Monday, November 12, 2012

The Safe Circle


Barbara: The other day, Deb and I were invited to join a small circle of women—there were 9 of us—spearheaded by Certified Therapist and Life Coach, Anne Pustil. Check out her website here and her blog here.  Anne is a charming and sincere listener/therapist, and she’d gathered us together because she hoped we might share some of the linchpin problems we face as women in midlife (yes, Deb did crack that the term “midlife” implies that we’re all going to live into our hundreds! Anyway…). Anne will be conducting several “hitting the wall in midlife” group sessions for women in her hometown of Vancouver, as well as over the phone for those who are interested but don’t live in the vicinity. 

As you guys know, Deb and I are all about the “let’s talk honestly about what we face every day.” That’s why we’re here, right? But what we both—what we ALL—found fascinating at this get-together (in a beautiful home, eating fabulous food!) is that despite our ongoing conversations and examinations, there is still and always a new question to ask, a new perspective to consider, and another, previously unconsidered, tool that might help resolve our issues. And while the 2½ hours flew by (several of us had to leave by a certain time), there were so many interesting tangents and thoughts, far beyond what I think even Anne expected (by that I mean, we often went “off topic”, but whoa, the off-topics were stimulating), that I think we could’ve easily chatted for hours more.

It got me to thinking that, as much as I think we need to keep chatting here (and other places like this), there is something to be said for the real-life get-together where your responses can be fluid and mutable, where you can talk much longer than your poor fingers can type, where you can speak without editing yourself (because, let’s face it, when you write you can tune and fine-tune what you say). Because sometimes the “messy”, non-edited words that you speak in real conversations can carry kernels of other resonant and important, maybe half-formed, ideas; the Freudian slips, as it were, that will lead to other extraordinary epiphanies or revelations.

Anne encouraged us to feel that we were in a safe zone at the get-together, and that our “secrets” wouldn’t go beyond the circle of discussion. Then she prompted us with a few succinct and loaded questions: “What do you love about this age?” “What do you regret?” “What do you wish you’d been told?” (etc.) I bet you can imagine, much like our Five Crazy Things post, or any question that makes you examine your own (at the moment) truth, each of Anne’s questions could evoke a whole evening’s discussion in and of themselves, with as many viewpoints and life-experiences as there are individuals.

I’m sure Deb and I will springboard off some of the more compelling subjects we touched on here in the blog, subjects that will hopefully prompt all of us to more discussion, but I would also like to propose something else to you: would you consider—no matter what your age or sex—having such an evening (or lunch, as ours was, or coffee or tea...) specifically dedicated to broad analysis? Getting together with a few people that you think might be open to it, and asking some basic trigger questions? After all, and even despite the fear that can come with being open, “knowledge is power”. And the knowledge we are all most equipped to search out, the knowledge that increases our life quality and sense of empowerment, the knowledge that can lead to some inner peace (even for a brief moment), the ultimate knowledge that we are singularly equipped to absolutely accept, is, of course, self-knowledge.

Deb: It was wonderful, and the reason it most resonated with me is the fact that it always shocks me to learn that the people who seem the most together and most confident share my fears and concerns too. I likened the afternoon to an emotional/psychological clothing swap: you bring something to the table (in this case a piece of knowledge or a coping skill) and that piece is useful to someone else and, by the same token, you take away some gem of information that the other person brings that she may no longer need. I wish when I was going through menopause I had had the wherewithal to bring my friends together to talk and share. Doing otherwise sometimes made me feel alone and isolated. The same applies to any life bump I think. It’s nice to know that other people are feeling the same way you are. And it actually can help! Ultimately what the get-together left me feeling again is that women are fantastic! That was my best takeaway.

                                                                                                                              

38 comments:

  1. Sounds like that was a great get together. I think whenever women get together the topics get deeper and there is usually some soul searching that goes on due to a comment that resonates. I love your line Barb "the knowledge that leads to inner peace (even for a brief moment)" That is what we all strive for, and women seen to give each other a leg up whenever they can to help a friend reach a level of inner peace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are pretty good at this, aren't we, Jo? That said, we sometimes need the reminder to avidly, openly seek it out and make it happen!

      Delete
  2. I really love the idea of a get-together of women. Just to discuss the ups and downs of life and how to deal with it all (the best that we can deal with it, anyway). A safe haven to discuss without judgement and with support and love of friends. I think this is a wonderful idea. Truly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beautifully said, Steph. And it might not be easy to set up, but so many of us openly (or secretly) yearn for this haven/connection that I think it's worth going out on the limb.

      Delete
  3. YES YES YES!!!!!!!! OMG YES!!! Ohh I LOVVE this idea. Oh and Deb a big hug to you. I wish I had a TARDIS, then I could go back in time when you were going through your menopause and arrange a
    get-together like this!!

