I walk through the front doors of the library, down the steps, and into the room where my writing group meets. I sit down at the table and pull out my black poetry binder which I place on the table. My fingers turn each page of my binder as I contemplate which poem I will share tonight. My fingers stop at a poem that I had written recently as a prayer to God about our daily journey with mental illness. I mark the page and wait patiently for the rest of the writing group to arrive.
After a few moments, the rest of the writing group arrives. There is a new face tonight so we quickly introduce ourselves and share a little bit about who we are. Following the brief introductions, one of the members of the group asks if anyone wants to share. I still have my page marked but decide that I will let someone else go first. I listen closely as one of the other members of the group shares a short story. After he finishes, we share some constructive criticism and move on.
I decide that I am now ready to share. I open to the page I have marked, sigh a quick sigh, and begin to read the poem I have recently written. The words flow from my mouth as I read the poem to them. After I am finished, this new participant is quick to begin hurling questions at me: “Does your Mom know you are writing about her? How dare you write about mental illness!” I am so taken aback I don’t know quite how to react. I have just shared my heart and soul with this group and now I am being reprimanded for being vulnerable and sharing my story. I sit in my chair; ready to run for the door. But instead I am stuck to my chair; paralyzed by the words being hurled at me.
After a few minutes, I decide that it would be better for me to leave. This new participant has already left, but I feel that I cannot stay any longer. I am hurt! I walk into the hallway and grab my winter jacket. As I am putting on my jacket, one of the participants walks into the hallway, puts her hand on my shoulder and tells me that it is okay for me to share my feelings in this way. She affirms my decision to leave. She hugs me and I feel the warmth of God’s love embracing me as she does that.
I walk back up the stairs, out the doors, into the bitter cold ND winter wind. I find my way to my car where I open the door and sit down on the drivers side. Tears have begun to form in my eyes and now are slowly trickling down my face. I pick up my cell phone and decide to call my dear colleague and friend. He answers the phone immediately and asks me what is wrong. I am at the point now where I cannot get the words out because I am crying so heavily; crying so hard that I can barely catch my breathe. “Breathe, catch your breathe, Tara!”I hear him say to me. I finally am able to do that enough. Then He reminds me that this new participant probably is not upset about my piece but about something else happening in her life. I agree. He has somehow found a way to calm me down. I hang up the phone.
I wipe the tears from my eyes, turn the key in my ignition, and drive down the road back to my apartment. Inside my apartment, I find myself still reflecting on what has just happened. I am not sure who this new participant was, but I do know that I will not forget this night.