“I don’t have time for this,” I think as the women trickle in one by one. By the time we start we number about a dozen. I’m waiting for breakfast and I’m skeptical we can accomplish anything with such a large group.
I’ve driven 30 minutes to a women’s mastermind meeting at a random Perkin’s. It’s not like I’m going to just turn around and go home. I take a deep breath and tell myself to be positive, to stay open. I think of one of my favorite occupational therapy professors who was known for saying there was something to learn from every single experience if you look for it.
I’m about halfway through my first cup of coffee when I realize I don’t have to look that hard.
I find myself nodding when the other women speak honestly about their fear, their overwhelm, and their hope that this year will be different. I want to jump up from my green vinyl covered chair and hug the other moms who talk about the ever-present battle between being present with our children and needing to send that email/hit publish on that blog post/submit that invoice.
The older women among us fight about who is oldest (a 72-year-old wins that argument) and tell us what they wish they could tell their younger selves: Our kids won’t be young forever. On our deathbeds, we will not wish we’d been more productive at work. One woman chokes back tears describing the setbacks she experienced last year—setbacks so frequent and crushing I’m having a hard time keeping it together just listening to her.
We offer each other suggestions, ideas, and stories about what has worked for us. We suggest our favorite books, websites, and apps. We listen to one another. I can’t speak for the other women but I feel seen. We get out our phones and add our next meeting to our calendars.
I could have stayed home on that snowy morning. The roads were treacherous on the drive home. I could have spent my precious free time alone with an hour to write, an hour to work out, and another hour to spend one of my many Facebook writer groups. In any one of those groups, I could have found dozens of threads where women described their goals, their insecurities, their word for the year. I could have gotten advice or support. I could have just lurked, feeling reassured to see I wasn’t the only one worried about doing things “right”, that I wasn’t the only person doubting my abilities or my big goals.
But there’s no amount of likes, hearts, or comments that can replace one person making eye contact and nodding.
In her TED talk on shame, Brene Brown says the most powerful words we can hear when we’re struggling are “Me too.” It was worth the snowy drive and the mediocre coffee just to hear those words, to feel seen.
My problems haven’t disappeared. My questions haven’t all been answered. I still feel like I’m forging a path through a thick jungle using only a machete. But I know that somewhere nearby, even if I can’t see or hear them all the time, there are a dozen other women doing the same thing. This knowledge simultaneously gives me the energy of four espressos and the confidence of three glasses of wine.
As I’m leaving Perkins, I buy a few cookies for Dan and the kids. I’m not intending to eat one until later but the oatmeal cranberry cookie is warm and I’m starving. I step out into the parking lot where cold, wet snowflakes soak my face and I take a bite of my cookie. It’s sweet, slightly tart, soft, and chewy. It’s exactly what I needed.