Tonight was my first time at the Women's Nite and was done after much deliberation. At the end of the staircase, a warm smile and greeting was the much-needed calming medicine. The subsequent mixing and small chats definitely helped to put me more at ease.
I thought the discussion would focus on the management of sorrow and pain. Although it didn't really go into that area, there was still much learnt and shared. One take-away from the session is that while it's easy to talk about self-improvement, it takes a lot more strength to be pin-point specific about what needs to be done. It is time for me - and maybe the readers of this reflection - to think about that. After all, this is the strength you lean on in times of need.
One other thing that really set me thinking was the organisers' aim to create a space for people to be able to talk freely, share and pour out whatever they wish to in a safe environment. This point was kindly reiterated by one participant when I made the comment on people being guarded during discussions. This is a place where you share what you are comfortable to share and learn from what others have shared.
It was my first Women’s Nite. It was Eileena who finally got me to go for it, after all the procrastinating on my side. Having come from a christian background, I did not think I wanted to be part of a small group again.
When I got there, food was on the table and women were hanging around eating. People were friendly and the ambience was very informal. Hui Yee told me to help myself to the huge amount of food. I am glad Eileena told me to bring enough for 5 portions because can you imagine eating 15 portions of 15 dishes!
After most have had their fill, people would make their way to the area beside the window to get ready for the session. There was lots of time before the session actually started so some women started chatting and exchanging information.
I had thought the advert for the session and how the session eventually turned out was very very different. The advert made it sound like it was a counselling session to introduce coping skills. But the session turned out to be a time where the participants had a chance to find out about themselves and in turn develop their own coping skills based on their own personality and the space they are in at the moment, though I am not sure Soo Jen had a chance to do the latter part with us due to a time constraint.
We were first given a worksheet to fill out and that became the basis for the session that followed. We were separated into groups so we could discuss our colourings and answers within a small group. It seemed like really basic stuff but it was fun, though I felt it didn’t seem to be everyone’s cup of tea.
After the session, there was a rather long facilitation session in which Soo Jen shared pointers with the group and members of the group gave their feedback. I thought that was more than interesting. I felt the women present were outspoken in their feedback and at the same time also very gracious.
A common theme that was brought up was the subject of trust, and being open in that environment. As a lesbian, a first timer at the Women’s Nite, a trainer and a facilitator, I wondered if the level of distrust felt by any individual in an all-women’s environment is reflective of the distrust held towards society. It was even more interesting when everyone in my group was asked for the one thing they can be counted on, everyone in my small group gave the answer their word and keeping a secret. It made me think, if everyone declares and believes that they can be counted on to keep secrets, to keep their word, why would all these women feel that the level of trust is low in that environment? Perhaps we just need introductions. I believe that we have nothing to fear from each other inside and outside of the space that is Women’s Nite.
A few suggested that perhaps ice-breakers and introductions might have helped foster a higher level of closeness. I agree with that. Perhaps if we had ice-breakers or just a simple round of introductions with information given like: name, occupation, how out we are and how many years have we been gay, and why we are there that evening. I thought that might help. People will not be bored and it will help lower the level of mystery and distrust. It would also be good for people to know, ‘wow, there is family everywhere’.
I am grateful to Soo Jen who volunteered to conduct the session for us. I understand she works as a counsellor and I applaud her for her willingness to contribute back to our community. It must not have been easy for a self-confessed introvert to stand up and come do this session for a group of strangers. Soo Jen is a counsellor and her style and the tools she used are reflective of a counselling session. That is, she gives time to let the session run and is very soothing. I felt though, that she could have taken less onto herself and facilitated the session instead of trying to give answers. But counsellors and social workers always have a tendency to want to save the world so that’s probably an occupational hazard.
Ultimately, it was an interesting session and I thought it is a good space for our community. I felt that it has managed to achieve what it set out to be for our community, a safe space where women who love women can discuss issues and not be judged. Just as any physical space needs furniture, lighting and décor to build the right ambience, so a metaphysical space needs the right tools to bring out the trust that already exists in the environment. Yes, I believe the trust is there, just needs polishing.
I will go again, but I will continue to pick my topics.
The evening of Me, Myself and I gave space for a disparate group of women to think and share their experiences of handling daily emotional challenges. The added conundrum of being gay imposes a subtle layer that most in society will not have to deal with.
Some of us feel that we, being thinking rational beings, have control because we can make choices. However, does this concept of choice take into account that we can have those choices only because our basic needs like food and shelter have been met? We are
living a privileged life in Singapore, even though we are discriminated against as a minority.
Interesting scenarios were also sketched on how to deal with emotional challenges by using our mental dexterity and creativity. Suggested methods to expunge our demons included writing down how the other person may have hurt us - where we personally acknowledge we were hurt - and creating mental maps to give ourselves space to "let go".
However, will dealing with it mentally lead to an emotional conclusion?