Red Tent

A few years back, at the height of my career crisis, I contacted a soul friend I had met during my first few years of teaching. She and I were never close friends, but there was always a connection for me. The way she carried herself and treated others was in line with my true being.

I felt so grateful to have landed where I did as a first year teacher. So many of the faculty were warm and inviting and it felt like a family. She left the school to see if grass was greener at a local private school that was just starting out. In fact, several of our teachers went over that way and though I was intrigued, I played it safe and stayed where I was. Six years into that gig and grooming had begun in earnest for when I would step into the Theatre Director position upon my mentor’s retirement. Plans were derailed and I was sent to another local school as the numbers for the classes I taught were down since most students were told “Art” would be an “easier” class. Not especially bitter about this anymore, as I see the changes in the dynamic at that school now and I might be in a much tougher position than I am now had things “worked out” according to plan, but it broke my heart when I got the call while I was on maternity leave.

I kept an open mind and started a new position at a new school and I LOVED it. I had an opportunity to create my own film program from scratch and I would never have to step into someone else’s program and feel the pressure to fill a legend’s shoes. I took this and ran with it until I managed to build my program from 87 students to 425. It got so large that I could hardly oversee the training in the lower level courses and there was an administration change. The vice principal had a history of putting “targets” on those she did not like (or was jealous of or threatened by) and the last year before I left was my year. She had little power before the principal retired, but when the new blood came in, she was able to poison the well, making my life miserable.

I found a private school through a former student/friend (she is now a former student and a former “friend”) and after a year, it was clear that nothing I would be able to do would keep me employed there, if I even wanted to be. I was at one of my lowest points as an adult. We had sold our 3,000 square foot home with the pool, downsized and moved the children out of the schools they loved because I couldn’t stand the hostility of the place with the horrid vice-principal. And here, where things were supposed to be better, they were falling apart. I was drinking a LOT. The truth is, this time is likely when my drinking escalated to dangerous status.

I called my friend, Mary, and we met for coffee. She had since left the private school and later was rehired with our county school system at another school and then left there for a position at the University in town. I knew she must have been feeling some of the same things I was about our employers (both private and public schools). Talking with her made sense. She understood my tears and frustration in a way that many others never do. I tend to be a little intense at times and when I am upset, this is intensified too. There are lots of tears in this well.

The basic gist of our conversation was a reminder that I am going to be okay and that I am on the right path to my own soul growth. I felt understood and that was really necessary for me. As a seventeen year old, I moved from my high school home and went to college 1600 miles away. I made close friends in college, but I never joined a sorority or anything like that (I didn’t want to “buy” my friends) and so I walked away from college years later with life-long friendships, but certainly no “ride or die.” This has always haunted me and really hurt me to the bone. There were times while I was in college and my over-active thinker would be going ninety to nothing and I remember feeling so isolated – that I had burdened my friends enough and I had no one else to call.

To feel understood at a soul level is actually critical to our spirit and I don’t feel I currently have enough of that. My friend mentioned that she has held “Red Tent” gatherings in the past and was looking to get them going again and I was intrigued. Fast forward three years and my friend has now left her University job to further explore a healing field and yesterday was a Red Tent morning. She invited over 15 women and as it turned out, there ended up being a nice intimate gathering of five of us there in total.

She asked everyone to share what was going on with them and in my true fashion, I blurted out what is going on with me, including that I quit drinking. This isn’t some proclamation that I am making all over town, so I was a little surprised, but safety has a way of luring our secrets out. Before the morning gathering, I had only told three people that I come into regular contact with about my new normal. Now, it is seven.

In the course of the morning we talked of heartbreaks with our children, careers and life in general. I guess because we all knew our mutual friend, we were able to trust that we were among safe women. Women who build up and not tear down. I was able to share parts of my past with a mom struggling to help her daughter find balance. We had ideas for other ladies about things to consider for the trials they are currently facing. We all left feeling supported and SEEN even though we barely scratched the surface of our inner dealings.

I don’t know when she will host another event – but I know that I am looking forward to it more than I looked forward to this first one (for me) since I now know what kinds of wonderful soul messages I may gain (or even help another go home with). If you are looking for a soul friend, and do not happen to have a “Mary” of your own, reach out to her – she is truly a blessing!

If you are curious about the Red Tent Movement, take a look at this website and see about starting your own Red Tent gathering.

We all want to be seen and heard and, as Ram Dass says, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

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