Adventures in Healing- The first round
I'm busy typing up stories from my first round of visits, putting together more kits, and making plans for additional rounds of visits. However, I wanted to take a moment to share some of the special experiences I had already:
It starts with the planning of the trip, and logistics. My mind had been swirling with all the possibilities. Fifty different women, scattered across the U.S. That's a lot of traveling time and expense. I needed to be reasonable as well as efficient. I also wanted them to not feel rushed or like they were just a box to check off. While I am writing a book from all of this, it's not that end game that it's about. It's about the individual experience with each as well as the overall experience. I had just made the first steps in a committed movement forward with the project, setting up the GoFundMe page, so my mind was swirling. This was really going to happen. I had a donation almost immediately. I couldn't let these people down. My husband and I went to the temple (a place of refuge, quiet, peace, and inspiration in our religion). I was trying to just be present, but having a hard time quieting my thoughts. They were just all over the place. I said a silent prayer for help just being in the moment and feeling the peace that I needed to fill my cup. As I did I had the clear thought come to me: "Fly to Montana". I hadn't been considering that in my various routing options, so I made a mental note to look into that when I got home. I worked myself up as I tried to work out the details, find the cheapest options etc, when I got back home. Finally, I recognized that the "fly to Montana" was not just an idea for an option. No sooner had I acknowledged it as inspiration, with the feeling that if I would just do that then everything else would fall into place, then everything just felt right again. I booked that flight and another donation came in. I made travel arrangements based upon that, and things really did fall into place. I panicked at the cost of this. However, as I made the last of the necessary reservations, I got a ping on my phone. It was another donation. I looked at the total at that point. It was exactly the amount that I needed to cover the trip. It wasn't a standard amount either.
As I began my journey, and was visiting with the woman in Montana, I felt impressed to share this experience with her. I hadn't planned to, because I didn't want her to feel weird or self-conscious. I have my own issues with 'feeling special.' However, as I did her eyes welled up with tears. She asked me what day that happened on. I'd taken a photo that day so I was able to pull up the exact date. The day I was told to fly to her, was the day that she had asked her husband to stay elsewhere. He'd relapsed yet again, and after six years of this it was the first she had held that kind of boundary. I know how hard that is. How guilty you can feel as though you are the one breaking up your family, even if you're only asking for a period of a week of separation. I knew, then, that God needed her to see that He saw her and supported her. He needed me to show up for her and give her that message. It was a blessing to me, too, because I felt that even if nothing else in the trip went well, it was worth it for her to have that experience. As I shared this with my husband that evening, he pointed out to me what a blessing that experience was for me as well. It was evidence of God's hand and support in what I was doing, as well as my ability to receive and act on inspiration.
While I was in Montana, I received notification of a couple other women to visit along my path. One was in the Portland area and would require some rerouting. However, I had felt that I should add some extra time to the end of my trip, to allow for some flexibility for just this sort of thing. It was fine. Plus, I'd had the feeling I should bring a few extra kits 'just in case'. No big deal. The other person was along the route I had planned for the next day anyway. In fact, I'd already sort of planned on her.
When I first threw this idea out there, in a private group for wives of addicts, the response was massive and immediate. However, I know that throwing support behind an idea and having it be an actual reality are two different things. As such, I created a form that I asked the interested women to fill out as demonstration of their commitment (and also to help me keep track of anonymity requests as well as addresses/contact info). Like several, Holly had expressed an initial interest, but had not filled out that form. Knowing things get lost in the comments on Facebook threads, I took a moment to individually message each woman that I hadn't heard back from. I didn't want to pester them, but I also wanted to be sure that they didn't feel left out because they had missed a message. That was all I sent to each. Except Holly. I had the feeling I should just send her one last message to let her know exactly what my travel plans would be and when I would be driving past her. I grabbed a kit for her, 'just in case'. I heard from Holly the day before I would be driving past her. She'd missed the earlier message and she really wanted to share her story with me. In fact, she wanted so much to share, that she was willing to be really flexible and meet me for dinner- even when dinner wound up being at 8pm as I took longer on my drive than anticipated. As I met with Holly, and we discussed her feelings about some of her experiences, I was able to share a part of my own experience in answer to a long-held question of hers. It was something that troubled her and I was able to speak peace to her, tell her something she needed to hear. I knew that was why I had needed to meet with her. What I didn't know, was that in sharing her photo later (because she had given that permission), another woman I know would recognize her as an old friend. That woman would need to see that, to know that Holly was someone she could turn to, as her own world had just recently been shattered by her husband's choices.
I had a few other experiences where I would be visiting with a woman and would say something to which she would reply "I hadn't thought of it that way" or "I needed to hear that. Thank you."
