During my post-divorce years in Manhattan, I grew close to a band of unusual women ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s. Some were freelancers or regulars at the posh corporate law firm for which I then worked; others I’d bumped into at some cheese-and-wine affair that trendy Manhattanites throw in order to compensate for a crazy work-week; still others I’d encountered through the 12-Step program, whose meetings I attended in order to eradicate the insidious smoking habit slowly but surely draining my life force.
Going to AA to deal with a smoking addiction, you demand incredulously? But AA’s for folks with alcoholic dependency, ain’t it? True, AA was originally designed for the alcoholic, and yet liberal Manhattanites were open to a wider definition of addiction. In those often dark and stuffy spaces where addicts and alcoholics of all ages and backgrounds converged in order to keep each other sober, I found myself welcomed, sponsored and loved—until—as the popular saying goes—I was able to let go of my crutches and begin to love my unique self.
The aftermath of divorce had left me shattered in both material and spiritual terms. Humbly I acknowledged my need for multi-spectrum healing. My new friends advised me to abstain from romantic relationships so I could commit myself fully to the process of re-integrating mind and body with spirit. This advice sat well with me, for the emotional beating I’d been taking on and off for the past fourteen years of marriage had tarnished my once sparkling notions of romance, while delving into eastern philosophy had convinced me that, in the ultimate analysis, it is Spirit alone that counts.
I was immensely reassured to encounter other women who’d also been shoved through their own tunnels of despair and survived; these women too, I soon discovered, had temporarily eschewed romance in order to concentrate on inner work. As we grew to trust each other, we began to take turns organizing fortnightly gatherings in our apartments—gatherings that enhanced the comfort and security of our friendship without all the crap that often goes with man-woman relationships—especially in meat-market Manhattan.
We decided to meet every sixth Saturday as a group; the main event was a sharing circle based on the AA dictum: “that you are only as sick as you are secret”—meaning that emotional suppression is the root cause of all dis-ease. Our hostess for the fortnight would introduce the topic, and each of us in turn would share uninhibitedly on it. The idea was to dissolve all barriers by revealing that which we could not safely disclose to main-streamers—for fear of being ridiculed, attacked or even, in some cases, fired: The Mugginses of the world, as we were all well aware, do not appreciate the maverick and the alien.