On Wednesday I held the first meeting of my new peer group. I invited several local police wives to join me once a week to go through A CHiP on my Shoulder chapter by chapter.
We enjoyed some goodies, introduced ourselves, talked about the purpose and the rules, and basically learned who each other were. Amidst the different personalities, we found lots in common, even down to the specific way each other eats. Toward the end of the meeting, one girl expressed her relief that everyone was so chill. Others agreed – they stepped in the door apprehensive to the drama they’d seen created with other women – and were relieved.
I got to thinking about this.
I’ve been in peer groups continuously since college. I’ve really gelled with some, not so much with others. At times, the drama was so thick it took over my life. I’ve seen women get downright ugly, or get spun off on something trivial. I have seen pettiness, selfishness, and conflict, but I have also experienced love, support, and encouragement. Each group is different, and each group will have its negatives and positives.
It is human nature. In the human race, there is diversity of backgrounds, of culture, of personalities, diversity of hurts, and trigger points and their responses. Relationships with peers run the gamut of amazing to horrible.
I’ve been in a group with other writers for over ten years now. Several of us have been there since the beginning – before any of us were published. We dreamed together, hurt together with each setback, had to change with each other through the changes of publishing and social media. We had to grow through conflict, and choose to celebrate when others were succeeding while we were not. I have grown in my character because of these women, and they know me – my good, my bad, and my ugly.
I don’t like conflict. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding it. But conflict has been something that has shaped my relationships like none other:
I’ve learned to listen.
I’ve learned that I’m not the only one in the world who matters.
I’ve learned to find creative solutions to problems.
I’ve learned to pray.
I’ve learned to think before I speak.
I’ve learned that every person is hurting in some way – and I’ve learned to recognize the ways they deal with or mask that hurt. Some of those ways may be really hard to deal with in a peer group.
I’ve learned that my words and actions affect the lives of others – in healthy and unhealthy ways.
I’ve learned to love in spite of my disagreement with their actions.
I’ve learned to forgive.
I’ve learned to see other perspectives; and this has given me patience.
I’ve learned to trust, and not trust.
I’ve learned that more conflict is due to miscommunication and misunderstanding than actual deliberate behavior, and there are always two sides to a story.
I’ve learned how not to get sucked into other peoples’ irritations and rants (most of the time).
I’ve learned that conflict is an opportunity for greater understanding and cohesion.
I’ve learned that friends come in all shapes and sizes – some of my closest relationships are with those I did not initially like.
I’ve learned to be unselfish – the world does not revolve around me.
Best of all, I’ve learned to love and to be loved.
This is the reason I continue to live my life with others. This is why I am not afraid to start new peer groups. No matter the ups and downs a peer group takes, with the right attitude and leadership, there is going to be treasure found.
This is why I believe community – especially for police families – is not only a fundamental need, but a requirement.
Thinking you’d like to be brave and start up a peer group? Next week I will post some tried and true ways to create/lead/maintain a group in your area. Stay tuned!
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" January 17th, 2014
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