Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, March 24, 2018

My Red Hat Society Dilemma


The first and third Wednesdays of the month are Red Hat Society teas or walk-abouts. I’ve been to zero meetings over the winter. Some events I missed because the roads were bad or the temperatures were too low. I’m choosy about venturing out of the house in the winters. Some would call me a chicken others might say I’m pragmatic. Other times I didn’t go because I was sick and didn’t want to spread my yuckies around. I do get the minutes to all the meetings via e-mail, so I keep up to speed. This week I decided I’d better go before the other ladies forget what I look like, otherwise I might as well drop my membership. 

In January I did try to go to a tea but I showed up on the wrong Wednesday and this Wednesday I showed up an hour early. No, I’m not getting old. Stop saying that! Normally being early would not be a problem because I always have a mini notebook and pen in my purse that I use in my struggling writer impersonations. But my 3 ½ by 4 ½ inches notebook only had ten pages left in it. I was panicked stricken. I don’t write well under the pressure of knowing I don’t have room for mistakes and revisions. So I decided to make a list of the pros and cons of dropping out of the Red Hat Society.

Pro #1: There is another writer in the group who I enjoy talking with. She’s a thousand times more talented than I am but I’m more prolific and disciplined than she is. We been known to inspire each other and we do that on Facebook. But face-to-face time is…well, face-to-face time---different and I like the fluidity of our conversations no matter the topic.

Con #1: Since changing leadership (which has only happened once in twelve years and not likely to change again anytime soon) I rarely want to do the walk-abouts that are planned because most of them are religion related. Case in point: In April they are going to a play called, The Old Rugged Cross which is billed as an event to “bring peace and gets you a little closer to the Holy Spirit.” It takes place several hours out of town and setting aside the forty dollar price tag, being an agnostic the conversation riding home would probably give me a headache and my tongue would be raw from biting it. The writer is the only one in the group who knows how I feel about religion. And I respect her right to believe in the teachings of her church which tells her I’m going to hell in a hand-basket. No brownie points for being a moral person, a person who lives a principled life.

Pro #2: I’m sentimental over the concept of the Red Hat Society and how it helped me through a hard point in my life. I was a charter member of the group (along with the writer) and it was started in the second year after my husband’s stroke. The group was my only contact with a life outside of his therapies and other caregiver chores. Back then we had a waiting list to get in the group, and the walk-abouts got to the point that they were all-day or even weekend events that I couldn’t manage while taking care of Don. It broke my heart when I dropped out but it wasn’t fair to hold a place when I wasn’t fully taking part in the activities. After Don died, I had the opportunity to drop back into the group but in the years in between whenever life would get tough I’d hold on to the mindset, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me…” which just means Red Hat Society women are freeing themselves to have fun with no regard for what society dictates as proper decorum for women of a certain age. We did our duties to our families and communities and red hat time is all about well-deserved play times and me-first times.

Con #2: Like I said, I’m sentimental about the mission statement of the Red Hat Society but the dynamics of our chapter has changed over the years and I find myself going through the motions when I go to a tea. I’m not close with any of the women. They’re all nice but many have known each other since grade school and they have their small town church families in common as well. My gathering girls group gives me the same feeling of inclusion, fun and laughter that I used to enjoy back when my husband was still alive and I’d go to the newly minted Red Hat Society events.

They say you can never have too many friends, and making them and keeping them is not something I take lightly. Still, life is short and I’m getting too old to just be going through the motions of doing anything that my heart isn’t fully committed to doing. And that is my Red Hat Society dilemma. ©

39 comments:

  1. Sentimentality aside, it sounds like you're getting what you seek with your Gathering Group friends. I wonder if you could stay in touch with your writer friend in a way other than the Red Hat Society? To become a Freemason, you must believe in a supreme being. It's a requirement. I know that has nothing to do with the Red Hat Society, but it just popped in my head. Lately, I seem to think I must share what ever pops into my head.

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    1. Once in a great while the writer and I have lunch together outside of the group, but she's still got a husband and a very busy family life---she's got over 600 people on her Facebook friends list and I've got 91 if that tells you anything. We were in a writer's group together for about a year.

