Sisters? How About a Thousand Sisters?
Me? I stayed home to write this blog. What are you doing home?
All right, I'll admit I'm dragging my feet. The subject of sisters is actually a pretty painful one for me. In my family, female relationships tended to not be good, and in fact until I had kids of my own, I couldn't say I had any really strong relationships with the women in my family. Passive-aggressive behavior is very common, and so is back-stabbing, if you can say there's a difference between the two. I have only one sister, and I haven't seen her, spoken to her or otherwise heard from her in years. Sadly, my brothers haven't either. And I'm the one who cut off the relationship.
I won't go into details because really, it's very personal to me. But my decision to end the relationship was a very hard one. It took a lot of talking to my hubby in that very way he finds most uncomfortable for me to reach that decision. But I looked back over years and years of hateful verbal abuse and realized she had no intention of being nice to me except when she wanted something. I gave her three warnings to stop or I would cut her off. I know she was drunk. Probably all three days. I have no idea what has happened to her since then. But I can't imagine her ever apologizing, and my preventing her from exercising her right to free speech was probably forever unforgivable in her eyes.
So I have to say, I don't do sisters well. Natural ones, at least. To be truthful, for one long period in my life the only women I actively sought for company were my own daughters, and those relationships have been very good. I had some good relationships, but they didn't really have a t of depth. I didn't have much in common with most women, I thought, but I think now I didn't quite trust them. (Remember, I didn't tell you about my mother.)
The year and date that started changing was June, in 1993. I had just finished my first romance novel and even though I knew it needed to never be shown to another living being, I was eager to start the next one. I brought out an article I'd saved from a February newspaper about this group of women who wrote romance novels, and found the phone number of the president. The woman I phoned is still a very good friend. So are several other members of what is now Rose City Romance Writers. But I've never called us a sisterhood. That's because the term scares me.
RWA may have a lot of flaws, and it's not an organization that all writers could love, but that's where I've met my Thousand Friends. As the years have gone by and I've attended conferences, I've found many friends I can trust. We share a common love of story-telling and we dream the same dreams of success. But even more, we are a group that does something really strange. We help, support and cheer our own competition. We shoud be rivals, maybe, but we forget that for the great pleasure of sharing our joys and knowldge, not just as writers, but as women. And we share a love of something that is at the very essence of women everywhere- a belief in relationships. We know they don't always work, and we know there are some among us who really don't have the same aims, but we keep sharing anyway.
In 2003 when I finalled in the Golden Heart, I thought I would be scared if I had to go up on that stage, but I wasn't worried. I didn't prepare a speech. I did a real avoidance thing instead. I picked the woman who I knew would win, and so I spent my time at the conference just enjoying people. But as I was dressing for the evening, this little voice kept saying, "You'd better think of what you're going to say." So finally I gave in and wrote something down.
Well, the inevitable happened. My best friend got lost. I left my name tag, room key and special invitations in my room and couldn't find my roommate. By the time time I got that all straight, all the other finalists had already gone in. BFF was nowhere to be found. But another friend came up and gave me a huge hug and I explained why I was coming apart at the seams, and she went in with me and held my hand.
I really did believe I wasn't the winner. She had to hit me with her elbow before I really understood. And I had to walk all the way across in front of the audience to get to the stage. But the minute I got up there and looked out, I could see that sea of faces beyond the stage lights and it suddenly struck me, I had a thousand friends out there. The nerves vanished. All I could think was, they were there ready to cheer me, support me help me. And I just said what I felt.
It took awhile before I began calling them my thousand sisters. But that's what they are. I can't go to conference this year, and I'll miss seeing my thousand sisters, but I know they're out there for me and always will be.