    Oh I would loove to have sucha gathering, Barb! And I say invite women of all ages. Not just midlife...everyone! Including toddlers like me (considering the fact that I'll be living for hundreds of years) I believe that gatherings like this help sooo much to release tension. I mean like I always say in any conversation the person with a strong emotional offering always dominates the conversation. So if you have a strong sense of understanding and just affection for the person who is going through stress. When you talk, your mere presence raise them up in ease and security. And that is something worth doing. And Well, everyone has some jewels of wisdom that we could use. And yes the spontaneity is another factor. And we should also include other aspects like the body language, the way we talk (sometimes interpreting emotions in my case) etc. That speaks more than words. And I sound sooo funny when I talk. You should hear me when I hesitate. I become Porky pig when I hesitate. SO MUCH FUN!! And it doesnt have to be problems... We should have gathering and ask questions like "Name ten things YOU LOVE about today","Happiest moments of your life","If I grant you a wish, what would you wish for and why?"...And.... we can watch cartoons and eat oreos. (Geez I am a toddler...I LOVE IT!)

    In fact If we could, we should have a blog session JUST for this. We'll talk and share. Like everyday! :P

    OHHHH!!!! And please please pleeease lets have a gathering like this when I get to Toronto. Pweease??? Pwetty pwease???? pweeeeease *makes puppy dog eyes*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When you get a TARDIS, come and get me!!! :)

      Delete
    2. You guys are hilarious/adorable! And I just want to confirm that ANY age-group can benefit from this kind of round table, not just mid-lifers!

      Delete
    3. Shalaka, I recently discovered the 8th Doctor. Oh be still my heart. :) His eyes and his voice are incredible. They've done a lot of audio play productions with the 8th Doctor and I just listened to my first one - a new one called "Dark Eyes". I love it because the companion's name is Molly and I get to hear the 8th Doctor say my name over and over in the story. LOVE IT!

      Delete
    4. Ohh yeah??? I didnt know that..I LOVE Paul McGann!!!! I havent seen him work,....but I LOVE HIM! Gotta watch it now! <3 haha Molly! Soo great that the companion's name's is Molly too. Ahh they should have someone name Shalaka soon. And have some Wonderfully Weird girl play the role... But IDK if I'll be available then ;)

      Delete
    5. If you like Paul McGann, you will love him in the Doctor Who movie. The movie itself is a little corny, but Paul is amazing (and really pretty) :) Yes, I've loved hearing him yell my name over and over in the audio play. Giggle, giggle.

      Delete
  4. I gather a lot with friends to just talk about our lives. Great idea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So know this about Madge! It's great.

      Delete
  5. That sounds like an awesome idea! It's great to be able to talk with people who might have different backgrounds but are going through the same things as you. Sometimes you don't realize how similar people's experiences are until you ask them! This is like an extension of the lunch with friends thing - getting together and discussing important issues in your life, just with more of a theme and an outline to the conversation.
    Sometimes it's nice to sit down with people who have completely different experiences in life, just so you can compare notes and see what intelligence you can glean from a totally different world view.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely! I think maybe the "key" is in the conscious -- either collective, or from one enterprising soul -- effort to ask evocative questions. Doesn't need to be formal, just introspection-friendly...

      Delete
  6. I'm glad you both really got something out of this. I'm not sure I would have gone. I take that back. I'd have gone if someone else I knew was going, too.

    I've been part of several group discussions about personal issues, but I would love to do it without being a patient! I spent a few days with a friend and I don't think we had many serious conversations. A small group would have at least ONE person who can come up with a bigger question than, "Oh my god! Did you hear that Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez broke up?" (That isn't something I'D ever bring up. I'm just using an example of a less important, more shallow conversation.)

    Barb, I think we edit conversation when responding here because we don't want anyone to take something the wrong way. Live conversation is much easier, when we can actually HEAR the inflections of voice, see the speaker's face, and know what is meant by what is being said.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it would be interesting to experience the circle w/o the patient aspect. Then the whole thing is more casual and less "important", if you know what I mean -- there's maybe no "desired result" from it, just the freedom and stimulation to discuss. About the editing -- I so know what you mean! That said, when I write a blog, I don't think about that so much anymore (maybe I've gotten into a rhythm of sorts...), as much as I evaluate and reevaluate "did I mean that, does that covey what I mean, oh no, I've changed my mind on that!" etc etc. As opposed to conversation where it can go wherever it wants/needs to in the moment.

      Delete
    2. It would feel a lot freer to not have a SPECIFIC subject to discuss, and to be allowed to let loose or go off-topic to wherever it goes. It's freedom of speech in a whole new light.

      Delete
  7. I have done this and it is SUPER COOL! I connect much more quickly with people in these kinds of groups, too, because I am shy and a dork with small talk. It's like having that conversation piece on the coffee table only it's better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That brings up such a great point too! So many of us balk at small talk, and yet when gently guided we somehow have more access to our truth/intelligence.

