Many years ago, before I was part of the circle, I was seeing Marie for weekly talks. I was going through some difficult times spiritually. She kept at me to join the women’s circle, thinking that it would ease my sense of isolation and feed my spiritual hunger. I was stubborn in my refusal. But she kept pushing. I was so afraid of other people, feeling that the traumas that I had gone through in my life made me unfit and unwelcome company for others. I “didn’t play well with others”, which is how my husband put it. But I finally started with the group shortly after it began, and it was uncomfortable at first. I was uneasy with the other people and frustrated that they didn’t open up and say personal things about themselves. There was a line they did not cross. I was always more likely to cross that line than others, given my history of recovery from mental illness, suicidality and alcoholism. I had more experience speaking about personal things in public. So I tried opening up and felt awkward about it for what seemed to be a long time. Then I noticed that Janet and Marylou said things about their personal lives- both of them were experiencing problems they needed to share. And little by little others opened up, until finally it became a safe place for everybody to speak from the heart. I noticed, during this transition, that people listened to what I had to say, and I started to feel confident in speaking, and more and more comfortable in the group. Although I still think somewhere inside me is that sense that “I don’t play well with others”, I also know that this is not really the case. The group has healed me. The group has come to make me feel I belong to it, that I have a place there, and I will be heard if I speak. This is nothing short of miraculous for me. And turning stones into fishes, some of the group members came to my physical aid when I was laid up after surgeries, bringing food and company to me at home when I was unable to take care of myself. I still can’t believe they did that for me. The group will always be a special place, a loving organism that made us all feel at home. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t always graceful, and it didn’t happen overnight. But it happened. And I would miss it sorely if it were not a continuing part of my life.
~ Mary Esther