      I knew that about the Freemasons. My husband was fascinated by the group and I went to a lecture about them not long ago. And there is nothing wrong with sharing whatever pops in our heads. The blog world would be deserved if we didn't. LOL

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  2. Thanks for explaining what the Red Hat Society is all about. I wondered what the point of the group was i.e. why do women have to form a club and wear special hats just to allow themselves to have fun? I wouldn't be happy with the religious overtones of the outings either. Hope you find a more secular group of friends to have fun with!

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    1. I don't think the Red Hat Society is an easy concept for younger women to wrap their heads around because they've been in the work place in greater numbers, had their separate identities other than just wearing the labels of house wives and mothers. It's still a huge group nationally and internationally but I'm guessing with my generation it will dwindle off here in the states to nothing.

      We used to pair off to plan walk-abouts in the Red Hats and that was nice, gave us a wide variety of things to do. But now it's in the hands of just one person. She started planning church tours two years ago and hasn't stopped. One time I suggested we tour the Buddhist Temple and Unitarian Church in town. (I know they both offer tours) and the leader said, "We're just doing REAL churches. I'm sorry but those are cults."

      I could say I believe in God if I can define it as the combined goodness of mankind (a force rather than a supreme being) and the devil as the combined evil of mankind and with my definition there are many paths to finding God. I get rather uncomfortable around people who believe you have to accept Jesus as the only way to get into heaven. I was ostracized from playing with a girl I liked in grade school because her mother wouldn't let her play with a someone whose didn't go to their church. I learned early on to avoid this topic of conversation in public, even had boyfriend in high school break up with me for the same reason when his parents found out I wasn't "one of them." I've taken 3 or 4 comparative religion classes in college, even read the entire Bible. I am firm in what I believe and it's hard for me to be around people who think if I just accepted Jesus as my Savior I would be worthy of their friendship. It's like waiting for the lecture to come when they learn I don't go to church. Some people just assume if you don't accept Jesus as your Savior you are ignorant about his teachings which honestly ticks me off. But I don't say anything because it just churns up those hurtful feelings of being called a heathen and having to have my mother explain what that is.

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  3. Oh I'm so with you on this. I'm not religious at all and find the intrusion by people that push it, very uncomfortable. I am in a grief group mostly for something to do and they are nice people, but they are all religious and talk about when they will not only see their husbands again, but all their relatives. For me it's just too much. I have been considering dropping out. Luckily I have friends who share my non religious views and also on politics....anti Trump.
    I do volunteer at my hospital once a week and go out to lunch and dinner a lot with my friends. If there is an art show, lecture or a garden event, I go. I find I must keep busy because, even after almost 5 years a widow, I still get lonely and feel slight depression if I'm home alone for too many days. Being in Fla, I can always get outside, which helps. I couldn't take the winters where you are. Too much grey and gloom.
    If you decide to drop the Red Hat group, try to find something else.

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    1. That would be hard to be in a grief group that talks about seeing their spouses again. That probably gives them comfort to believe that but I'd be sitting on my cynical hands, so to speak. It would be too much for me, too.

      You are lucky you have friends who share your views on religion and politics. My husband was the only person I've ever known who did/do. Of course, I avoid the topic all together so, who knows, there might be others I've known who avoid the topic and we just don't know it. LOL

      I'm at the six year point and have come to the conclusion that the loneliness and slight depression that sneaks in once in awhile will never truly go away. Some of it is age related rather than widowhood related and I try to remember that.

      If my gathering girls group holds together through the summer I'll feel more secure about formally dropping out of the Red Hats.

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    2. I lived in Asheville NC (very progressive) for awhile and found that groups that persue intellectual topics, adult education, history or art lectures and even political activism tend to have more open minded people. It's not the religion that bothers me, but the forcing it down your throat and the idea that theirs is the only correct one. And Unitarian and Buddhism are not cults, but then again, they're all cults, if you think about it.

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    3. I agree with you one all points, Mary.

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  4. As an outsider to your Dilemma, it doesn't feel like a Dilemma to me at all. You are not really a Red Hat Member. It is an Obligation, a Chore, and not a true Pleasure, which is what the overall Idea of being a Red Hat is supposed to be.

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    1. Writing this, I'ne pretty much decided to give it until fall to decide if I want to formally drop out---that's when membership dues are due. There will be three things in between that I want to do: A trip to an Amish community and our annual garden party and our annual chapter birthday party.

