The Mentor

by Becky, AZ 2010

Settling into the comfortable leather chair, cocooned in the safety of Siljoy’s office overlooking the natural beauty of her yard, I am reminded of the peacefulness that her presence brings me as we begin another mentoring session. Her cat, Momo, is curled in the basket on the desk behind me, her companionable silence an added balm to the stresses, concerns, and self-doubts that have cropped up over the past two weeks. Siljoy sits across from me, her reassuring presence providing a sense of well being and peace. Her wise green eyes reflect strength, compassion, and acceptance. As we sit with each other in this quiet space, I am reminded of my first meeting with her five years ago, when I came to her seeking solace from tremendous inner turmoil and pain.

It began with a tearful phone call after enduring several months of fertility treatment, involving invasive tests, countless hormone shots, ultra sounds, and the accompanying emotional ups and downs of false hopes. My husband John and I had just learned that our latest attempt at conceiving a child via invitro fertilization, although initially successful at resulting in a pregnancy, had failed. My body had once again betrayed me; the crucial level of hormones required to maintain a viable pregnancy had dropped off dramatically, ending our chances of conceiving a child biologically. I left the exam room in tears, a business card clutched in my hand, passing the large bulletin board filled with photographs of smiling parents and healthy babies, an advertisement for success and happy endings. I ran past the office full of newly pregnant women, women with children in tow, and women beginning the journey that had just abruptly ended for me.

The nurse had given me the business card as her only offering of solace; no accompanying statements of “I’m so sorry,” or “don’t give up hope,” upon discharging me from what was to be my final appointment with the reproductive specialist. Siljoy Maurer, Holistic Life Mentor the card read. I had looked at the nurse blankly, not taking the card at first, but at the last moment grabbing it on the way out of the office. “What an idiot,” I was thinking to myself. I could not understand the total lack of compassion and emotion displayed by her and the other office staff. I sat in my car and cried, eventually dialing the numbers that led me to Siljoy.

That initial phone call was not hard to make; in a broken voice and in between tears, I introduced myself, explained the recent unsuccessful attempts at assisted reproduction, and scheduled an appointment for an introductory meeting. Siljoy sounded reassuring and pleasant on the phone, empathizing with my current situation. I might as well give it a try, I thought, as the pain that I was in was so unbearable, I was willing to share some of it with a stranger. I really did not know what a Holistic Life Mentor was, although I was intrigued by her website and its home page statement, “Wherever You are in life, I will meet You there.” I did not realize it at the moment, but making that initial appointment was a major turning point in my life.

Our work together began in a non-descript building in East Tucson. The office itself emanated an aura of comfort and healing, with several wall hangings depicting art work, nature photographs, and a ceramic Goddess figure. A Ficus tree added a touch of greenery, a few delicate ornaments hanging from its branches. A comfortable futon with inviting pillows took up one corner, with the center of the room containing a few chairs and a wicker couch. A salt crystal glowing with the light of a votive candle was perched on top of a bench which appeared to be handcrafted from a fallen wooden log. I immediately felt at ease, the elements of art, nature, and the sacred surrounding me. I was welcomed warmly by Siljoy, a petite woman with sparkling eyes and a mass of silvery hair curling about her face. She spoke in a slight German accent, which I found out was due to her many years spent in Germany as a child and young adult. I immediately felt a calmness and self-assuredness about her, allowing me to relax a bit.

During our introductory session, Siljoy shared information regarding her approach to helping others, which, she carefully clarified, was not a form of therapy, but was rather based on establishing a mentoring relationship with her clients. She did not like the term “therapist” to describe her practice, as therapy in American culture can be limiting in its approaches, tools, and effectiveness in helping those who are trying to create positive change in their lives. She described her role as a mentor in relation to guiding people, and her philosophy of working with her clients from “where they are at in the moment.” Siljoy provided some additional background regarding her role as a Holistic Life Mentor, including her experiences as a trained former psychotherapist, her knowledge of both traditional and nontraditional healing practices, and her emphasis on an holistic approach, which includes addressing the Mind, Body, Spirit, Soul and Social Self.

