March 22, 2005 turned out to be a red-letter day in my “forever” calendar. That was the day that I stumbled through the door to Boomer Women Speak (BWS) and found the most amazing group of wise and wonderful women who welcomed me in – and then companioned me through some of the darkest passages of my life, including my 8-month journey as primary caregiver through the illness and subsequent death of my beloved brother, Gary in 2007.
I’ve never met any of them in person, yet many of these women continue to be a vital part of my daily life seven years later. I cannot imagine who I would be – or even if I would still be at all – if not for their faithful presence and friendship over the years.
My Dad’s death in 1999 hit me hard. Then in 2001, Mom was diagnosed with cancer and died within a month of diagnosis, leaving us all reeling in shock and disbelief and compounded grief. Within the space of a few short years, hubby and I lost between us close to twenty close loved ones…my parents, several of his siblings, all of my aunts and uncles on my Mother’s side, two on my Dad’s, cousins (who were like brothers to my husband), and many close friends.
By 2002, I could barely function. I don’t want to go into it all here, but will just encapsulate that part of my history by saying that I collapsed from exhaustion, depression, grief, severe fatigue and some kind of undiagnosed medical condition that kept my white blood count so low that I could barely get out of bed. I was severely physically incapacitated for months, and to this date have never fully recovered my energy level to where it was prior to this collapse.
Somewhere in all of that I did write a book…it was a complete surprise to me when it began pouring out of me…the words wouldn’t be stopped, so I kept typing and typing until 2 weeks later it was done. It was the cliched catalyst…healing had begun. The book was cathartic, and gave me the motivation to climb out of my self-imposed social hibernation. But it was tough. Panic attacks and feelings of ineptitude eventually pushed me back into the house.
By March of 2005, the sense of isolation and aloneness had become so profound that I knew I was spiraling into a dark place I didn’t want to go. So in desperation, I got online and typed into the search engine “misfit boomer needs help”. The top result led me to BWS. After reading a few of the forum posts, hope began to flicker. So I registered and introduced myself – as a misfit boomer. As I hit the submit button, I was praying that they wouldn’t reject my pathetic cry for help.
Within minutes, the women began responding, and the warmth in their welcome was tangible. Woman after woman posted their caring response, and for the first time in months, I felt a light switch turning on inside of me.
There aren’t enough words in the world to accurately articulate all that these women came to mean to me. What a treasure trove within that collective wisdom! We laughed, we cried, we spent hours and days and months and years exploring every subject under the sun. Sometimes we argued, sometimes we touched nerves, sometimes we had to run away for awhile to ponder truths that hurt. But there was no mistaking the love. Underneath it all was a profound caring for each other that healed, mentored, evolved and empowered so many of us into new ways of being and new ways of thinking.
A few years ago, the forum began to experience some of the more negative dynamics that often plague online groups. Many of the women fled what had become for them an unsafe uncomfortable environment in which to share innermost thoughts. But the bond amongst us was strong and many of us eventually found each other on Facebook and continue to be a part of each others’ lives, albeit not at the same level of kindredship we enjoyed on BWS.
I don’t know if we’ll ever again be what we used to be there, but it’s still my hope that we’ll eventually find our way back together and build a new sanctuary where other women like ourselves will find the kind of warm welcome that changed me forever way back in March 2005. I could never have imagined on that bleak morning the blessings that were about to start pouring into my life. I’m so glad, and so much richer, for the joy, wisdom and kindness that I found – and continue to find – here in cyberspace.
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” Flavia