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  5. It is a shame that your Red Hat group has changed so much that only one person decides what everyone would like to do. I'm not sure if I would stick with it through the summer just to be able to visit with the one enjoyable friend...fluidity in conversation on any topic is pretty nice. However, the religion part normally would be a deal breaker for me, just because those who publicly control the religion conversation usually think they have "the answer." Others, who are polite, keep their religious beliefs more private, in my opinion. It is a problem I face also with several extended family members who have joined megachurches. My feeling from them is that they are superior because they know the answer. As my sister-in-law said to me 40 years ago "You're just not ready to hear the message yet." Hope you reach a decision that works well for you. Ann

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    1. Ohmygod, don't get me started on mega churches. We used to have some very good friends/neighbors who we spent time with almost daily. Then they joined one of those mega churches after my husband had his stroke. They totally O.D.ed on religion and they kept bugging us about going too. They have a traveling faith healer who comes to their church and our friends thought that guy could make my husband walk again. Ya, like 3 months in a hospital and several years of out patient therapies couldn't but believing in a faith healer, could? I swear Don was going to have another stroke listening to them nagging him to "hear the message." We finally drifted apart. I can't even follow them on Facebook anymore because it's daily religion.

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  6. Jean, are you trying to tell us that you are getting old? NEVER! You put that red hat on and just walk right into the room with a big small and do whatever you do on that room. Do you ladies have a dinner and talk a great deal. Maybe even have drink of alcoholic but don't drink and drive.
    You know Jean, like you would tell me. Do whatever you want to do my friend. Life is there for us to take. You'll succeed. See ya my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. We don't have alcohol often, just at our garden party and Christmas party. We have lunch at our walk-abouts I listen more than talk...and then I take notes in the car before I go home if it's something I want to share in a blog. LOL

      Thanks, Paul!

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  7. I don't think I could have held my tongue ... cults? Too narrow minded for me. Too religious for me. If you can't speak about the group leaning too much towards religion and less towards having FUN ... I'd donate my red hat!

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    1. They have fun, church tours are just a different kind of fun than we used to have and not my cup of tea. I did mention once that I've already been in every single church in town when I servicing weddings for twenty years. So they accept that as the reason why I don't want to go. BUT others do enjoy going to them. Some have beautiful Tiffany windows or wonderful old world woodwork and organs that are worth seeing.

      I can't stress this enough when I say it's not unusual where I live to be in groups that talks religion...less in this century but that's just the way it's always been in my life. I live in the City of Churches as we've been known for decades. So I'm not bad-mouthing these ladies. Far from it. It's the change that came with the new leadership. When she used the cult word a few others did speak out to say they'd like to tour the Unitarian and Buddhist Temple. Our senior center also does summer church tours and I did go to the Unitarian, Buddhist Temple and a Mosque with them. I enjoyed learning about them.

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  8. Your last paragraph said it all. Why go through the motions.
    Besides, can't you return? Maybe call it a leave of absence and see how that feels and if you like it. Then cancel. Possible?

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    1. I just want to make sure I have an another social outlet before I let totally go of a group that at one time, filled a great need in my life.

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  9. The temple/church tours don't include an intensive course in their religion do they? What is the problem. I love tours of church architecture--whether I believe in their theology or not. Some religious people are no narrow minded! A true, spiritual Christian shouldn't have a problem. But there I go, being judgmental again and I proclaim to be a true, spiritual Christian. Oops!

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    1. Actually, the tours do include an hour talk about the basics of their faith, the history of their art, architecture and/or individual church history. Of the four tours I went on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was the only 'tour' I thought that actually preached to our group. I thought the Mosque was the most interesting because I knew the least about them and they served us a lunch of mid-eastern food and it was a beautiful place.

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  10. It seems your Gathering Girls fill all your needs. When I moved here, I joined 4 clubs which helped me get acquainted in the new town. Slowly I have narrowed it down to just my cancer support group which fills all my needs. Solid friends who laugh lots.
    Maybe get back in the writer's group? I really enjoyed the group we had here but it disbanded. It was mentally stimulating.
    Life is short and I wouldn't waste it on a group I was only partially interested in.

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    1. The writers group got dismantled and I have kept my eyes open for another. For some reason writers groups never last more than a year or two...at least the ones I've been in but they are fun and keep you challenged.

