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Somewhere in the Middle

Usually talk is about people leaving or who used to be around. Have you ever had people return, even temporarily? I definitely have. Lately, it seems like a particular group is resurfacing, as opposed to a specific person. I met the people through a group called “Full Circle.” At the time, Full Circle hosted an event called “Coping with Divorce.” The event was designed to help people going through the loss of a long term relationship. Usually, that meant divorce. It could also be death of a partner or a break-up without having been married.

Not only is it interesting that I have been running into “Full Circle” friends, I also have friends who have or are ending long term relationships. Their actions and reactions have made me reflective on my personal experience.

One of the best things about seeing Full Circle friends is that there is almost always a hug. For the ones who really have been friends and not just people who may have been at a common activity, that hug is something I have missed. In fact, I saw several of these friends at Art Hop last Friday. Art Hop is a monthly event that I don’t tend to go to as much cause I would rather go with friends. Sometimes, though, like the June event, there’s something special. In this case, I wanted to hear a band. As I walked Downtown to take care of an errand at the beginning of Art Hop, I passed someone I knew and circled back after the errand and I am sooo glad I did! Later, I followed the band to where they played next, and ran into more friends from the same Full Circle group.

Reflection #1

The highlight was seeing the couple waiting for the band. They have been a couple for as long as I’ve known them, which is nearly 10 years. The thing about long term relationships ending is that it makes it tough to feel confident about marriage, even if you’re ok with the relationship part. This couple decided to take that chance after being together for 11 years. I’ve seen that with others, too. Another couple who had been together the whole time I’d known them are now married. Someone else who went through divorce the same time I did (nearly 10 years ago) and began to date immediately, also wed this year. I don’t know details on that one since information came from Facebook postings only.

Reflection #2

The trend seems to be immediate dating or at least “hook-ups,” or leaning on a friend who becomes “more.” For dating, it may not be called that, either. It’s a chance to meet people in person or (usually) online, still with that same end goal. I’ve seen it before and I see it now, over and over and over again. From what I have observed, if either party is still hung up on any past relationship(s), then there are probably more hook-ups or short term relationships than anything. Kind of like the long term “maybe marriage” some day, there isn’t a lot of trust or confidence, even when totally into the partner.

Reflection #3

What I’ve realized from all of this is that how I talk about my marriage or ex-husband has changed. It’s more like facts – where we lived or what we did. It used to be more emotional and now it is just something that happened during a particular set of years. I am more focused and interested on who and what is happening now versus 10 to 20 years ago.

Overall, although I did (and do) like meeting people and making friends, I haven’t felt the need to go on dating sites or “hook-up” just because. However, I do miss friends and having closer ones to “lean on.” Maybe when someone else realizes the same thing and we’re within the same circle of people, I’ll have a new story to talk about. That seems to put me somewhere in the middle – I’m not actively looking for partners and when I do come across those who I view as potentials, I’m not against the idea.

What are your thoughts?

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The Price of Being Social

wpid-20150816_175745.jpgIf you knew you could live a longer and happier life just because of a social network, would you make the extra effort? It has been shown scientifically that having social contacts means someone who is ill is more likely to survive than someone who does not have any social contacts. With that type of evidence, doesn’t it make sense to make that effort?

Unfortunately, we tend to get wrapped up with work or family or being by ourselves and we stick to that. They are good starts and definitely important and not the complete answer.

wpid-20150818_174910.jpgI first noticed this need being expressed when going through a divorce. In my case, I was lucky enough to have double options, since I had already been a part of the Kalamazoo Jaycees for a year. The Jaycees were my outlet for connections to some event or project or just a communication nearly everyday.

The thing about going through divorce (and maybe even being ill), is that there is a feeling of being a burden to those
who are not experiencing or have not gone through the same thing. The second option in my case was going through a seminar about coping with divorce that was run by the Full Circle Community. The people involved in the community were familiar with loss of a long term relationship and the resulting feelings and events, such as grief, guilt and court. The burden could be shared because nothing was unique to any of us (no matter what people thought).

wpid-20150823_210132.jpgThe reason I mention divorce, besides that it is a personal example, is because that loss divides friends. Or you realize the size of your circle of friends. Many of the people I met had friends based on the spouse’s circle (such as work friends), or based on the fact of being a couple. In other words, if you are not a part of a pair or are not connected to a particular person, then you don’t fit into that circle of friends.

