I thought about standing up and excusing myself from the meeting on the pretext of going to the restroom and not coming back, skipping out to the shopping mall across the highway for some retail therapy instead.
But, I stayed.
And soon enough the meeting got underway, so I was more or less compelled to remain (but I kept an eye peeled on the closed door across the room from where I sat to remind myself that it was there ‘just in case’ I wanted to fling it open and flee).
The meeting was led by a woman who introduced herself as a social worker and the founder of an “eldercare” management services company with a long history working in social services. I was impressed, with her credentials and by her calm, professional yet warm demeanor.
She told us (though clearly most of the women in the room were already familiar with the ‘rules’ so she was obviously speaking to the few of us that were ‘newbies’) that her function was to facilitate, answer any questions we might have but we shouldn’t be surprised that what we shared with each other was probably going to be more helpful than anything she might say.
She stressed that we should feel free to say whatever we needed to, that there was no judgment and that this was a safe place, we were reminded that anonymity was more or practiced and not to gossip about what we’d heard or “out” people if you saw them in public (it all sounded very much in the tradition of 12 steps meetings that have a saying, “What you hear here, stays here”).
The facilitator gave me the impression of someone who’s heard and seen it all, so whatever any of us could say would not be new to her.
She then outlined the structure and guidelines for the meeting so we’d know what to expect for the next hour and half before having each of us tell the group our names (first names mostly but for some reason when it was my turn I gave my surname as well, as if I were being interviewed for a job or something), we were also asked to state the relationship to the loved one we were caring for and their diagnosis.
I found her to be professional, yet personable enough so that someone like me, wound up tighter than a clock, could relax (a bit) and start to trust the process and the new people that surrounded me.
Sure enough, soon enough, I found myself more at ease; my flight instinct all but gone and my judgmental bullshit evaporating like the ‘hot air’ that it was.