Friday, March 29, 2013

Women in Same Circumstances Yet Different

Meeting other women members here at Haven for Hope has really been a surprising joy for me.  I thought I'd come here and keep my head tucked in and be to myself most of the time.  Fortunately, that is not the case here when you are constantly living with more than 200 other women in close quarters.  You can't help but form relationships.  You still need good boundaries but I'm finding good women friends here.

(just a random picture because of confidentiality, but it looks just like the reading room at Haven for Hope) 
When I first came on campus and was settling into my bunk and locker, I just tucked my head and wanted to be left alone.  I got my things halfway in order in my locker and bin under my bunk, made my bed, and fell into it.  I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. It was Friday afternoon, so nothing was planned for the weekend.  I covered my head and slept to my heart's content.  The lights are left on at night on my side of the dorm, so I literally had to cover my head for darkness.  It felt safe and good to have a little space where I belonged for the time being.  "If I can rest up enough to muster up the strength to carry on, I will be okay," I thought. After being here about a month now, I notice this is a pattern for the women that come here.  They seem to fall into their beds for healing sleep for a time before settling more fully into the dorm.

Many of the women I meet have gone through very similar circumstances as I have.  They are somewhat older and their children are grown, and we find ourselves alone as single older women. Circumstances begin to unfold in our lives where we begin to feel somewhat frazzled and overwhelmed.  Some of us begin to live with family members for comfort, or we become caretakers of our parents or other relatives and move in with them. We count on this lasting for awhile and suddenly something comes up that causes us to have to move out, and we find ourselves homeless and with no resources.  I know there are many reasons for women being homeless.  Another is addiction to drugs or alcohol and women are assigned by a judge in court to go to the addiction recovery side of Haven for Hope. Once the women significantly recover, they can move into the member side of Haven for Hope and continue with a total transformative experience in their lives.  I began my journey on the member's side and met many of the brave and determined women that came through the recovery program and now bunk on the member's side.  It is very diverse here and so nice to be part of the diversity.... diversity of cultures, race, sexual preference, varied diagnoses, various walks of life ... yet we are all women and have a feeling of camaraderie and support for each other as we blend and heal together in this small community.

We have fun here as well.  I'm learning to ride the bus for transportation.  We all plan to head to a $1 movie next Thursday by way of the Via bus.  Some nights we sit out in the women's courtyard that is very comfortable and nicely landscaped.  There are table with umbrellas and picnic tables and benches sitting around a spacious patio area.  One of the ladies plays her guitar and sings very well.  We've listened to her rendition of Sarah Mclachlan, Beyonce, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, Garth Brooks, John Lennon, and more.  She is a very talented song writer and vocalist/guitar player.  She sings her original songs to us as well and they are really very good.  All the women in the courtyard will clap for some songs and mostly they are for her original songs.

We sit and chat together in the cafeteria breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they have movies for us to attend in the chapel on most Friday evenings, long workshops to attend on Saturdays, shorter workshops to attend during the week.  We bunk so close together that we see each other in the middle of the night as we wake to go to the restroom, or in the morning when we first wake up.  We can just look at our bunk mates on each side of us and smile at them as they are still in their bed.  We hear each others noises as we get in our lockers and we put up with it because they put up with our noises.  I do use ear plugs at night, though, and a sleeping mask to darken the room.  I don't think I would sleep well without those aides.  Many do, but not me! In fact I wear my ear plugs a lot just so I don't hear every little conversation and noise that goes on.  Many have learned to nudge me when they are trying to say something to me because they know I have my ear plugs in.  It is my saving grace to have enough silence in my life.

Every Monday evening Starbuck's serves the women coffee and pastries.  It is a real treat to get really good pastries. Some of the workshops provide food and drinks too.  The best refreshments so far is from the ladies from a local church who came and presented an Art and Meditation workshop.  They had several trays of homemade cookies, brownies, and fruit.  Also, Aveda the manufacturer and distributor of hair products, a subsidiary of Estee Lauder, brought submarine sandwiches and gave us all very nice t-shirts.  It may sound like I'm talking about food a lot but it is really a treat.  The cafeteria serves a very basic meal and very small amounts so we are still hungry much of the time. I'm not sure why the cafeteria is so modest in it servings and quality of food...but that is a subject for another time.

I guess what I'm trying to express is that there is comfort and friendship here which is an unexpected pleasant surprise for me.  I miss the women when I'm gone or they are gone.  Just the mere closeness of everyone causes the relationships to blossom and it is nice to have friends.  It is easier at Haven for Hope for me to make friends than when I was at work or attending church.  At work and church it was more convenient for everyone to go their own way when the day is done or the church service is over.  When I felt the need for a friend, it was hard for me to express it.  I wanted balance between being friends and having time to myself.  I just didn't put myself out there to be a friend, and I felt that others did the same.  Or, I met someone who wanted all my time and attention and I just couldn't fulfill that role for them.  Anyway, we all in here together and that makes it more convenient to be together as friends.  The women I've met here at Haven for Hope understand that I need my alone time and eventhough we are in such close quarters, I can still manage to find a silent sanctuary for myself. Many times when we are together watching something on tv, we don't even talk much.  It's like an intuitive knowing that we don't have much privacy and when we sense that someone needs privacy....we give it to them the best way we can in this setting because we recognize their need for time alone to heal and grow.

I appreciate the women I've come to know who have helped me tremendously in so many ways.  I hope as I listen to their journey that I've have been a source of comfort and encouragement to them as well.

Of course there is a down-side to this setting at times, but I don't want to bring that into this story of love, friendship and comfort.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Havenista Hope

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