The red tent (in addition to being a fantastic novel by Anita Diamant) is a tradition found in many cultures. In the red tent or moon lodge (the equivalent found in some Native American traditions) women gathered during their monthly menstrual periods to celebrate their feminine energy and support each other.* Since the publication of Anita Diamant’s novel, red tents have sprung up all over the US as a way for women to connect to each other and recharge.
This past weekend I went to an every other year red tent retreat. It was awesome to be in nature with other lovely ladies (including my mother- and sister-in-law). We yoga-ed, sauna-ed, hot tubbed, and ate lots of amazing vegetarian food. We had an opening circle where everyone shared their intentions for the weekend or their lives and then a closing circle where we reflected on what we had experienced in the company of our sisters and shared womanly wisdom. It was a very powerful weekend for me, not only because I realized how joyfully grateful I am to have the in-laws I have, but because in the closing circle, it really hit me how much I enjoy communicating and processing with other women, how much I need time for the red tent in my life, and how maybe the enjoyment and affinity I have for red tent type activities and relationships could be a hint about my calling.
Hubs and I have had some pretty intense conflict in the recent past, which is currently being handled in an ongoing way (with the help of a counselor), and while it’s no fun at all, I am SO THANKFUL for the support from the women in my life around the conflict. In one 24 hour period, I talked to two out of town friends and my mom on the phone (each for an hour at least), was walked to AND from work by my heart sister here in Nashville and received a supportive email from another friend. If I hadn’t felt their bracing love, I would have been non-functional that entire day (as it was, I actually did science). I realized at the time how lifted up I felt, but I didn’t realize until this weekend’s retreat how amazing it was and IS to have so many women that I feel comfortable calling on and that are willing to support me at the drop of a hat.
Several of the women retreating with us this weekend don’t have one woman that they can call in times of need, let alone three or more! They don’t have great relationships with their moms, let alone with their sister and in-laws. They grew up in a time or family that stigmatized mental health, struggling with body image, coping with abuse, and lady business. They kept taking care of their families and working their jobs and pouring themselves out for roles that they are increasingly too empty to do, until they couldn’t take it any more and hightailed it to the retreat center to fill back up.
The red tent can fill you up, whether you have a virtual red tent or a real life one, but for me, it has to happen more than every other year. Here in Nashville, I have been meeting with a group of women casually calling ourselves the red tent, but it may be time for me to get more deliberate about it. I’m going to keep thinking about how all women can find ways to empower themselves and empower each other to fill our emptiness up, and see what I come up with.
Do you have the support of the red tent in your life? What ideas do you have about how you can cultivate this kind of support for yourself and the women you love?
*In my limited reading, I haven’t found any evidence for menstrual synchrony (either of women synchronized with other women or women synchronized with the moon), in spite of the significant anecdotal evidence for roommates and sisters menstruating together. In fact this review of some scientific evidence concludes that menstrual synchrony is probably random.