I was hunched over my laptop at Starbucks at the only table available – right next to the sugar/creamer/napkin stand. I’d been driven out of my house by another neighborhood power outage – third time this month – and while I appreciated the electric company’s many advance warnings (automated phone calls and a postcard in the mail: “There will be an outage on Tuesday from 8 am to 5 pm.“), nevertheless I did feel a tad resentful when I’d had to pack up that morning and head out in search of internet access – because it was Monday, SoCal Electric! Monday!! Thanks for the warning, hey?! Job well done!!
By the time I’d made it to Starbucks, every seat was taken except for the one tiny square table I got. I lunged at the power outlet like a dog in heat, jammed my plug in forcefully, and with my territory claimed and my laptop thus coupled with the rest of the world, I fired up, clicked on the mouse, and tuned the proximal world out.
And then a woman my age came over to add cream to her coffee. She kept glancing over at me. “I really like your necklace,” she finally said. Well, how nice is that. I liked her. We got into a conversation and of course I ended up telling her about Women At Woodstock. I proudly showed her the website. “Huh, that looks really interesting,” she said. She looked over the home page, read the description of Anne Perry and Victoria Zackheim’s “In Discussion” on opening night, scrolled through the schedule of workshops and activities.
And then she asked, “But, so, what do you do at Women At Woodstock? Like, sit around and sing kumbaya?
Maybe on second thought I didn’t like her so much after all. Clearly she didn’t get what Women At Woodstock was about, at all.
“No, I mean there is ‘feeling stuff,’ yes – like the workshop on setting down your emotional baggage, and the end of each evening when we go outside together for some calming movement under the stars and we call it ‘feet on the ground‘ – you know, kind of a Mother Earth thing. But LOOK at all of this other practical stuff: a business incubator for entrepreneurs; intensive writing workshops with Anne and Victoria; a workshop on social media for those who feel they need to catch up, and another on social media marketing for business owners; a workshop with Linda Lowen, the NPR show host, on how to nail a media interview; a session with an organization expert on how to get rid of your excess stuff and get organized…” Wasn’t this all clear on the website?
Then a day later I was talking to Carolyn Braddock, the trauma expert and creator of the Braddock Body Process, who’s leading the “feet on the ground” evenings at Women At Woodstock West, and she said two of her clients were interested in coming to the retreat. But, she said, after they looked at the website, they said, “But I don’t know, I can’t tell what you all do there, really. I mean, is it just sitting around singing kumbaya or something?”
It never stops, does it – having to admit to yourself that the great job you thought you’d done maybe wasn’t so great after all. I have now come to the conclusion that the website, and maybe even what I write about the retreats, paints a ‘kumbaya’ picture of the whole event. So I’ve changed the info on the home page, trying to make it more clear that Women At Woodstock is indeed a conference, when it comes to content – informational and practical, not a hippie flower child thing, while at the same time it’s a non-conference when it comes to how it makes you feel. I know I’ve concentrated on the latter when I’ve talked about our gatherings. It’s just so exciting, what happens to the women there, personally, inside their own heads – and what’s happened to me too – an unexpected, positive change, which I talked about in a recent video.
But that’s true because of the women who gather together, the encouragement they give and the knowledge they share. It’s because of their natural positive energy. Yes, it’s touchy feely and kumbaya-ish in that way, in the friendships that form and the good feelings that women come away with – good feelings about themselves and about what they are capable of accomplishing. But the event itself, and what we all do when we’re there, is much more practical and informational than a campfire or a folk song.
I’m still working on the message. If you’ve got any ideas, share them in a comment here; I’m open to hearing them all. And yes, even if you criticize, I’ll still like you.