“When I signed up for this, I had no idea what I was really getting into…”

I must have heard that as a preface to a comment or question at least 30 times during our first-ever all-woman retreat last week, The Chairman Mom Flee.

That 100 women came to a place in the middle of nowhere for four days without having any idea what they were getting into still astounds me, and I think it speaks to two things. The first is how much trust we’ve already built in the young Chairman Mom community. But more to the point, it speaks to how hungry women are for a strong, enduring, powerful sisterhood.

The comments I’ve heard from women who attended have been humbling, inspiring, and heartbreaking. It was, in many ways, the best place to be when such a devastating chapter in American politics was playing out so publicly. In other ways, the contrast between such a protected, supportive, female only space and the re-entry into the patriarchy was tough for me and for a lot of women I spoke with over the last two days.

An escape from our phones and the news cycle didn’t make the unfortunate realities disappear, but it hopefully left us charged up to fight back.

I have rarely been in an environment where I felt so validated, so free to be myself and speak my mind, where I second-guessed myself so little as I did last week. And then as I set foot back in the patriarchy, the head games and voices all came back, with a vengeance that surprised me. (In fact, I asked a question about it on the site, see below, because I struggled with it so much as I decompressed.) All the self-doubt, the self-consciousness, the “am I going to look fat in pictures?”… In being so unapologetically me in a safe space, was I too much for everyone else in some way or another?

Maybe you are feeling the same way. Don’t. We are all the hand at your backs, then and now, whether you were at the event or are just a member of the community or just someone who occasionally opens this email. That hand at your back that will catch you if you stumble, but also the hand that will help push you forward when those voices try to tell you you can’t.

None of you are too much or too little of anything for me. The more we stand together, we are definitely too much for the patriarchal forces of this world. This weekend was like a concentrated example of the thesis behind this company: The more women come together and share their experiences, the more similar we see those experiences are. And that’s when real social change will happen.

We shot a ton of video of the phenomenal speakers, and will work to bring some of that footage to those of you who couldn’t make it. And I’d love for any women who attended who want to write a guest intro for us, to share what you got out of the experience. (Just email mom@chairmanmom.com.)

Thank you again to Silicon Valley Bank and Ellevest for sponsoring, and underwriting all those free and pay-what-you-can tickets. And of course, thanks to the team at Pulga and Chairman Mom who worked so tirelessly to make this possible.

Our dates for next year are September 25-28, so mark it on your calendar NOW! After we come up for air, (literally in my case, I’m writing this from my pulmonologist’s office…) we’ll start taking deposits in the next day or so, connect those of you who came with one another, and have an anonymous survey so you can tell us even more about how we did.

Meantime, if you aren’t part of our online community, there’s never been a better time to join, to invite a friend into a thread, to share it with other phenomenal women in your life, who may feel like the last week left them feeling isolated and defeated.

Here are our questions of the day:

 Sarah Lacy

* * * *