      I love the Gathering Girls but I'm worried that age and health issues are going to take a big bite out of the group. Summer will tell.

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  11. I agree with your commenters on this: the society has changed under new leadership and even though it filled a need for you at one time, it is no longer as attractive. It seems to run a little counter to the ideals of red hats...freeing older women from the constraints that they felt society placed on them...by outward displays of vibrant colors that don’t appear to match. And then your group is going on church tours. It wouldn’t appeal to me...even if it once did!
    Regards
    Leze

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    1. Each chapter gets to define what fun looks like for them, I don't mean to be critical of THEM for enjoying a form of fun that I don't particularly want to do. Whatever I do l don't have to decide until fall when dues are paid. I'll let you all know.....

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  12. As a former queen of a Red hats group, I say, "Start your own group!" There are plenty of women out there who would love to meet and just have fun. Or start your own writers group. Women love to get together and, frankly, so many of us are widowed and count on these groups for support. But you don't have to stay in a group that has changed to something you don't enjoy. I resigned as queen due to 2 things, #! to take care of my husband and #2 I got tired of some of the women who just complained about everything! So, I'm still in the group, but haven't gone for several months. When the time is right, if it is, I will go back, but as a member, not as a queen. I am also in a caregiver group and that is much more satisfying to me personally. Over the last 4-5 years, we have become very good friends who support and encourage each other. Most of the caregiver group are now widows, but we still get together and have lunch once a month. We've been through a lot together. Best wishes for making your decision. It was very hard for me to decide to resign, but I am glad I did. BTW, I wouldn't like touring churches all the time and I am a Christian!

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    1. When I was my husband's caregiver I gave serious thought to starting my own Red Hat Society chapter, one open just to other caregivers with limited time like I had back in those days and where occasionally we could bring our care recipients with us if we couldn't get a sitter that day. (Don was only good for 2 hours on his own.) So I can understand why your caregiver group is satisfying to you. A group like that that organically transitions into a widows group would go through a lot together. I'm glad you have that in your life.

      I'd join another writers group but I wouldn't try to start one. I've been in a couple and the egos can be a lot to deal with as a ficilitator---some too big, some too insecure. The last group I was in the facilitator was very fair-minded and tried her best to get people to only use constructive criticism but even she couldn't keep the group going more than a year and she put a lot of effort into it. We had an online membership of 12 but only four of us consistently showed up to monthly meetings with something to read.

      I'm putting my efforts into trying to keep the Gathering Girls on track to bonding as a group and doing stuff together.

      Thanks for commenting! Having been a Red Hatter I know you understand the dilemma. I'm guess all groups no matter what they meet for run into issues like you mentioned where people complain too much or they have trouble getting volunteers. My position has always been if I'm not willing to take on the job someone else is doing then I don't get complain about the way he/she is doing it. I might suggest something when asked but I know how to back off once my idea is out there. Thanks again!

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  13. Oh, how I relate to your dilemma! I have a habit of hanging on to sentimental attachments far beyond their benefit or usefulness to the person I've become. I have to go back to reminding myself there are "seasons of life" and while belonging to a group at one point in my life was magical and important and supportive.....that doesn't mean it will always be that way. We all grow and change. I once had a friend who used the "coin toss" method. He would think of his dilemma decision and assign a heads or tails to it. Then he pretended to toss the coin and paid attention to the feeling in his heart or gut when the coin landed. Did he feel exhilaration or relief? Or did he feel disappointed and heavy of heart? His point is that we already know what we want to do....we just have to tune in to our Truth and then follow through. This little mind game has served me well. The heart knows.

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    1. You and are a lot of alike in my ways. I keep thinking we share a gene some where along the line. LOL

      I love that coin toss idea and paying close attention by how I feel when the coin comes down. Your friend's logic in this is spot on. I shall try it when I'm in the right mood.

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  14. I would be feeling the same, but when something becomes a dilemma it means your heart has already found the answer. Life is full of this kind of thing and it can be agonizing. Specially amongst us women who were always taught to put responsibility to others before ourselves.

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    1. So true! The dilemma, I think, comes because our hearts and our heads are not in agreement and I'm in the process of talking my head into listening to my heart.