As I was hanging out with a couple of other women, who I had previously met and was going to record their stories the following day, a third woman's name came up. I mentioned that I was afraid this woman would feel sad about me being in town and not seeing her, but that I hadn't ever heard anything from her about wanting to participate in the project. Immediately, one of the women texted her about our plans and offered for her to join us. She did and she likely felt more comfortable because of her relationship with the other two, as well as the setting in which we visited. I was able to give her an emotional first aid kit, something that I was surprised she did not have yet as I knew it would have particular value for her. I was happy that I could facilitate that starting point for her, and thrilled to see her later posting about using it and holding to some boundaries as a result of our conversation. Her sharing about the emotional first aid kit, I feel, led to other women learning more and committing to that self care in their lives.
I mentioned that I had to reroute some plans due to hearing from the person in Portland. Well, there were two women who lived about 45 minutes from each other, who had both said they were open to sharing in a group setting (something that I asked to be able to fit more in in a given area as well as facilitate introducing new support people to each other). I'd been struggling with how to arrange those two visits, which person to stay with, etc. One woman had a very busy schedule and the other I hadn't actually talked with yet. One lived along the highway to Seattle. The other lived along the highway to Portland. When I'd heard from the person in Portland, I made my decision accordingly and chose to stay with the woman along that route. Nothing had been feeling right about that scenario until I made that decision. Still, I needed to figure out how to meet up with the other woman amidst her busy scenario. The two women didn't know each other and I felt that they needed to. It wasn't until I arrived at the one woman's house and was visiting with her that the right scenario finally came up. Eleven o'clock at night I texted the other lady to see if it would work, and it would. That finally felt right. So the next day Oregon lady and I drove together for the 45 minute drive to see Washington lady at her home. She told me some of her story on the drive. As we sat together and heard the story of the Washington lady, it was quickly apparent why they needed to meet. Their stories were so very similar, and both dealing with potentially dangerous men. They had resources and information to share with one another, and also needed the unique support of a woman relatively close by who could understand the complexities of dealing with a narcissist. My previous plans had not involved actually getting the two of them together. It hadn't felt great, but also felt the best and most reasonable scenario. Because of the change in plans with the Portland woman, this meeting came about and felt right. I later received a message thanking me for introducing them to each other. Not that I had known either previously. I had simply served as a conduit for that to happen.
I mention all of this because I didn't end up meeting with the woman in Portland. I was on my way there, stopping to see some beautiful waterfalls along the way, when she contacted me to let me know she'd come down with a fever and wasn't feeling well. I had friend, who lived outside of Portland, that I've not seen for ten years. I'd already contacted her and asked to stay with her because I knew she'd be happy to get even a few hours to see each other, and this would be the best way to make that happen. I told the woman in Portland not to worry about it, but that I would stay at my friend's house and she could let me know how she was feeling in the morning. At this point, I only had one more person who I was for sure meeting with in Seattle, and I had a couple of days before I would fly out from there. The visit with Sariah, the stopping to see these waterfalls I've longed to see for years, were like a little gift for me. A reward for my hard work and efforts. Holding space takes an emotional toll after a time. Driving thousands of miles, getting little sleep, takes a physical toll eventually as well. I'd been doing fine, by the grace of God (even my dislocated tailbone wasn't hurting at all), so I didn't realize just how much I needed that little break. It was good for me.
The next morning I waited for a bit to hear from the woman in Portland. I wasn't sure if she would be feeling better and I knew that she'd had a busy day scheduled as it was. That's why we had planned to get together the previous day. Sariah had to be somewhere, and I wasn't sure whether it would be worthwhile to backtrack toward Portland while waiting. So I sent a text to another friend who had recently moved from Las Vegas to the Portland area. As luck would have it, she happened to be driving between Seattle and Portland and was only a half an hour from me. We got together for coffee and hot chocolate, where I was able to listen to some of her hard things she was working through, as well as tell her how much influence she'd had in my decision to do this thing that I was doing. See, when my husband was laid off, she sent me a message that said "I'm so sorry about Billy. I can only hope it means you get to DO YOU now." I knew precisely what she meant by that message, and it came to me frequently. It was the push I needed to have the confidence to follow through with this project. I thanked her for that, and I could tell that it meant something to her. I never did end up meeting with that woman near Portland (though I do feel like I'll be back). It just didn't work out. She felt terrible, but I was able to share with her some of these experiences that happened because of my plan to visit with her. I was able to share how it had become evident that God has a way of working things out. And guess what.... that's what she needed to hear.
As a result of taking this route, I also got to visit Mt. St. Helens, where I felt a lot of special impressions in the analogies of this path of trauma and rebirth that we take. Those will sit with me for a while.
In the end I wound up visiting with three more people in the Seattle area. More than I initially planned on, so the emotionally rejuvenation beforehand was good. What's more, I wound up handing out the exact amount of emotional first aid kits that I had taken with me.