Once or twice a year, I pack up my baskets and get away. Camera, candle, teapot, snacks, journal, pens, books. Tissue for when I'll inevitably cry. I try to do it around New Years, and I was able to sneak away before Christmas this year. (If you're in Whatcom County, Stillpoint is an undiscovered jewel. They offer a little cabin for retreatants and spiritual direction if you want it. It has been one of the biggest gifts in my life this year.)
The point isn't to take care of business, necessarily, but to reflect on my life and see what comes up. I spend so much energy and time doing, and some of that doing is because I'm actively trying to avoid sitting with what is. The first time I took a solo retreat, probably a dozen years ago, I was nervous. My anxiety was connected to shame--if I sit with myself, what will I feel bad about? What will I feel guilty about? What giant, odious mandate will emerge? Now, after years of practice, I look forward to them. I like being with myself, I like seeing what messages of love will break through, and I come home ready to take up my obligations and roles with a clearer sense of who I really am.
This year, I sat down with a piece of paper, drew a grid, and almost instinctively put these 8 headings in:
- Release my grip. These are things I'm trying to hard to control, areas of my life where expectations are too high. I tend to expect a lot of friendships, for instance, and am trying to be more outcome to outcome.
- Press in. Relationships, projects, or callings I've been avoiding because they're complicated or scary.
- See Differently. Patterns or relationships that benefit from a different perspective. One I put down was kids' sports. Instead of seeing them as big calendar hogs, view them as opportunities to be together, get exercise, and meet other families.
- Batting Practice. Disciplines I want to keep doing or implement--daily meditation, exercise, etc.
- Fortieth Birthday. Still six months away, but thinking about what I want the day to look like and represent.
- NO. Boundaries I want to draw, like "Don't give unsolicited advice" (really hard for me) or "Don't commit to volunteering that doesn't involve my children."
- Investigate. So many things right now--Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, piano lessons, Nonviolent Communication.
- Nurture. Good people, opportunities, and rituals in my life that need nurturing to grow or stay part of my life. Art time with Loretta, biking with Wyatt, blogging time, spiritual direction, some precious friendships.
I won't lie--it can be a Herculean effort to take a day off from your life. You might have to take vacation time or arrange a complicated childcare situation for your kids. You might get there and just take a nap. (Which is fine.) But I'm more convinced than ever that we won't get transformation and stamina from external sources. We have to find it in ourselves, in that deepest part of ourselves that is Love, that is God. You don't have to have 8 categories like me. You don't have to rent a cabin. (A friend's house is a good option. You won't be tempted to do laundry there.)
Whatever 2013 was like for you and whatever 2014 holds, I wish you love, companionship, insight, and engagement. I wish that you'll have exactly what you need--not too much, not too little. Thank you for being here with me.