I'm having a quiet afternoon at home today. Fortunately Past Me had the foresight to book Astrid into care so that Present Me could take a break. I thought I was going pretty well post-Supanova last week, but then I got to the weekend and crashed and burned, and realised I could have avoided crashing and burning had I used some of my non-Astrid time to actually rest instead of doing all manner of work-like things (which included all the accounting and reimbursements for Supanova Melbourne, the household accounts for the past five months and some wrangling with Centrelink). *Sigh*. As you can see, I am very bad at taking my own advice!
But this afternoon, I am trying to rest. Then this evening, I've got BFF support group. So I thought I'd write a little post about that because it's a useful little idea that others might find helpful. It came from reading Archibald Hart's Unmasking Male Depression, which was given to us years ago by a friend around the time when Ben's depression first started becoming more problematic.
I still haven't finished the book (and I can't remember when I started it, but obviously it was before this post), and to be honest, I haven't found it hugely helpful because obviously Hart had to generalise and (obviously) not everything that characterises “male” depression characterises Ben's depression (or mine, for that matter). Really, I should have skipped to the last chapter sooner—“Living with a depressed male”—as that was way more relevant to me than anything else in the book. More specifically, one of his final points—“Build a support system for yourself”—jumped out at me one day. I was already convinced of the value of external support structures. (I've spent years going to counselling, but counselling is expensive, even with Medicare rebates.) I've never attended a support group (but that doesn't mean I'm adverse to them). It's just never occurred to me to form one myself. Then I read these words:
How can you build a support group? You have several choices. Ask a few friends if they would be willing to meet with you over tea for an hour a week. Offer to be a support to them; at the same time they will be supporting you. Believe me, there isn't a person on this planet that isn't struggling with some personal issue at any one point in time. (p. 243)
I experienced that mental thing when certain parts seem meant to be joined together just slide into place. I had already created a private Facebook group for me and four of my closest girlfriends to talk to one another; it was a logical next step for us to start meeting regularly to catch up and pray for one another. I pitched it to them (on the Facebook group) and they were enthusiastic. Even the one who would soon be moving away was keen. And so we started meeting early on this year.
We meet on a Monday night. Bible study and youth group commitments usually meant that usually Monday nights were best. We meet once a fortnight; weekly feels like too much of a burden. We eat dinner together so we don't have to worry about trying to fit that in too before/after we meet. We meet in a food court because it's cheap to have dinner together (as some of us are a little more cash-strapped) and because there is lots of variety (which means you don't have to have the same thing every time). Also, no one cares if you hog the table for several hours (whereas if you were in a restaurant, they'd be keen to turf you out).
The way it works is that we all take turns talking for a little while about how things are going in our lives and what we'd like prayer for. This usually begins as we're eating and continues as everyone finishes their meal. Others often ask questions or make comments as the speaker has her turn, which is great because it helps the speaker to clarify what she just said, or think about possible solutions to the problem she's facing, or think about the dilemma from another perspective. Hart is right; everyone is usually going through something, no matter what their situation. Just listening to one another really helps—knowing that you can say anything in that safe space and be heard. Then we try to pray for one another, which is challenging in a food court with a food court's noise level, but the way we've done it in the past is to focus on one person (usually the person sitting to the right or left of us) by typing or writing out a prayer on smartphone or paper. If it's on a smartphone, it gets emailed to the person; if it's on paper, it gets given.
Now that one of us is overseas, she posts her prayer points ahead of time to the Facebook group, and during the meeting, I take notes on my smartphone and post them to that same group later so that she remains informed about what's going on in our lives too. Then hopefully throughout the week, we are prompted to pray for one another. (I know I am.)
I like that it's a regular thing that we just do together. I like that we continue to build our relationships with one another this way—supporting one another, caring for one another, praying for one another, etc. Sometimes it feels to me like close relationships are so transient: people I was once very close to I am no longer close to (because of time or distance or lack of opportunity). However, it's perhaps also a feature of moving in Christian circles: many of the people I was close to ended up in ministry, which took them elsewhere. And maybe it's also a feature of moving between stages of life: certain friends of mine that I made when they were single or married without kids are now grappling with life with kids (which I completely understand; it's hard enough to master the challenges of parenting and running a household without the demands of everything else on top of that). I just feel now and then the urge to hold on tight to the close friends I have now—to put in the work in those relationships and nurture them so that they will last and grow—so that when I am old, grey and losing my marbles, I will still have the privilege of calling these wonderful women friends and know that our friendship has been tested by time and turbulence, and found to be true.
(P.S. Don't forget to vote!)
A way of funding writing in the future: pitch and idea and get people to support it.
Place where you can hire play equipment for parties, etc.
How to recalibrate the home button on your iPhone.
Unsolicited manuscripts accepted by Pan Macmillan with certain conditions.
Thought Balloon is a group blog in which the writers tackle a new theme every week? month? with one-page scripts. This URL is for their Phonogram ones.