It was a cold winter day two years ago that I walked out my door wearing a black winter coat and bright apple green scarf and hat. I knew there was a Women’s Center in town and maybe they would help. What I needed the most was to talk to women. I knew they would understand.
I showed up at the Women’s Center and talked to the intern. Cindie was in the office and invited me to sit and talk. As I started explaining that I needed help because I was new in the city, my first son had left home for college, my husband at the time had left after finishing his Doctorate degree and my youngest son was still with me and I needed to figure out what to do with my new reality I began to cry. Cindie immediately understood that I needed someone to talk to.
That morning I stumbled over words of sadness, despair and a feeling of hopelessness that I could not bear on my own anymore. During the last six years I had been a doula, a woman who helps women during birth and postpartum. My whole family was doing a huge sacrifice because my husband was going to school. I had to work to make ends meet so I was commuting from Pittsburgh to Lansing until I could establish my doula business in town. My children missed me and I missed them. It was very painful but I thought it would get better. Time went by and I could not introduce the idea of postpartum doulas in the community so I kept going back to Pittsburgh. In the end everything fell apart. I could not hold the family together because I was too tired to be able to do so and that cold winter day I was trying to build a new reality.
They were there for me, Cindie and the intern, listening, and I felt they cared. I also felt I could trust them because I know what people who help look like. I had been one of them not long ago. I had been helping other women go through difficult times also and I had learned how important it was to have that support in times of difficulty.
After listening patiently, they invited me to attend the “Job Seekers” group. I went there and I met other women like me. They were women in their midlife trying to find alternative ideas to create their own unique change in midlife. Each one of us needed to find a way of being productive in a creative sort of way.
I attended the meetings for a few weeks and I realized that what I wanted the most was to go back to school to get a bachelors degree. Doing all the paperwork took a few months because I’m an international student but in the end I started classes. Meanwhile I had graduated from the “Job Seekers” group and started attending the “Not So Happy Endings” group. There again I met other women dealing with ending relationships. I attended the group meetings for about a year and a half. We created a great bond, listened to one another and survived our personal separations in company. To me it was very important to have that kind of support. It makes me feel that my load is not so heavy when I can share my feelings with other women. Finally I graduated from that group when I got divorced. One more time I was ready to move on and go on with my life.
Nevertheless, life has ups and downs. A few days ago I started feeling some changes in my body and I called Claudia, the “Not So Happy Endings” group moderator, to ask her about those changes I was experiencing. She suggested that I should participate in a new group called “Traveling Tips for the Mid-Life Journey.” It was another brilliant idea created at the Women’s Center. One more time they have listened to women and have provided what we need. I attended the first meeting already and I found what I was looking for. The meetings provide a space where women can talk about the emotional and physical changes of midlife. One more time the Women’s Center created an idea that will help women find a way, their own unique creative way to continue this beautiful passage called life.
I came to my appointment with Manuela one Saturday afternoon mid-winter for help with my resume.
Having recently received multiple rejections, I was a real a nervous Nellie. To start off the appointment she suggested I relax. Then she asked me to talk about my current job. After listening compassionately, she offered some suggestions for how to remedy my problems at my workplace. Then she turned to my resume and confirming my fears (and the reason I was there), said “It needs some work.” She asked a few clarifying questions about my experiences and shared with me what she saw as my strengths.
At that moment, 40 minutes into our appointment I started to cry. I was crying because she was providing validation of who I am and what I have to offer that I didn’t believe mattered. I left her office that day with a clear understanding about what I needed to do to properly sell myself with my resume and the support to follow through with it.
Looking back, I see that I was suffering from a fear of asserting myself as the valuable employee that I am. Without the ability to sell myself I was languishing on just the hopes that someone might discover me someday and offer me a position. Manuela at the Women’s Center helped me take my future into my own hands and succeed. This is not trivial assistance. It is life changing. This week I accepted a position at MSU that really suits me. I’m thrilled to once again be working among peers in an environment where I’ll be challenged and where I can flourish. I have an opportunity that will open so many doors and where I am back on my rightful course. I am a highly educated professional who has a formidable network of supportive friends and family. But I was languishing and I needed help. The help I got from the Women’s Center with my job search was completely unlike help I’ve gotten before. It was much, much better.
Originally posted Spring 2008.
Greetings, my name is Teresa. I would like to share a little bit about myself and how the Women’s Center was there for me when I needed a soft place to land. First, a little bit about me and how I came to this place in my life. I am fast approaching 50 years on this planet. I am a mother of two grown children and at this writing I am now a grand mother. I left an OK, although emotionally, spiritually, and physically draining marriage of 27 years. That included the house, most of my belongings, my grown children, and a marital income almost in the $100 thousands. I left because despite years of therapy and failed efforts to include my ex in the healing process, I was dying inside. Fear kept me in an unhealthy relationship for decades. I took those fears and measured them against a bigger fear, that this was how my life was going to be until death. I chose to fight for me.
I moved back to Lansing with no friends and no social network, except for my mother and siblings. I had no job and only the money in my check book. Luckily, I could live with my mom. I applied for every job I could think of using the classifieds and Michigan Works. I continuously fought feelings of desperation, hopelessness, and loneliness. I was overwhelmed. I needed support, something or someone to lend a listening ear and time to gather my wits about me. I am not sure how I found the Women’s Center, but I called and explained my situation. They gave me a list of services they offered including Job Seekers, private counseling, and support groups…It definitely sounded like what I needed. I received help updating my resume through one on one time and in the job seekers group. Other members and staff gave insight into resources I had not thought of or were hesitant to try. Finally, with a good resume in hand and contacts at Sparrow I am now gainfully employed and buying my first house. Weekend workshops, geared to aid body, mind, and spirit allowed me a chance to feel good about myself and take care of me. Additionally, the speakers that were brought in helped with self-esteem.
Beyond the financial concerns I came in with, the center offered access to a supportive therapist at a price I could afford. These private sessions were immeasurable in my journey back to wellness and empowerment. The Not So Happy Endings support group gave me a safe place to vent, heal, hear other’s stories and gain wisdom from their experiences. We supported each other when times got rough or a new hurdle presented itself. It became for me a social bond that helped fill the void of loneliness. It is so important to know and feel that you are not alone. That it is not just you out there alone in the chaos of life.
In closing, the Women’s Center offered me a place where I did not have to explain or defend how I got myself into such a difficult place. They focused on what I wanted, what I felt I needed in a way that helped to empower me. I did not feel judged or helpless. I truly knew that they are there for their clients not just as a business income. Payment for services rendered was never mentioned. Thank you to everyone who touched my life. Blessings.
Originally posted Summer 2008.
I‘m writing to express a heartfelt thank you for your help during my job search. WOW, I remember about a year and 1/2 ago when I walked into the Women’s Center and you totally blew my socks off when you gave me a glimpse at my potential. Funny, for better or worse that feels like a life time ago. The truth of the matter is that all of the resumé and letter revisions, serving as a reference, feeding me leads and, most importantly, your kind words of support and guidance made all the difference in the world. During what was a difficult and sometimes painful experience I had hope. The lives of my family and I are forever changed because of your kindness. Words can’t express how blessed I felt to have had you on my side. Thank you again. Take care, have a happy new year, and may God bless you and yours.
Originally posted Winter 2009.