      Delete
  8. This made me cry. Since we moved, almost a year ago, I've not made any friends. I know a number of ladies who are very nice and we've had several families over to our home for dinner, but the friendship doesn't go beyond that. Most of the time, I'm OK with this. I don't need people around me and I'm quite happy on my own, but ohh, there are days I miss having girlfriends around. I miss having someone to talk to, someone to hug and to hug me. I want a friend to laugh, cry, talk, listen, be perfectly at ease and completely candid with. But I'm afraid. I'm afraid we'll move again and I'll just have to say goodbye. I'm afraid that no one will be willing to look beyond my overweight body and see the real me. A group of frineds who can get together and talk - that's truly something to be thankful for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First of all. I know how you feel. And.. Youve got loads of virtual friends... :)

      And...I have Skype. Just in case you feel like chatting! :D

      *big-hug*

      P.S. in case your wondering what we'll talk about. We're whovians... we;ll figure something out ;)

      Delete
    2. Shalaka said it all! But I'm still going to say more. Here's my unsolicited advice: I think you'd be surprised how many women secretly yearn for this kind of connection and maybe avoid it because they don't have any experience with it. Maybe it might be interesting to set up a coffee klatsch with the express purpose of posing broad, imaginative questions (you may not even have to set it up to be this, just playfully fall into it). Maybe you will make deeper connections. And maybe you will move again and it will hurt to leave them. Maybe it's worth it. Maybe just for you, it's worth it. And FOR SURE, ABSOLUTELY FOR SURE, no one cares about or can't get past your overweight body. When it comes to body image, we are all in our own heads-slash-bodies and rarely notice what's going on in someone else's. Remember, studies have proven that people who are rated most attractive by men and women don't usually have the "best, most perfect" features, but are the ones with confidence. The ones who are what they are. (and as a side-note, for our circle, while some of us knew each other and some of us ARE close friends, this was NOT a group made up entirely of intimate friends. Some of us were meeting for the first time.)

      Delete
    3. Barb explained it soo nicely! Its all about accepting ourselves and accepting where we are. That really helped my transition.

      Delete
  9. In a way I sort of think I can apply this to college. Like being put in am apartment with 3 girls I never met before. We have talked before when we all get bored and we ask each other for an opinion. Except mine lasts 6 months not 2 hours! I do understand how talking to people your own age about things you never would have brought up outside of this room with them is somehow freeing and usually helpful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally think this applies to people of your (and any) age! In fact, it would be a great way to get to know strangers you're forced to live with for long periods of time, like college roommates. (That said, don't be surprised if you hear things you don't agree with. Part of what makes the circle safe is that everyone is open and just ... curious...)

      Delete
    2. Ive got that situation too next year. But in my case..good thing is my best friend will join me in 3 months.. So I will have to live with strangers until then. It will be FUN! OHHH LOVE NEW PEOPLE ME!!

      Delete
  10. I think this is the real basis of my monthly girls night out. Our dinner which usually heads into three hour territory is about anything and everything the food doesn't really matter. We've yet to hit on a topic which is off limits or taboo and it is wonderful. The group of women I get together with is a very open-minded and sharing our experiences, knowledge and life's troubles makes each of us all feel a little less alone when life gets us down in the dumps. It's by far the best thing I and I think all the other wonmen in our group do for ourselves.

    In other news I'm back from Florida and it was FANTASTIC. We had an amazing time the only low point was flying back home and straight into 2 feet of snow! Best family vacation ever, I think Disney really is the most magical place in the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahhhh, I love the regularity of your get-togethers! So inspiring.

      And I echo your Disney World sentiments -- we promised our kids one trip when they were 9 and 12 and we were soooo not looking forward to it. Then we went and had one of our most fun holidays. We truly did feel like kids for those 4 days. Glad you guys had such a great time. 2 feet of snow? Not so much...

      Delete
  11. Oh, that sounds great. I have a couple girlfriends I get together with regularly, but we are really different ages. The retreat I went to that I refer to today though, was a little more like this, though more structured, I think. I'd love the freeform component.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Real girls nights out with no structure are the best. But every now and then, it's fascinating to add a little something evocative to the mix, for some added fun/insight/magic.

      Delete
  12. It does sound like u all had a great talk with each other. I love the sound of being open with one another. Thats the great thing about this blog, its so open, and out there which is great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lyndsie, it's what we love about it too! It is the one place we can regularly noodle on things.

      Delete
  13. I completely agree that the bonding, shared common experiences and connection with other women and what they face in their lives is transformative. It is what book club, mom's groups, neighbourhood get-togethers and the like are all about. They fuel me, console me, sooth me, inspire me. Thank goodness for great communities. Thank you Barb and Deb for your continues generation of conversation. It is a beautiful thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! And I do think that's why so many of us belong to or begin book clubs, etc. A commenter on Deb's FB post of this link said they thought these get togethers replaced the old quilting bees and sitting circles that we tended towards. If we don't have a safe circle, we need to create one (or just endlessly miss it).

      Delete
  14. Women really are fantastic. I totally agree.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.