What appealed to me most during this first meeting was Siljoy’s willingness to work with me in the present, without having to delve into my past, which would involve digging up all of my old junk (that came later). I was comforted in the knowledge that we could address my issues surrounding childlessness, and leave it at that, at least for now. I was able to unburden some of the pain and hopelessness that was absorbing my spirit to someone who could intimately understand what I was going through; although my husband was saddened by the outcome of the recent failed IVF treatment, he was not suffering the same kind of deep-rooted grief that I was experiencing at the loss of biological motherhood. As Siljoy had voluntarily divulged at the beginning of her session, she was involuntarily childless herself as a result of surviving cancer as a young adult. Her willingness to share this information created a kind of instant bond, helping me realize that I wasn’t going through this pain all alone.

As the weeks went by, I did begin to heal, both mentally and emotionally, from my negative experiences with fertility treatment and assisted reproduction. My sessions with Siljoy evolved into addressing some of my past, deeper issues that I had previously been trying to avoid. Together we started exploring my deep-seated insecurities and self-doubts, and my early childhood years which precipitated these feelings. We discovered the inner child within me who needed to be nurtured and healed; in essence, I became Mother to my own child-self. With Siljoy’s help, support, and continued encouragement, this ongoing healing process led to self-discovery, personal growth, and the pursuit of a new career in social work, which had interested me ever since volunteering for a local hospice organization. I have come to realize that this new life journey would not be possible had I become pregnant.

As my relationship with Siljoy has continued to grow, shift, and evolve over the past several years, my appreciation for her as a mentor has deepened. The qualities that I admire and appreciate in her are ones that I am learning to develop within myself as a future social worker. Her willingness to share some of her own struggles and experiences in becoming a mentor, a journey that has included early life hardships and painful childhood experiences, continue to reassure me that anything is possible. As she recently reminded me, when sharing what makes her an effective mentor, “we are not less if we have experienced hardships within our life.” As we continue our journey together, I am learning that hardships and difficult times can actually provide a richness and purpose to our lives that would not otherwise be present.

Through our work together, I am closer to realizing my goal of becoming a future mentor and helper in my own right. As with all self-work and self-development, it has been a challenging and life-changing event, involving, among other things, returning to college in my early forties to attain my BSW, with a long-term goal of achieving my MSW. Throughout this on-going process of growth and discovery, Siljoy has remained a catalyst and role model as I continue my development as a future social worker, providing a living example of what is at the core of being a good mentor and healer. Her ability to help me envision and work towards my new career goal, and her willingness to share with me some of her extensive knowledge as a mentor, has helped tremendously in my continuing journey of self-development and personal growth. Her capacity for being with me in the moment, and her acceptance of me as the person that I am, with both strengths and challenges, has allowed me to begin to live in the present, while striving to attain my goals.

Reflecting back to five years ago, before I began my work with Siljoy, when I was in such a painful place, I am aware that I have reached a new level of being, with the capacity to make a difference in the lives of others. My life is greatly enriched, maybe in part due to the painful experiences that I have been through; perhaps from this pain has grown a deeper appreciation and understanding of what it means to help others. I am well on my way towards becoming a social worker, and realizing my greatest strengths and gifts.

I am back in the present, sitting in Siljoy’s office, at the end of our session. My body is relaxed, my inner self more at peace than when we began our session an hour ago. The sun is shining bright and hot outside, but I leave this inner sanctum of peace, ready to face the rest of the day with a sense of purpose, well-being, and with the knowledge that I am well on the path to becoming a healer to others. I am sent on my way with a loving hug and well-wish. I leave Siljoy’s office and her peaceful presence with a gained sense of clarity, and a feeling of well being, that all is right within my world, in this moment.