When the tank is running low, sometimes the very best thing you can do is turn off the engine and listen to the world around you.
After the series of no good, very bad days last week, the timing of Stacey Curnow and Ruthie Yarme’s second Fuel Your Life from Spirit retreat over the weekend couldn’t have been better. I packed up and fled Raleigh, just so anxious to separate myself from the noxious fumes of self-doubt and the echoes of some really nasty self-talk. I had four hours in the car to listen to music and think about the weekend to come. My sense of direction fractured a little bit on the drive – at one point Miss Bossypants GPS kept telling me to stay left at the fork. I argued back – out loud – that I WAS staying to the left.
Only to realize that I stayed to the right.
That’s why I needed to be on a retreat. I needed the calm oasis of Asheville. Where the mountains are so deeply green and still. Where cell phone service is spotty and you needed to be in the great room at the retreat center to get wi-fi. Where you picked and chose what you needed to do at any particular time.
I needed to get back to basics of breathing and sitting and quieting my thoughts. The past few weeks had been a tumult of work and family travel in which I tried to create routine while living from a suitcase. This weekend the suitcase didn’t even bulge and someone else created a schedule so I was free to attend to refueling.
When I went to the retreat last October, I knew only Stacey and only from phone calls, so I was going in cold. I completely misjudged exactly how far Asheville was from Raleigh and was conscious of being late, late, late when I arrived at the B&B where it was held. But as Stacey put it, I got there at the perfect time.
This time around I was late again (see the misguided right at the fork), but Stacey and Ruthie were quick to hug and remind me that it was the perfect time to arrive. I picked up my first writing assignment and took a slow walk around the lake to find a place to sit and think and write. I wasn’t necessarily keen on diving deep into my head, but I looked at the prompts and was caught by “describe your ideal day. “
Well, I couldn’t resist. My ideal day involved eating only the most perfect and lovely fruit that was magically awaiting me in the kitchen and performing graceful flowing yoga and writing morning pages that literally made the paper glow. Oh, and wearing linen that never wrinkled. My writing for work was kind and generous and nothing ever bothered me. I created a word picture from dawn until dusk of a day that was serene and beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Did I mention the pink glow that surrounded me wherever I went?
Then, as my ideal day self was singing along with bluebirds in my perfectly groomed garden, as I picked herbs for the dinner I would be creating with one pot and serving in a pure white bowl, I stopped and reread. That day – other than the magically cut up fruit, and the bluebirds of happiness , ok and the laundry that did itself – is not so very far from the real, tangible life I have created here. Yes, there might have to be a couple of tweaks and a bit of a plan, but I could create that ideal day every single time the sun rises. There is no perfect time when that day will come along, it’s here.
Three days earlier I would never have been able to see that because I was caught up in that net of awful self talk and recriminations. But barely one hour into the retreat I could see without a shred of doubt that it’s all there, every single tool I need to make my life exactly how I want it to be. I just need to take a sip of calm, a taste of breath and I can be there.
Sunday afternoon, Mr. Man of my Dreams was eager to hear all about the weekend. I described the retreat center, the violent storm that knocked down trees, but fortunately spared the power. The delicious organic, vegetarian food we ate, the friends I made, I recounted it all.
He paused, looked closely at me and asked if I’d had as wonderful time as I’d had in the fall. Absolutely, I told him, it’s just that the energy was different. In October, this was an adventure, a leap into finding something about myself that I’d ignored or discounted for years. It was an uncovering of a sense of what I want to accomplish this year and the next 49. I was fired up and ready to go.
This time, the response wasn’t as edgy, keen and sharp as it was in the fall. My response was all wrapped up in the succulent start of summer, the time when the weather could make you just sit still, breathe in the green all around, and hold it there as it soaked into your pores. I’m already on the adventure, was my take home message, this was the all-important stop to refill the tank so I’d be ready for the next leg of the journey.
While in Asheville, I felt like I walked taller and was lighter on my feet – whether it was from the yoga or the vegetarian food is debatable. I think it was more that I let myself just be. I enjoyed this new circle of friends and the pulsing energy that comes from a group of women just being together and open to conversation. I shared thoughts, comfort and laughter. I had a massage, I gave a lipstick to the woman for whom it was perfect, I looked into the faces of women who were taking their own leaps and were startled and engaged by the sheer fun and scariness of it all.
So, yes, I told that concerned Man of my Dreams, it was everything I needed it to be and the timing was absolutely positively perfect.
Laura Reeth lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with the man of her dreams. With kids off at college, she no longer plays the role of active, day-to-day parent, and has moved into the complex understanding-parent-of-nearly-adult-children role. The main difference is she gets more sleep now.
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