Some couples do not spend time with anyone else, which is even a faster change. All of a sudden, you may or do not have anyone, and that can be lonely. The loneliness also means a higher risk of depression and other psychological disorders, which can lead to many other issues that are far greater than the original loss from the relationship. The price of being social is so small, in comparison.

wpid-20150818_202657.jpgWhile it is great that there are communities revolving around divorce and other challenges of life (Alcoholics Anonymous is a great social example), I find that interacting with friends daily, even just a little bit, is uplifting. Social media and texting can be helpful when there are no other choices. Face to face, though, seems to be the best. Face to face is the chance to fully engage with who is in front of you, not which alert is coming through the phone or computer. Face to face seems to show a greater level of support and caring. Caring about the people in your circle may even lead to (gulp!) caring about the  community-at-large.

Thanks to: friends from the Chili Peppers, friends in Hackergals, a former (now retired) professor, and a friend met through her sibling for being a part of the photos.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks!

Stacy

Double Time

Walking

Has your mind ever been too awake to let your body return to sleep? I went to bed somewhat early in the hope of catching up on much needed rest. It’s been an extremely busy couple of weeks, and extra sleep seemed like a good idea. Instead, I woke up around two or three hours later, and the result is slightly less clutter in my house and this blog post you are now reading. For those of you waiting to find out the rest of the It’s Not Softball story, you are in luck!

Some of the story actually begins with graduation and the Transitions of refocusing what I considered important to move me forward. This is explained more in the Detangler post, as far as some of the groups of people I have been around and the types of events I have been attending. In the middle of the summer, it lead me to an idea that, with the help of others, is leading me towards potentially having my own business.  And yes, I’ll explain more after I finish the story…

Paulie

Meanwhile, I hit a bump in the road that I wrote about in Even Rock Stars Need to Rest. One result of that was if I wanted health insurance outside of school, I would have to wait until pre-existing conditions would not matter as part of the application. In other words, I needed to continue with what I already had at a higher non-student rate, or be uninsured, and I was not going to be uninsured.

A group gathered at the event.

A new hangout during the summer was Starting Gate, as far as attending events and supporting friends. It is a student business accelerator and added to the inspiration for my particular business idea. The more I thought about it, the more I really wanted to be in it. At that point, I was not going to be eligible for the Fall semester because I had graduated in the Spring. If anything, I could have been a part of the Summer cohort, except that my idea hadn’t even existed yet. No deal there, darn it!

2013-09-07 17.43.47

During the summer I also realized that everything seems to return to writing for me, and I wanted to have to write more often than I already do. With that thought, and some ideas for particular types of writing that would be more practical in my career goal, I looked into what programs were being offered, and really liked the Rhetoric and Writing Studies area of the English department. An adviser pointed out that the classes would be a good way to modernize writing skills that were obtained initially as part of being in a Journalism minor.

WMU

Where is all of this finally leading? After an encouraging conversation that maybe returning to school after “just” getting out was not something to dismiss, I applied. It took longer to get through because the new minor puts me in readmission, not a new admission, as a non-degree seeking student. Regardless, I was able to be accepted and am taking two classes.

This also meant I was eligible for student insurance to continue at the student rate. Check!

Equally important, being a student made me eligible to apply for Starting Gate, which I did, and that brings me back to It’s Not Softball. The day of Pitch Zoo I was asked if I wanted to practice my pitch for the business idea I had written about in the application for Starting Gate, especially since two of the four decision makers would be present. I agreed to add pitching on top of being emcee, and used the two mile walk home from class to try to figure out what to say. I had discussed the idea with a group once before, besides many individual conversations. This was different since it had to be explained succinctly within three minutes. I was definitely more nervous about the content than actually being up in front of people.

Bronco Bash 2013

The result of all of this? I have possible my most challenging semester or year of college yet as I not only am busy with classes, I have officially been accepted as a member of the Fall 2013 Starting Gate cohort for my business that, right now, I am calling “Women’s Center of Kalamazoo.” Yes, I am going to make you wait, again, to read more about this business. It is an adventure in itself, however it turns out, and it deserves undivided attention as I incubate and innovate at an accelerated rate with the rest of the cohort.

Thank you for reading (and commenting)! If you “like,” please do.

Happy Birthday Gratitude

It’s hard to believe that the start of the next month is also the start of my next year. This isn’t meant as a means for getting extra birthday wishes, although I appreciate that, too! Instead, it is a reflection of how important the celebrations are and have become to me.

