Cassandra Carothers was a recent participant at the Whidbey Island 2016 practicum of The Circle Way. She wrote this piece for her writing class and we are delighted to have her permission to share it here as an elder's reflections on the experience.

“I have become who I have been”

I am a composite of all my experience; 
the positive/ the negative; 
the searching/ the knowing; 
senses deadened and numb to the world/ senses aroused while my pulse
  quickens because of it;
choices—some good—some not; 
hanging on/ letting go.
So many choices. So many decisions.

I’ve come to welcome these swings and contradictions. They cause me to examine where I am at any given point in time. Am I looking at the world half empty or half full? And, it is through this prism that I can feel the strength or the emptiness of life, within me. 

* * * *

This discovery is enhanced by a recent experience. Out of the blue an email arrived inviting me to attend a six-day practicum on Whidbey Island. I had attended my first one of the same nature and purpose eleven years ago. For whatever reason I do not know, it seemed to be timely for me to refresh the teachings I had learned earlier. What was different was that I would be the “elder” in a younger generation--or two. Hmmm, I was curious how that age difference might unfold. Would I be relevant? My first discovery was they were all familiar with “circle leadership” and hoped to deepen their understanding so they could apply these skills with their peers and working environment. 

We were a group of 22 including the two facilitators. Several attendees knew one another but generally we were a diverse group including age and gender   meeting for the first time. What transpired over the next 5 days was like observing a miracle taking place; strangers coming together and in the space of time we were together, I would have trusted every single one with my life. That’s how connected we became. 

It was such a revealing experience—what others were willing to share—and the freedom I experienced in being true to myself. It was refreshing and absolute as feeling swept away with all layers exposed. Our commitment to sharing was rewarding knowing we were within a ‘safe environment’.

After 5 days I elected to leave a day early. I was ready. Earlier I asked the two facilitators if that would be disruptive to the circle as a whole. They listened attentively yet the response came easily and lovingly. I would be missed but in my honor they would keep my chair in the circle with some remembrance placed on it so they would ‘feel’ my presence.

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   Cassandra, during the evening of mentor collage at The Circle Way Practicum

Cassandra, during the evening of mentor collage at The Circle Way Practicum

I chose to leave after lunch the following day. However, before we closed our circle that mid-day for lunch, Tenneson, one of the facilitators, announced my departure and asked each one—all of us standing in the circle—if they would describe in one word how they experienced me during our time together. I was utterly overwhelmed. I cannot recall a single event where I have felt such love and tribute. Selfishly I wish I had a recording of the single word each person chose to describe how they experienced me. The last description brought great laughter referring to me as a “bad ass”. I loved it!

More than anything, it affirmed I am relevant when I speak my truth and share my vulnerabilities in a setting where trust is established and protected. 

What a lovely thought to end a day, a year, even a life.