Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Opening up to colleagues

Next Tuesday I leave for the annual gathering of Shadow Work facilitators, being held this year (as for the past few years) at the Center for New Beginnings in Dahlonega, Georgia, about 90 minutes north of Atlanta.

Every year -- and I've been going since January 2002 -- there's a nervousness that arises as I think about going, and I understand from colleagues that they feel the same way, even those who have been doing this a lot longer than I have. The requirement for each of us while we're there is that we both do a piece of our own work, facilitated by our colleagues, and facilitate a colleague at least once. And the nervousness is about opening ourselves up to people whom we love and admire but whom we usually see only once a year.

Most personal growth facilitators grew up in families where it wasn't safe to open up to people, to expose the parts of yourself you want to work on. And we've all worked on that issue, along with many others. But there's a residual fear that arises for me every year as I contemplate going and exposing shadow-y parts of myself to these people.

The gathering lasts from a Wednesday night through a Sunday noon, and by the end of every gathering, I feel so at home, so close to these people, so loved and loving, that I'm reluctant to leave and wishing that we could all share a big house somewhere year-round. Last year the feeling of "home" with these people was the most pronounced ever. It was the first year I attended with copies of Practically Shameless in shrink-wrapped bundles of five. Almost everyone in the group has purchased multiple copies from me to sell at their own workshops or to give or sell to clients, friends and family members. Several colleagues have told me that people are showing up for workshops or client sessions because they've come across the book at or heard about it from a friend. It's very gratifying.

Last night I talked by phone with Janine Romaner, who lives near Atlanta and will host the gathering for the (third? fourth?) year in a row. I interviewed her for the Shadow Work email newsletter a few months ago and got to know her better than I'd ever known her before, and I really enjoyed our talk. She's a doctor of natural medicine and an expert on autism and natural health, and we've always got lots of interesting stuff to talk about. This year, as she did last year, she'll lead the welcoming ceremony on Wednesday night for the people who are coming for the first time. There are 4 newbies this year, and several have mentioned to me how afraid they are, and I've told them about my own fear, which I think has helped them a little.

There aren't any good morning flights to Atlanta from Denver, so I'll be flying to Chicago on Tuesday and spending the night at my sister's, which will give me an afternoon with my mother, who is still profoundly depressed and who benefits more from physical touch and affection than from anything else. ("Hugs are the best," she's told me twice.) She apparently isn't answering the phone any more -- I called her 3 times over the weekend, and I guess she never picked up, perhaps for fear someone was calling whom she wouldn't want to speak with -- and she dreads phone messages, so if I miss her, I don't leave a message. The last two visits, I've felt a real connection with her, which for me means a lot.

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