How The Snow Geese Fly

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In late February, I was one among many sitting in a circle of participants in the Dragonfly Transitions Family Workshop. We were a passel of ten families from around the country joined by team Dragonfly, and a common bond. My son and husband beside me, I soon realized I was facing 360 degrees of young adults in recovery. This was not just about our children. We each were on the edge of our seats, and our own transitions, even before we formally introduced ourselves to each other. None of us could say, “We’re there. Done. I’m at the end of this personal journey.” I realized with each family’s openly shared story I was…very simply…not alone. We were mothers, fathers, step-parents, siblings, therapists, staff and student-young adults. . .each and all on a journey.

When I first read about Dragonfly’s Family Workshop I was naturally curious. Mona advised I wait until our son had several months under his belt. Thankfully, I listened instead of pouncing on my instinct to jump in fast and with intensity. Waiting for three months to attend the workshop represented a new rhythm in my parenting – a rhythm called ‘patience.’ This mirrored what our parent coach was advising. “ You know that Facebook CEO woman, and how she wants women to ‘lean in’? Well, I want you to do just the opposite. I want you to ‘lean out’ as you enter this next phase with your son (and yourself).”

“But, I suck at that,” I said. “It’s just not me.”

“Maybe it’s time to try something new?”

The opening day of Family Workshop is focused on parents and staff until students arrive at 5pm. On that first day of gathering, my husband, Lyle, and I took a morning fresh air walk on an eerily beautiful morning where mist clouded our view of the lake. As I walked, I admitted out loud I was a nervous. How would our son be? How was I going to handle this new parenting mantra? And then Nature provided an aerial distraction. A flock of white grand birds navigated over our heads squawking erratically. With our necks crooning to see the entire noisy flock, I insisted they must be swans, and Lyle insisted they were Canadian geese. They flew on unaffected by our debate.

And then we joined the rest of the families to tell our stories, and hear others. The stories were honest, and familiar, like a humble, resonant echo. Empathy tied us together. We shared a common language of fear and care. Essentially, no one bullshitted.

I do not want to sugar coat the workshop. That would be a disservice. It was not all “circle of love,” and easy. It required work. It was rigorous and an intense dive into each family’s story. Our two individual family sessions were exhausting, and necessary. Not everything was resolved but the hard work was grounding.

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Encouraged by Mona, the three of us played a bit of hooky after our first family session with our therapist – one that required much more time than allotted. It was honest, intense, and exhausting. We were each spent – a bit like a good hand washing of clothing, wrung dry. We walked out on the nearby Skillet Handle trail, with layers of nature welcoming us: the verdant moss as a carpet, the pine needle covered soil, blue juniper berries as greeters, evergreen trees as hosts, and a turquoise blue roof of a sky descending into North Klamath Lake. Few words were left in us or needed. We were in the language of meaningful recovery. It was invisible and palpable. It was our new path as a family no longer in acute crisis. We were learning to just be. Together again.

It turns out they were not swans, as if in a fairy tale. The flock over our heads were Snow Geese, a first for each of us to see. Perhaps they are in fact messengers of things to come? More clarity. Less confusion. A white promise heading in a direction chosen with intention. A progress forward made by all, together and also apart.

– From a parent.

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