Last night I went out with my group of friends from the Divorce Support Group that I organize. At one point during the evening, I looked around the room and realized that during the last year and a half I had been a part of making the group grow – getting the word out so people would have a place to come for support and healing. April of 2010 we were a meeting of 5 or 6 people who knew the strength of meeting together to share our stories and offer feedback and warmth. After deciding to join www.meetup.com we now have 250+ members on-line and 40+ members are actually attending the in-person events and meetings that are scheduled throughout the week. I, of course, am not the only one working to lead all of these meetings, but I have been instrumental in growing this group which originally helped ME so much when I was going through my own divorce. I am giving back by inspiring others to navigate through the sadness / depression / anxiety / loss / fear of their own break-ups. It is gratifying to see others flurish over weeks and months as I and my co-organizers inspire the newly separated to contemplate what they will do with their new-found freedom. How they will turn an extreme negative into a positive-life affirming bold joyful new stage of their journey. Sometimes, after the passage of time, in reflection, we find ourselves saying that we were really miserable in that marriage that we struggled to hold onto – and that now we are so much happier. Not every marriage needs to end when it hits a rocky path, but it is important to reflect on who each individual is to figure out how to proceed. I have inspired the growth of this group when there is no way around failing marriages (the group is mostly made up of people who are being left – rather than the ones who are doing the leaving.)
My main function in the group seems to be asking whether or not you choose to divorce – what are your personal goals apart from your spouse? In the next few years or decade, do you want to start a new career, volunteer to save something natural or help people somehow – “what’s your whale to save?” How are you going to make the world a better place? By painting pictures? By helping in a food pantry? By having really deep conversations with new-found friends? What made you tick 20 years ago? That might be a passion you’d like to pick up again, OR you might like to try something totally new. The thing is – I try to get people to start thinking about something other than how miserable they are that their spouse is leaving them for bits of time and they end up finding tiny bits of JOY where the depression starts to receed. That’s how it was for me when I went through it.
And the other thing I find happening is that I inspired others to take leadership roles and now THEY are highly energetic and doing massive amounts of organizing and inspiring many, many more people than I could ever reach on my own. One guy, Ron, has even created another whole new group about an hour away from our group! He’s coming to ours to learn the ropes, but he got so much out of what we do, that HE WAS INSPIRED to duplicate our process! Bob and I are going to go to his first few meetings to help him get started with the support circle. It’ll be tiring, but I am excited about the process growing and so many more people being helped.
About 3 weeks ago I met a really nice couple (friends of friends) – they have a daughter who just graduated from college with a teaching degree and she was looking for a job. She was getting worried, as school was about to start! I told them to bring her around the next time we got together the following week and that I’d love to meet her and see her resume so I could pass it along to the “powers that be” in my school district (I’ve been a teacher for almost a decade). Sooo.. . the next week – they showed up at the party with both of their daughters, a lovely bottle of wine and some tasty appetizers. We had some fabulous conversation and I was really quite impressed with Sara (the daughter) and said that I’d pass her resume along the following week – she was proactive enough to bring it along to the party! (smart girl). I told her that my district always hired right through the first few weeks as funding was approved last minute and they seemed to bring in new teachers these first few weeks. I took her resume to my principal WHO I INSPIRED TO HIRE SARA!!!! My principal was in a meeting, so I left her a note, saying that I was impressed with Sara and that we should get her in before some other district snatched her up! Well, the first day of school at 7:45am they called Sara and told her to come running in – she was hired because they had gotten new funding! She arrived and joined all the teachers in the professional development day. Now . . . we just have to see if the kids don’t eat Sara alive in the next month! They CAN be pretty brutal . . .urban school system – lots of difficult cases. . .
It was such a good feeling to help a young college grad get a job! I felt so thrilled to be able to be part of someone else’s journey. Even if she ends up hating it and going to some other district – I still am happy that I was able to help someone get their first job out of college.
I walked out of my house yesterday. I went to my car to get a few things and I saw one of my former students walking down the sidewalk towards me. I recognized her and smiled, saying hello enthusiastically. I always like running into her. But, there was something off. She didn’t look good – and then I noticed that she wasn’t wearing any shoes and that her clothes were not appropriate for the weather. I walked towards her as she came up to me. I asked, how she was, and at first she said fine, and I looked at her and said what’s going on. She told me that she was going through a rough period and I said I was really happy that I had run into her and that I could help her figure out what to do. Just that very morning I had bought some cute slippers, they were still in the car. She wore a size 10 shoe so my shoes weren’t going to fit her but at least the slippers would keep her feet warm until she could get more appropriate shoes. We brainstormed how she could get back into her apartment and how she could get to an AA meeting. She was off her meds and her executive functioning was gone. Her story was in bits and pieces and I only understood parts of it. We tried calling a friend of hers and her sister. I also tried reaching HAWK, but couldn’t get any answers because it was the weekend. Finally she came up with the idea of going to the local shelter. I suggested that that might be a good idea because they could help her problem-solve in this case better than I could. As we drove there, she told me that she was bipolar. I told her to look at me as we were at a stop light and I said, I’ve been there. I know it’s hard but you need to take your meds exactly as your doctor tells you to, get enough sleep, never take illegal drugs, surround yourself with good people, eat healthy. You are in your 20s – I just turned 40, honey, it does get better if you choose to live better. Look at me as an example. People like us have a different balance than other people, we just have to work at it harder than others. I took her to the shelter and gave her a few dollars and a big hug saying good luck and do good things. As I drove away I judged myself severely, I stepped outside myself and saw a spoiled rich woman who was driving an expensive car dropping off a person in need at a shelter. I felt like I didn’t do enough. But I felt like I had done all I could, because if I had done more I would have compromised my boundaries and wouldn’t have been taking care of myself properly. I hope the best for Lilly and am looking forward to running into her again. These are MY KIDS. . . I did not choose to have babies of my own, but as a teacher in an urban school district, I have an entire family of kids in the community who have touched my life and I theirs. It doesn’t stop once they cross that stage with some of them. Teacher, teacher . . . what have you to teach me??
I had a beautiful conversation with Corinne yesterday. It was the last day of school, and I saw her at the end of the day. I told her that I appreciate how much she had matured throughout the year. I said that we had certainly started out on rocky terms and that we had gotten to know each other and that I was really proud of the progress she had made. She was now doing homework and showing up after school for extra help. I really like her. I think she’s going places in life. I again told her that I’m proud of her and that I hope I have her in class again next year.
I think it’s important to tell kids that they’re doing a good job. I try to tell them that I’m proud of them, because I don’t think they hear it often enough. I know I always wanted to hear it, but don’t remember hearing it. I don’t know if it was never said or if I just don’t remember it. I know my dad is proud of me, but I believe it’s important to state it directly. I also have been giving a lot of compliments lately. If I like someone’s hair or dress, I take the 2 seconds to tell them they look beautiful. I know how good it feels when someone brightens my day with a compliment. And, in class, when a student does a particularly good job, coming up with a solution that I didn’t think of – I like to ask where they are going to college, or what they are going to be when they graduate. I’m having an awful lot of fun teaching. I wonder who I will inspire and who I will piss off. It’s a total crap-shoot.