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  15. Jean :

    I can so understand your dilemma. I love donna's friend's coin toss method to decide what feels right thing to do. you know I never like any religion which says my religion or god is better than your religion & you will go to hell if you believe in anything else, that way over a billion people in world will be going to hell. I find Hinduism, more like way of life than anything else & I feel Buddhisim is in some essence better than hinduisim where there r not as many rituals we have in Hinduisim. I feel I am spiritual than religious & believe in all Gods,you can call it Jesus, Allah, Buddha or many Gods we have it in our Hindu religion, all paths leads to supreme God who I believe taking care of us at all phases of my life. I believe in the end we are all spiritual beings having human experience.you should do what feels right to you, & things will work out better than you expected.

    Asha

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    1. Isn't that coin toss a great idea! I plan to do it but not for a couple of weeks. I don't want the replies on this topic to influence my reaction one way or the other.

      I think if more people studied world religions they'd see the similarities and how they all evolved over time---some more than others. There is good in all of them and bad as well. I, like you, don't believe you have to "pick a lane" and stay in it.

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  16. Speaking of getting old -- I've been out of town for a few days, and when I sat down in the evening and tried to respond to your posts, I couldn't. Google wouldn't let me in without my password since I was on a different device, and I couldn't remember it for the life of me. I wasn't about to go through the agony of changing my google password; it took me two hours to figure it out last time. So, here I am! Better late than never, and all that.

    Emotional ties to a group are one thing, but if that emotion has devolved into sentimentality, I'd say it's time to let it go. The truth is, even if your gathering girls go defunct, just filling up space with the equivalent of social junk food isn't going to do the trick. Besides, if you create some space by letting go of that group, who knows what other interesting things may come along? They say nature abhors a vacuum, and I presume that includes social vacuums as well!

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    1. I hate those kinds of password problems! Happens to me way too often.

      I know what you mean about filling a vacuum. It's part of the so-called widow's work to fill a giant vacuum. I've been on a mission to make friends for six years since my husband died and I've worked hard at it. The Gathering Girls is the result of that work. But it's not enough and I'm always willing to try new things that come along.

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  17. Hi Jean! I came over to say thanks for dropping by The Marmelade Gypsy and leaving such a nice comment. And now I see you are in West Michigan. I'm in Lansing -- and it's a beautiful day here! And now I see you are friends with several of my friends -- BB and Shoreacres! How did I not find you before? I'm going to sign up for email alerts.

    So, I don't know you yet and I shouldn't butt in but what the heck -- it's a blog and that's what we do. But here's my theory. Life is too short to do something that a) doesn't give you the maximum amount of pleasure or b) isn't important for our life and health. And it doesn't sound like this group as a group is doing it for you right now. And I'm not sure of the rules but it seems to me that if you wanted to drop out, couldn't you perhaps return later? And meanwhile, see what else floats your boat -- whether it is one-on-one meetings with your writer friend or other individuals from your Red Hats, or a writer's group or some other interest you might have, whether it's gardening or cooking or painting or a book club or learning a foreign language. We can only hold so many things in our hands at one time and if we let go of something, we may be able to pick up one or two things in its place that satisfy us even more.

    No matter what, knowing the issue is a big part of it. At least then you can make a plan. And few plans are totally carved in stone.

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    1. I'm glad you stopped in! While I was reading your blog I was trying to figure out where you live. I'm an hour east and north of you.

      I'm really surprised how many people have strong opinions on my dilemma here. And I thank you for weighing in so we have this opportunity to get to know each other a little better. (I've been reading your comments on our friend's blogs for a long time.)

      I thought this post was going to be a throw-away, filler type post because I dashed it off without much of a commitment of time or forethought. Some of the stuff I've written about, really care about and put a lot of research in get hardly any response. Oh well, the blog world for you.

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    2. Oh, so true. Sometimes the fastest posts prompt the most reaction and we never know why! Well, I'm delighted to have connected. It seems about time!

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  18. Sometimes things (activities, groups, friendships) that are a good fit for us at one point in our lives are no longer a good fit at a later point because we or they (or both) have changed. I think it's okay to let go when that happens. I also agree with an earlier comment that staying in the Red Hat Society primarily out of a sense of obligation seems to go against the philosophy of the organization. Good luck with your decision -- and remember that you can always change your mind! -JeanP

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    1. Thank you. If I stay in it won't be out of obligation so much as hedging my bets to holding on to human contact.

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