In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: Mentor Me
In my third year of marriage my husband and I started going to a church that offered to match-up older couples with younger couples in the hope of sparking mentoring relationships between the wives and husbands. We met with the couple who were teachers and had three teenage kids. They were tall, both over six feet, and they towered over little five-foot-four me in stature and in wisdom. I was excited to get to know them. I’d never had a mentor before, and I was out of my depth to know how to be a good wife in the middle of dealing with infertility.
Vivian was a role model from the start. She cooked from scratch, she maintained a vegetable garden, and she kept chickens. She must have honed her no no-nonsense, get-to-the-point approach from her years in the classroom, but she was kind too. She lead much more than she pushed, but I didn’t find all that out until I moved in with her and her family.
My husband and I only met with our mentors once before a blind-siding day just before Christmas when the shit hit the fan and we separated. (Yes, this was my first husband.) Vivian’s family welcomed me with more than open arms. They asked me what color I liked and painted my room sage green to make it more my own. They invited me to eat dinner with them and watch “The Middle,” but they didn’t expect me to act like part of the family. They didn’t even ask me to pay rent.
I took care of their chickens while they were away one weekend, not very well. I didn’t “click” the door behind me when I went in to feed them and bunch of them got out. I swear, I was just like Link on Zelda’s Ocarina of Time trying to pick up chickens and throw them back in the pen. There I was, top of my class and I couldn’t figure out how to trap a bunch of flightless birds. It ended up being a lot more complicated than I though because, unlike Link, I couldn’t catch them!
The story of my chicken wrangling hour made everyone laugh. They needed to laugh, and I needed to hear it. I needed to know that I wouldn’t be a weepy wreck of a human being forever. And I wasn’t. Vivian and her family taught me that in the middle of a crisis, I could still be a functioning human being. I woke up early and went to the gym before work. I made pesto from scratch. I baked bread. And I cried as often as I needed to.
No one ever disturbed me when I was in my room. For three months it was my sanctuary. It was the time and place I needed to get a grip. Vivian taught me that sometimes people just need space to figure things out, and the most kind thing you can do for them is to invite them into a time and space that’s warm, welcoming, and nurturing.
Although they may not appreciate it at the time, that time and space should also have a light counter-weight of expectation. Notice I said counter-weight and not balance. Expectation is good for someone you’re caring for, but only as much as is needed to keep them from slipping away into depression. It should be enough to give them purpose, but not so much that they feel like they’re paying you back for your kindness.
I never felt indebted to Vivian and her family, which is possibly the greatest gift I ever received during that time of my life.