Magic 1: groups

Forty years ago today, a marriage happened that probably shouldn’t have. Both mothers were against it. The groom’s mother spoke to the bride and tried with all her heart to persuade the bride away from her oldest son. She recommended her middle son, as a much more worthy partner. The bride’s mother was so upset at the prospect of this wedding, that she wrote a letter of complaint to the Archbishop, and refused to participate in the wedding at all. The bride (headstrong and set on this guy) had to organize her own wedding, do her own invitations (400 of them, though only 250 or so came), and on the day of the wedding, today, forty years ago: the bride’s bouquet and head garland flowers were shopped for, delivered and handmade by a renowned florist, a 79 mile round-trip, which the bride did alone on the morning of her wedding.

It was a beautiful wedding, with photography by a famous photographer, a good friend of the bride and groom, as her wedding gift. The caterer, a friend of the groom, produced a feast of unparalleled beauty and good taste: salmon mouse, 5 side-salads, cascading vegetable crudites and dips, no holds barred. The wedding cake was a fruit and cream extravaganza, the wedding chapel flowers were exquisite, the wedding dress a cotton eyelet confection, all produced by friends or acquaintances.

Three priests officiated the Mass and wedding ceremony, two having known the groom since childhood, and flown to San Francisco from LA just for this ceremony. Even the bride’s mother relented at the last minute, and turned up to walk the bride down the aisle in shining silver velvet with cascades of embroidery down the bodice. The groom’s mother gave her daughter-in-law pearls to wear at her throat. It was a beautiful wedding, with talented friends singing, a nice band, dancing. And the sun was shining so brightly in the rooftop reception hall that everyone spilled out to the shady gardens as soon as they’d braved the room for the food and pomp; it was boiling hot.

Still, the marriage didn’t last. As the groom’s mother had predicted, with financial stress, the relationship dissolved.

Well, that was my wedding, and it probably didn’t help that within a year of that wedding, I’d moved my herbal soap manufacturing business from Culver City in LA to the San Francisco Bay Area, along with 5 employees and my mother; had a difficult and premature birth of my baby son; experienced an economic recession with 5 major client/distributors going bankrupt, and my sales plumeting 40%, and my husband lost his job.

I’d sold my charming house on the beach in Santa Monica and bought a Mill Valley Condo, which was over-priced and sterile. My husband’s job was in the city, and my factory was north by 20 minutes, in Novato. Until he lost his job, he was working seven days a week, long hours, and we rarely saw each other except between Midnight and 5AM when he left for work.

When he lost his job, I thought it a blessing in disguise. The soap factory building had two un-occupied carpeted offices, with a shower bathroom adjoining. There was space for a garden, a large fenced tarmac area, and a large high ceiling, skylit main office as well as a reception area in the front. We moved into the factory, gave back the condo to the bank, and buckled down to try to work together. My little son, now a toddler, was safe running around the offices, and we could keep him out of the warehouse. We set up toy stations in each room, and a toddler pre-school to occupy the middle of the day.

And yet, best laid plans: we never argued, we never raised our voices to each other, that I remember. My husband didn’t want to work with my business, and found another job working nights. It was impossible to relate to each other, and as my business became more challenging, he withdrew more. I relied on my mother to care for my son for long periods of time, a week or two at a time, and worked 14 and 16 hours a day to pull my business out of bankruptcy. Letting go three employees, and developing a gift line, I managed to juggle us into solvency; but I was burned out.

The day I sold the business, I did it alone. I had fantasies that it would be an expansion for me, and I’d finally have professional colleagues – and it was actually great for a while. I became a vice-president in that company, and working in their lab, I was able to formulate an herbal skin care line without preservatives, an all-natural alternative to commercial lotions and creams with no artificial preservatives and animal testing. It required a completely unique packaging system, and a big investment. The board decided against it. The honeymoon was over. They didn’t need me anymore, so I left and finally got the divorce which I finally could afford. A divorce from my husband and my business.

From there, I entered a new career, a new field: psychology with an emphasis on the humanities. I worked for parenting support organizations, facilitating support groups of single and divorced parents, co-writing manuals for peer led parent groups, wrote articles and columns for and about single parenting, and I got a bachelors and then a masters degree. I moved to Colorado and studied contemplative psychotherapy, did Buddhist meditation and psychology, and worked through my own pain and trauma of loss. My articles got published in magazines and textbooks, websites and blogs.

From there, I discovered the magic of groups, the healing power of sharing pain, and how to heal from the deep losses I experienced. I communicated, communicated, communicated. Being pro-active and open to others. Together, with time, we heal.

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