Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It Takes a Family

One Family...Five degrees in one week.

Supportive nurturing environments are feminine creations, and since our structured world does not value feminine creations as much as masculine ones it is no wonder that our country is suffering the consequences. We are reminded of the sad state of American families on a daily basis. More often than not, financially providing for the family as well as caregiving and nurturing falls upon women, and, frequently, this burden is unshared. It is no wonder that our families are crumbling.

This last weekend, I was reminded of this in an expected way.

Those who know me are aware that I would not have made it through my grueling residency training if it weren’t for two facts: 1. The location of my training hospital was the closest hospital to my family home. 2. The two other women who went through my program with me became my sisters. In other words, without the support of family-both genetic and environmental-I would not have survived.

Well, one of these two women flew across country for the Stanford graduation of one of her closest friend’s sons. Now, I’m a Berkeley gal. In fact, my family is a Berkeley family. Four of us have obtained six of our eleven degrees from UCB. The only time this Golden Bear has set foot on Stanford soil was for the Cal-Stanford Big Game—so this was no small compromise. But I would do just about anything for my dear friend, given that she saved my life over and over again.

I thought I was the one making sacrifices. I couldn’t have been more wrong. First of all, although I came uninvited, I have never felt more welcome. I was accepted, without hesitation, into her extended family of friends. Okay, in all fairness, their acceptance was as much a reflection of my friend’s extraordinary nature as her friends’ extraordinary generosity. But that was just the beginning.

For the first time, in a very long time, I participated in preparing the meal with a group of women. When was the last time that you, as I woman, had the help of three other women in preparing a meal? We forget that this used to be the norm until fairly recently. The biggest surprise, though, was the graduation ceremony that followed afterward. This wasn’t her “nephew’s” actual graduation ceremony but a separate ceremony for the students who were of Native American descent. Although her nephew is only one-quarter Native American, the percentage was irrelevant. My girlfriend explained to me that when her friend had gone through the same ceremony several years earlier after earning her Ph.D., there had been very few Native American graduates. This time there was standing room only, and the ceremony took several hours.

Each graduate approached the stage with his or her support system, which included family members, extended family and significant friends. Most groups filled the stage. A Native blanket was placed over each graduate's shoulders. Then, graduates, along with their family members and friends, were invited to speak. It was the most wonderful graduation ceremony I had ever experienced. This is a significant statement, coming from a woman with an extremely tight-knit family that valued education highly, a woman who has experienced more graduation ceremonies than she can count.

One after the other, the graduates explained how difficult their University experiences had been and how they could not have made it through without the support of their families and the Stanford Native American community. Many of the graduates were the first in their families to obtain university degrees. Some were the first in their towns. Almost all were the first to obtain degrees from Stanford. Then their families and friends spoke; many of them cried. I have never seen so many men cry in such a short period of time—not even at a funeral. Many expressed their admiration and pride. All expressed their love. Some reminded the graduates to give back. All impressed the importance of community and working for the greater whole.

It was extremely inspirational and sobering at the same time. I kept thinking: this is the way graduation ceremonies should be. It takes an entire family, extended family, friends and community for each of us to accomplish not just our educational goals, but to accomplish anything of significance in our lives.

It did my feminine heart good to be surrounded by family the entire weekend. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t related to a single person that I encountered, yet I was accepted as a family member. This is the heart of the feminine. This is what we are missing. This is what we need to reclaim.

Are you still trying to do it all alone? Who is your family? What family will you create?

As for me, I so missed my own family after being surrounded by so much caring and love from people unrelated to me that, when I left my friend, I drove straight to my brother’s home to spend the day with my nieces and nephew.

It’s not popular to create community, to work together, to practice interdependence--but create family we must! Our future and our world depend on this.

Congratulations Graduates!

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