The decade birthdays can be a big thing. I was married when I turned 30 and 40. Some of my friends, for various reasons, specifically had parties acknowledging the decade. My ex-husband didn’t think it was worthwhile. To him, at least for my birthdays, it was just a number. (If I didn’t celebrate his, though, he got mad). It was shortly after I turned 40 that I filed for divorce, and during that year that I decided I wanted a birthday party. Plus, since my divorce was final while still 40, it was going to be a “birthday and liberation” party. The other point I decided was that celebrations could be more than one day! I even created a book after everything called “With a Little Help from my Friends.” Here was the beginning:

My birthday was on a Thursday, and, at the time, I was volunteering at the Full Circle seminar Coping with Divorce, which was the first chance to see friends and celebrate.

One of my favorite local events is Art Hop. I usually go with my friends I know from the Kalamazoo Jaycees. However, the fun part is how many OTHERS I run into. Sometimes that is a pretty high number. That particular night I had a birthday serenade, mingled with mimes, and danced to Elvis, all while hanging out with friends.

The final night was my actual “liberation and birthday” party that my friends let me have at their house. Of course, there was a cake, and I was able to see a different mix of people, with some overlap from the previous two nights.

I am forever grateful for all my friends who were involved and celebrated with me that year.

The next year, my birthday was on a Friday, and also Art Hop night. Going out to eat after Art Hop, which was typical, became my main birthday celebration. Thanks to all those who made it a special night, especially the two pictured with me. The day after my birthday I  participated in the WMU Classic 5k (as a walker) and attended a pancake breakfast. At the breakfast, I happened to win a football autographed by Greg Jennings. Woo, hoo!

The third year of doing this, which was last year (2011) it was back to the party format. If you have been following along on the stories, then you know that karaoke was a big part of my life, and, specifically, I was hanging out at a particular place. When my friend, who was working there at the time, told me there was going to be THREE days of karaoke, I knew where I was having my birthday party on that Saturday night. I had a cake, and, more importantly, not only did many friends come to celebrate with me, including Shari, who traveled across the state, I had my “regular” friends I had met there.

It’s hard to believe an entire year has gone by. I am super thankful for all the friends who came out and the ones there who helped set it up. They all made it a fantastic weekend.

I am also thankful to everyone who acknowledged me for my birthday, even if they were not a part of the specific celebrations. Thank you for taking the time to think of me on my birthday!

I’m sure my ex-husband would brush off this next birthday, too. I was always going to be younger than him and my age “just a number.” This is the first one where the “number” is starting to seem significant as I head into mid-40’s. It doesn’t matter how old I look since I know the truth. Still, given that, I am always excited to celebrate. The next story of my birthday celebrations has already begun, and I thank you for reading this and, if you are one of the people celebrating with me, I appreciate you!

With much gratitude,

Stacy

It started with Housework

Believe it or not, I was thinking about this post as I was doing housework. Have you ever been mad about having to do certain chores? I’m not talking about the act of doing them in general. What I am referring to is the fact that maybe chores used to be shared by a spouse or significant other and now that the person is gone, you are fully responsible. While this is an accomplishment, in the end, for me, having to do it at all makes me mad while taking care of it. Eventually, I get over it, until something else comes up and the cycle starts again. I know others feel this because there are certain things my dad used to take care of that my step-mom now has to, and she admits she gets stressed. We each have an example of why we are single: divorced and widowed. In my case, I was lucky enough to be referred to a local seminar called Coping with Divorce, which is offered by the Full Circle Community.

The Coping with Divorce seminar allows a chance to learn about the grieving process. It is a grieving process because there is a loss, even if no one is deceased. It is the loss of a partner and a lifestyle, at the very least, even when one is happy about the change (I was and still am!) It is also a chance to share and bond with others who are a part of the same grieving process. The stories may be different. How far one is into the grieving process may be different. And, like my point at the beginning proves, the emotions may still show up several years later.

The other amazing part of the seminar is that as part of the Full Circle Community, friendships are made. One of the most challenging pieces is being able to socialize. I was fortunate to already be a part of the Kalamazoo Jaycees and my calendar went from somewhat busy to crazy busy, since I also had a full-time job. I have loved it and don’t want the choices to slow down (much).

Since the bond is based on a specific type of situation, the Full Circle friends are the ones I can count on for hugs when we see each other, for moving assistance several times over even in a short period of time, for venting without feeling like someone is being burdened, and the fun of hanging out, such as for karaoke.

Whether or not you live in my area, if you are seeking this type of community, it is out there. Kalamazoo is unique not to have a church affiliation where many do. Reach out to the circle of friends and they will return the favor, tenfold.

Thanks for reading!

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