WLW ORIGINS (PART ONE)
March marks the one year anniversary of signing the lease for The Well Lived Woman space! It’s been a full, exciting, and fast-moving year and it has me thinking about how we got here.
I started leading women’s groups in 2017. My first groups were centered on motherhood and identity, then I added in groups for entrepreneurial women, and then continued on to create the more broadly-focused group called the Well Lived Woman Group.
Through my therapy work with women as well as my lived experience, I've come to intimately know how much we crave meaningful connection and growth. We want to be witnessed for all our strengths and flaws while doing the same for others. We crave the realness of that as well as a way to safely relax our defenses. We want to grow, to feel alive in our evolution.
There haven’t been many places women can come together, knowing that they are welcome and safe to be as they are. To see themselves in the inner lives of others. I was able to create this experience in these groups, guided by education and training in clinical psychology, my entrepreneurial leanings that inspire me to create things I think are needed, and by my own personal craving for sisterhood.
My groups grew and continued. I was able to start new groups each January but many groups stayed together and continued for years. Watching these women challenge themselves and each other, grow as individuals, and deepen their relationships was incredible. Each group took on a different energy and found its way to its own flavor and collectively-needed purpose.
At this point I held the groups at my office, in a shop after hours, and mostly in my home. Once I had my babies I needed to find a place outside my home and I was dreaming of something bigger. A space for women to gather in general – a place to connect, celebrate, and learn that would support our collective growth.
In February 2020, my twins were 5 months old and I started working with a real estate agent to look for the right commercial space. In March I met with Chelsea of Eredità Creative House for a day of planning my vision for WLW. Chelsea is a wise business woman with heart who has lots of experience in bringing women together in a collaborative and open-hearted way I have personally enjoyed and admired. Consulting with her helped me clarify so much, so early (see our brainstorm in the photo below). I laugh now that I was trying to start The Well Lived Woman so soon postpartum. I had infants!! I couldn’t decide on what part of town to be in and I wasn’t finding a space that felt right. I appreciate the wisdom of divine timing that it didn’t happen then, not only with two infants at home but also, BECAUSE THE WORLD SHUT DOWN a week after Chelsea and I met to plan in earnest.
When COVID happened I was on maternity leave and my groups were itching to get back to it, wanting to do virtual, something I never would have considered before. The existing need for connection, comfort, and meaning before the pandemic was so amplified in 2020. I started seeing clients again and holding groups on ZOOM and was shocked at how effective it was to gather virtually. The need and willingness overpowered the physical distance between. The intimacy was there and it opened it up to those who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to participate due to geography and logistics. I didn’t have bandwidth for more groups than I had though. I was interviewed for a publication about how women, in their need for connection, were going to platforms that were not inherently safe for the vulnerability they shared and were met with either trolling and judgement, toxic power dynamics, or excessive financial buy-in. There needed to be better options for the connection women were craving.
I was scared to do it though! By this time, I was feeling the responsibility of being a mom of two babies while being a therapist in time of intense collective need. I felt like I’d dodged a bullet by not signing a lease early in 2020 and wasn’t eager to revisit that potential commitment. And yet, I wanted The Well Lived Woman to exist. So I started moving forward in building it, even though I wasn’t clear on what form it would take. I just felt I needed to move forward in some capacity, whatever I was comfortable with. In the middle of 2020 I started with the website (very basic), the trademark (with Sprout Law), our first product (the Values Deck) and then in 2021 I started working on @welllivedwoman socials and asking women I admired to do the Living Well interview. I asked Shannan (now WLW's Marketing Director) to support me in making things happen since I was short on time to implement my ideas (a crucial choice and a risk that has very much paid off). It was all kinds of random but I trusted it would take shape.
After being home with my family, seeing clients and groups virtually for 2 years, I craved quiet time to myself and working towards something beyond the immediate needs of any given day. I wanted to dream up and plan the year ahead so I booked myself a “self-retreat” at the very end of January 2022. I’d been in community with Elizabeth for a long time and went to the opening of her beautiful new shop Artemis in Topanga Canyon right after the new year and was so excited for her new venture and really into the way that the canyon had changed in the years since I’d visited. So I chose to take my solo time in Topanga, a sweet community to explore with so much natural beauty. It felt special and different from regular life but I could be home for dinner after a day spent imagining in fresh surroundings. I loved being in Topanga those days.
On my way home from my Airbnb, I stopped by Artemis. I saw the available space at Pine Tree Circle a couple of doors down from Artemis. I thought maybeeeeee this could be just the right spot. I asked Elizabeth for the landlord’s info. She gave it to me with the disclaimer that he was usually unresponsive. I reached out to the landlord, mostly hoping that she was right, that he wouldn’t respond and I could be off the hook for big decisions, commitment, and risk. He responded 10 minutes later saying he would love to see a women’s community space there.
...the rest of the WLW story continued next week!
Jaimi Brooks is a licensed marriage and family therapist, women's group leader, founder of The Well Lived Woman, and creator of the Values Deck.