My first experience of red tent was not quite a picturesque scene. Yet still changed my journey forever, I have no doubt.
My first red tent was a summer gathering where we were welcome to bring children. I had had my curiosity of red tent awakened by my sister who had attended them in another area. So I turned up knowing no one at all ,and brought my baby boy with me. I was wearing purple and hoping that was OK – little did I know I could have rocked up in my PJ’s and nobody would have minded. It was a warm golden summer’s day and many of our talks and activities were able to be done outside on the green grass. It was beautiful. But unfortunately, against his usual routine of being calm and napping for 2 hours in the afternoon, my precious little one had chosen this day to switch things up. He decided that he wasn’t going to be calm nor sleep. I kept myself out of the way in order to not disrupt the others and managed to miss out on just about most of it after introducing my own name.
The key moment for me was when someone offered help and I declined, in spite of the heightening and almost overwhelming feeling of stress bubbling inside, with a polite but incredulous lie of ‘no, thank you, I’m fine’ with pink flushed cheeks. Of course I didn’t need help – everything was fine and I can cope with everything and do it all, right?! Looking back I’m pretty sure those pink cheeks came from my inner self slapping me from the inside for turning down that help. I left there that day from my first red tent feeling pretty blue. I hurriedly got into the cocoon of my car and just cried. I cried with frustration and I cried with a feeling of utter failure. I had failed to manage a calm baby and socialise at the same time. I had failed to achieve that interaction that at the time I so needed. To be honest with having a young baby I should have just been thankful in my success in finding the place while wearing clean clothes. I think I had even managed to put a brush through my hair that day. We will ignore the chipped nail varnish – one step at a time.
Now, this naively could have been enough to discolour my experience of red tent altogether, but thankfully I had quick perspective to realise that my only failing was that I didn’t identify my own needs. This has been a key lesson that red tent has given me and reminds me of in my daily life and without doubt has been one of the biggest changes in my life – no exaggeration. Now I have seen as many as the next person of those cheesy Facebook posts that encourage us to ask for help when we need it, to turn to our friends, to know that someone is always listening, and yet nothing had changed for me. I believe that was because I had never genuinely witnessed it, that safe space that not only breaks down our artificial bubble of unrealistic expectations but builds another made of something much stronger and warmer. It’s like discovering double glazing for your soul.
To be on the journey of accepting self responsibility for all of my needs and even learning to notice them is a rewarding and colourful trail to be on and the fact that I get to embrace this while being surrounded by the irreplaceable wisdom of other women is simply immeasurable. The support and judgement-free atmosphere is something very rare these days, and I now basque in it as much as I can. Nothing fills my cup better. Leaving out the hows in order to discover them for yourself, red tent has altered my view both inwards and out. And amongst many many other lessons and appreciations that this wonderful discovery has led me towards, red tent has taught me to notice and love all of my colours through an ongoing process of understanding them. Now I don’t only notice my colours but I’m encouraged to let them shine.
Who knew that inside red…would be the whole rainbow.