Yesterday I spent the entire day at an all-women’s retreat at my Unitarian Universalist congregation. There were organized workshops but there were also opportunities where people could work on their own things like journal writing, various types of arts and crafts, reading, etc. There was a special Quiet Room set up so participants could engage in silent activities like meditation. Originally there was supposed to be an opportunity for people to walk around outdoors in the nearby woods. Only the child care people with the young children of some of the participants took advantage of that opportunity due to this blast of cold air that permeated most of the Mid-Atlantic Region over the past few days. (Only children can be completely unfazed by cold weather. I’m sure I was like that once in my youth. LOL!)
I took part in a workshop on “Creating Your Own Mission Statement” and part of the workshop was devoted to an option of activities that one could do to express herself like writing, collage making, drawing, and talking with others. I attempted to draw but, by that point, I had taken the opportunity of most of the retreat to work on my latest art (which I’ll write more about in a later post) and I found myself a bit too tired to attempt any more drawing.
So I attempted a collage instead. The collage table not only had the usual assortment of magazines to cut pictures out of but there was also a collection of these really cool looking foam stickers resembling animals, plants, hearts, and stars. I ended up taking a piece of paper from the drawing area, color the paper in blue (for the sky) and green (for the grass) using the provided colored pencils, then moving over to the collage area where I had fun with the foam stickers. Here’s the result.
When someone else at the collage table found the hedgehog foam sticker, I decided that I would let her have it. But then I found another hedgehog foam sticker and I decided to put a hedgehog in my collage after all. I guess I’m still being influenced by memories of my pet hedgehog Spike even though he passed away back in September.
I also worked on a special card for a longtime member of our congregation. Years ago this woman and her husband were among the first people to reach out to my then-fiancee and myself when we decided to visit the UU congregation. (We were checking out various churches in the area in order to find someone to marry us. The UU congregation was the first church on our list and we loved the services, the minister, and the friendly congregation so much that we didn’t visit the other churches we had on our list.) They were a few decades older than us yet they treated us very warmly. She and her husband invited us to this group called “Great Decisions” that held an 8-week discussion group every year on foreign policy issues and it was held in their home. Eventually both the “Great Decisions” discussion group, the couple who reached out to us as well as other people in the congregation inspired us to formally join the congregation just three months before the UU minister married us.
The “Great Decisions” group petered out when the husband came down with the Alzheimer’s Disease that eventually took his life but we remained friends with the wife after her husband died. She remained active in the congregation, especially in the We Care committee, which reaches out to people who needs help with their personal lives (ranging from trips to doctor’s appointments to organizing the signing of a card to send to an ailing member).
She and her husband owned a timeshare condo in Ocean City that they used to stay at during the week of the Fourth of July holiday every year with their family. After her husband died, the woman decided to put the timeshare up for bidding at the congregation’s annual fundraising auction. My husband and I took a couple of trips to Ocean City as a couple and my husband had the idea of bidding on the timeshare while inviting his sister, her then-husband, and their son to vacation with us. We submitted the highest bid.
The condo was very nice but spending a week with other family members was more stressful than I anticipated. My sister-in-law’s husband (whom she later divorced) couldn’t make it due to his job, my sister-in-law and her 12-year-old son bickered constantly, while people were constantly uptight around each other. Despite all that my husband wanted to bid on the condo again at the auction a few months later and we were outbid by another couple. My husband seemed disappointed despite the fact that the trip to Ocean City was very stressful. So there ended up not being another family vacation to Ocean City the next year but I was okay with that since the last trip was stressful.
But my husband really wanted to do Ocean City again with his sister’s family so, a few months before the next auction, he approached the woman in our congregation about making a huge donation to the church in exchange for letting him have the condo without having it go up for auction. My husband told me that despite the stress of the first Ocean City trip, he said that it was important for him to spend time with our nephew because he was becoming a teenager and soon he’ll be off to college. So that was how we ended up going to Ocean City during the Fourth of July week every year. We got on each other’s nerves at times but I dealt with the stress by walking along the beach, driving off to a nearby store, or even go down the Boardwalk. After our nephew graduated from high school, went to college for one year then joined the U.S. Navy, we still went to Ocean City with his sister and (sometimes) one of her friends. When I had hip problems in 2008 and 2011, I wanted to stay home because my walking was adversely affected but my husband wouldn’t hear of it and he pressured me to make the trip anyway despite my health. (I enjoyed that trip far less during those two years because I was dealing with hip pain in addition to the usual stress of being on vacation with extended family members.) Even after my husband walked out on me in late 2011 he and his sister still went to Ocean City the following summer with an old friend of their parents’ from way back. When my sister-in-law stopped by my home briefly last year while she happened to be in my area, she told me that she, my husband (who became my ex-husband by that point), and my former friend-turned-Other Woman were going to Ocean City.
They were all able to carry on with going to that Ocean City timeshare without me like I didn’t exist. I wouldn’t be surprised if they returned to that timeshare this year. Oh well.
Getting back to my friend from church, this woman had been very active in our congregation, reached out to my then-fiancee and myself when we started to visit that congregation, she was one of the reasons why we formally joined, and we even rented the Ocean City timeshare from her.
Imagine my shock when I learned that something horrible happened to her. She and her late husband originally purchased and moved into their home sometime in the late 1940′s-early 1950′s where they raised their four children. They stayed in the house after the children grew up and moved out. After her husband died she lived in that same house on her own and she was one of those women who were healthy and active enough to live an independent life as she aged. Recently someone broke into her home while she was there. He wasn’t content with just robbing the place. He decided to do things to her that no 95-year-old should ever have to go through. This guy was so brave by brutally attacking a 95-year-old woman—NOT!!! (The police still haven’t found the creep as of this writing.)
At the retreat yesterday one person lead a healing circle for the woman. Another person was organizing a knitting project where people took turns knitting a shawl that will be given to the woman. There was also paper and pens available so the retreat participants could draw or write notes. I did this handmade card where I attempted fancy writing with a drawing of Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony.
I also wrote a personal letter on the inside. I hope she likes not only my card but other cards, letters, and homemade gifts from other members of the congregation.
If things hadn’t turned weird, distant, and ugly between my ex-husband and myself, I would’ve sent him a message about our friend since she had reached out to us years ago and we had been renting her Ocean City timeshare for the last few years. But I still remember when—just a few weeks after my husband abruptly left home without ever telling me that he was unhappy in our marriage—I learned that my mother was sent to the hospital (which was soon followed by a visit to the rehab center). I sent a text message to my husband informing him of this. He responded with this weird text where he wrote something to the effect of how we all have to go through struggles in life and it was written in a very emotionally-detached way. I also remember the last line he wrote because of the lousy English grammar (which was uncharacteristic of him): “No matter what happens between us she’s good people.” I was really pissed at this. He was writing this about his own mother-in-law, who had always treated him with respect, never raised her voice to him (in contrast with my own mother-in-law, who used to scream in anger at me and several other relatives over the most minor things that didn’t warrant such anger). My mother treated my husband like the son she never had and she was very upset when she learned about how he left me.
Then there were the times when I sent e-mails and texts to him with my questions and concerns about the separation only to have him ignore most of them. He only contacted me when he demanded that I conformed to this separation schedule that existed only in his head.
So, no, I haven’t told my ex-husband about what happened to our friend and I have no intention of doing so. Based on past experiences, he would either write in a similar emotionally-detached unfeeling way that borders on the offensive or he would completely ignore it, so why bother putting myself through more of my ex-husband’s passive aggressive bullshit? The hell with him! I really don’t need the additional stress because, to be honest, I don’t think he would even give a damn about what happened to our friend.