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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Yes, I'm a Groupie

Yes, I'm a Groupie

My name is Dawn, and I'm a groupie. I never thought of myself that way until, while chatting with a woman (Andrea) after church at the Socially Single's group, I mentioned my infiltration of several groups here in New Zealand: 2 running clubs, a preschool play group (despite the fact my own kids attend school full-time), a singles' group, and occasionally, a new migrant's group. And an international women's group. I'm also joining a writer's group.I may get involved with the parent-teacher organization at school. And you ask, "What are you doing with all that free time in New Zealand?" Attending groups that match my interests. Just the same as I do in the States (where I also used to hold a job, and I'm not sure how I pulled that one off. Oh, wait a minute: I had a husband back then). After I rattled off my group list, Andrea raised her hand as if taking an oath and said, "That's me. I'm a groupie, too."

A groupie? I'm not sure where and when the joiner compulsion started. Blame (or credit) my upbringing: my parents had me in drama group, gymnastics, choir, youth group at church, ad infinitum.... from age 6. In high school I also joined band and dabbled in track, basketball and volleyball. My over-taxied mom must've developed a callus on her right foot from driving my sister and I around town all those years.

As adults, it's easy to get cynical about committees and sub-committees and the glacial pace with which they move (or stagnate). Still, I acknowledge and often acquiesce to the power of collective wisdom and the empathy born of shared experience. I don't always realize throwing my lot in with others will make me better, faster, stronger. In fact, I trained for my first road race, the Columbus (Ohio, U.S.A.) marathon alone. I would stash water bottles along my route before plodding the course on my own. Afterwards, someone said, "You know, we have a good running group here. You could train with them." Brilliant. Next time.
Finley rides through the Mount Hash House Harriers running group

After my first child, daughter Fiona, was born, I had trouble breastfeeding. A friend told me about her nursing moms' support group. Brilliant. Not only did I learn to feed Fiona, I gained a new circle. Seven years later, I still count many of those women as friends.

Church is a kind of ultimate group. I didn't trouble myself to find a church home while attending university, but after I started working, I decided responsible adults attached to a faith community. Maybe I'd meet people outside the television field. Maybe I'd re-learn how to pray. I did both, although solitary prayer is still not my strong suit. I laughed the other night while watching one of the "Real Housewives" episodes (one of my guilty pleasures) on my iPod. One woman said, "I don't need to go to church. I can pray at my house." Maybe she can, but I'm too distracted at home to engage in much meaningful conversation with Fiona or Finley, let alone Jesus Christ or God (I do say, "God help me" when I'm frustrated with the kids). Then, you have the whole piece about community and communion. Can't do that alone.

I got a phone call today from a woman who used to lead a grieving parents' group in the Bay of Plenty. Helen said 2 years after her husband's death, new widows would tell her she served as an inspiration because she got on with the business of living. She ticked off names and locations of 8 or so young widows in this area, saying, "There are quite a lot of us." That's another purpose of the group: it makes you realize many other people sit in your boat. You are not alone, flapping a single broken oar. You can have a bowman, stern pair, coxswain... (and whomever else those crew people have on board). You can row together, knowing someone will help lead, follow and steer. You can share feelings with "your people" you wouldn't with most other folks. I laughed when Helen told me about the black humor she and other widows share. Just last week, during one of my group runs, a woman asked why I was in New Zealand. "You must be here with a man," she said. I told her, "Yes, but he's in a Ziploc bag. My husband died about a year ago." My comment was maybe flip, disrespectful? Another widow would understand.

Has my groupie-dom gone too far? Has yours? Do you suppose they have a 12-step program for folks like us? I'm sure they do. I'll bring the coffee and biscuits. We groupies need each other.


  1. "Yes, but he's in a Ziploc bag." Oh, Dawn. That is a good line, and yes, only another widow gets to laugh. I'm loving your blog, now that I am understanding what they are how to follow them! I've been a groupie for years, too. If I like something, I join it and talk about it to everyone. Except the running groups. Though I did join one once!
    Thanks for your generous sharing, as always. XO

  2. Lisa,
    Thanks! And I love the rad photo of you, BTW! I bet you could give some of the folks in my Monday running group a good go. After all, many of them drink beer BEFORE the run. Makes me feel quite sporty at the head of the pack :)