means we begin and end class 10 minutes late!

Sometimes we start class sitting on folding chairs but usually we begin sitting cross-legged on the floor. For some, this requires the use of blankets and blocks to create what we refer to in the yoga community as “modifications” because many have tight hips, “bad knees”, or newly replaced joints. Regardless, we begin class breathing deeply and turning inward together. I am always humbled and somewhat amused by their trust in me. They allow me to lead them through breathing exercises and mantras seated like a pretzel with their eyes closed. However, once we start moving, I am snapped back into reality as they will verbalize shameless protests at my instructions, at the same time, giving a valiant effort to try to do what I am telling them to.

It is my responsibility to keep my students safe and make sure that they aren’t stretching too far or attempting something that may cause injury. At the same time, I want them to realize their potential and help them make changes to their bodies that will improve how they feel. Often, one of them will remind me that they have already reached their potential and they are as good as they are going to get! So I do what any good yoga teacher would do. I continue to teach. One of them will snicker, half of them will obediently take action and inevitably someone will bellow, “Robin, that’s just not gonna happen today!”

To which I respond with a number of solutions involving the use of yoga props, body placement modifications, and a reminder to breathe, which is then usually met with affirmation that the changes were successful, but sometimes uproarious laughter contagious to the whole class, including the teacher. Even though we spend much of our class time laughing, I am impressed by their progress and eagerness to enrich and improve their lives. They have chosen to learn to adapt to the changes they have experienced in their lives  by participating in something supportive, humorous, fun and healthy.

Congratulations to the women who take my gentle yoga class!!

I am grateful to you for many reasons. You have made me a better yoga and dance teacher, by example you have shown me how to be supportive of one another, how to be brave, how to laugh and mostly how to love each other!

Namaste,

Robin