The word ‘retreat’ means to go back to safety, away from the front lines, to re-coop and stand again for another battle. A skirmish lost but the war yet to be won.
I returned today from a weekend retreat in Idyllwild sponsered by the Fitness Fusion/Healing Yoga class I attend. The idea of going to a mountain cabin with a group of women I didn’t know would not normally be at the top of my list of investments. So why did I do it? In part, it is because the leader of our classes, Ann Wade, makes the class unthreatening, welcoming, forgiving and joyous. She creates an atmosphere where being kind to each other is welcomed and encouraged; anything negative would be unthinkable. I thought I would be safe from external criticism, real or imagined. Challenging the internal criticism was another quest. (The internal critic, my own personal Greek chorus, is always hissing, “Hypocrite! Failure! Klutz! Chatterbox! Bore! Fatty! Ugly! Self-pitier! Failure! Failure! Failure!” And to survive the voices I take each criticism and work on improving those that I can. I look for eyes that could be saying the same things, and I stay away. I return to my gardens and hide, and absorb strength from nature. I read and read and read, and volunteer, and try to improve and help, and work until I literally can’t lift my sore arms. And it is good.) Also, the last year and a half have been a testing ground for me. I step over the sides of my box over and over, daring myself to accept, move, change, progress, in often subtle ways. I want to find out what I am capable of, without the tethers or safety of family. When I leave the safety of my front doorstep I go alone, yet the person with whom I am both dueling and dancing is myself. I wanted to see how I behaved in such circumstances.
The idea of being observed by a large group of people in social circumstances (as opposed to lecturing, which I can do thanks to Toastmasters and Drama in high school) is frankly very frightening to me. You’ll find me at partys in the garden or petting the pets. I don’t like to stand out because I don’t have the qualifications to be measured along with society women. And that is all right. I enjoy being me (some of the time). Being with a few people at a time, when I’m not a third wheel, is much better. We can converse, laugh, share. Usually when I’m with groups of women I feel so awkward and immature because I don’t do a lot of ‘girlie’ things. I have never had my nails done, I wear very little makeup, I don’t watch television or go to the movies often, I don’t have a husband. I don’t intentionally read bestsellers or book club books. I’m an oddity. But then I find those who, like me, have animals, have gardens, are liberal and care wholistically for the world and everything on it. Those who don’t try to convert me to their religion or convince me to eat meat, as I don’t try to convert them or show them the horror in their food. This weekend I found a group of women who, although from all different backgrounds, accepted me as I was. Looking back, I think the thing that made me feel best was that no cliques formed even though some who attended were close friends. I wasn’t included as an afterthought. We broke bread together, explored and exercised together. We cried for each other, supported each other, complimented, laughed with and created with each other. I drove off the mountain today with more bulwarks than when I drove up. I am still more creative and unstressed when alone; I need my time by myself to think, calm, and regroup. And that is okay. I also need the company of friends and new friends to keep me from ‘hermiting’. I need to learn from the life experiences and survival techniques of others. I am very, very fortunate in my friends. Those men and women who I have met and worked with at my volunteer activities, at my various jobs, and through professional writing, as well as those who work at the businesses I frequent. I am wealthy in friends, even if I don’t call them or hang out with them, or do family things together.
It snowed on the way up to Idyllwild, and on Saturday night, transforming the area into a startlingly beautiful Spring Christmas card. The snow glistened, and the melting chunks of it turned to falling glitter between the pines.
I’m sorry to say that I can’t post photos tonight. It grows late and I’m exhausted, and the photo loading takes a long time. I’ll add some tomorrow.