Given the craziness of this last year (really the two years for my family, considering our big move + COVID), one of my dreamiest dreams centered on a solo retreat for myself. One weekend, all to myself.
To do absolutely nothing.
To be absolutely quiet.
I researched retreat centers, Airbnbs on Lake Erie and Hocking Hills. In the end, I packed my bags and rented a cabin 20 minutes from my house, at Lucas County’s Oak Openings Preserve.
It was secluded.
It was quiet.
It has a gas fireplace (and an outdoor fire pit in a warming house). It had a well-stocked kitchen, and a very clean bathroom. It had a glorious sleeping loft just above a circular iron staircase.
It was just me and my thoughts for almost 48 hours.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to emerge from this weekend. But I had been looking forward to it for years. So I planned to enjoy it to the fullest.
The amount of stuff I brought with me was ridiculous. As a mother of 3 children, I haul a lot of stuff everywhere. Usually, I blame it on the kids. This time, I didn’t have that excuse. But I wanted almost all of my hobbies at my fingertips! I couldn’t leave anything behind . . . except the piano. That sucker isn’t going anywhere.
So, minus the piano, I packed my camera, flute, watercolors, book, knitting, and rug that I’m hooking. To have some kind of a focus and to feel that I walked away from this retreat fuller than I came into it, I downloaded Blessed Is She’s Write + Pray retreat. I didn’t do the whole thing, but it gave me some focus and more writing prompts than if I had just read the day’s readings from the lectionary.
Having staying in Airbnbs and cabins before, I had no idea how well equipped the cabin would be, so I brought everything I would need. Now I know that Oak Openings’ Pine Ridge Chalet is well equipped. The only real utensil I needed to bring was a bottle opener. (If you would like to know more about the physical experience of staying at the Chalet, check out my article on ToledoMom here.)
Despite the huge amount of stuff, I had time to dabble in just about all of it (except the rug . . . that’s just going under the rug for now . . . metaphorically speaking).
The first night, I was almost overwhelmed with the solitude. No one pulled at my leg. There was no dog who needed to go out to pee. No kids pulling faces that it was time to go to bed. I flipped on the fireplace, opened my retreat manual, reflected, wrote, and knit the night away.
In the morning, Oak Openings’ miles of trails called, so I followed the paths to Evergreen Lake. Exhausted in the afternoon, I made myself dinner, hobbied, lit a fire in the warming house, read a book, and then curled up with Pride and Prejudice from the glow of my computer screen.
Sunday was more of the same. It was not at all a dramatic weekend. It felt indulgent. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. Often, I felt like I was missing all kinds of fun at home. But I knew I needed this weekend to myself. Why exactly, I couldn’t say (beyond the obvious need to refresh myself). At the time, did it feel refreshing? Yes, but I missed my people. I haven’t been bored in over 12 years. With no one’s needs to attend to other than my own, I got pretty close to boredom. The feeling of “what do I do now?” was so strange and luxurious that the almost-boredom was a novelty of its own.
I’m so glad I took the chance to get away, and weeks later, I can still tell that the effects of that weekend weren’t limited to those 48 hours.
I appreciate my kids and husband more. I did miss them. I’m grateful for all the time I get to spend with them, even all the extra time we got this past year, thanks to quarantine. While there was no overwhelming sense of of getting my batteries recharged during my weekend away, it has been clear that I was refreshed by that weekend. I have more patience. I see more possibilities now.
Taking a retreat at a nature preserve at the beginning of February seems like an odd time to spend in nature, but it reopened my eyes to the beauty that surrounds us. Let’s face it, if NW Ohio can be beautiful in early February–and it was–then it’s just getting even better from here on out!
Furthermore, that weekend gave me the energy to take care of myself more. I’ve fallen into bad habits. Since we’ve moved to the US, I’ve gained a pound every month we’ve lived here. I thought that would slow down after Christmas, but as January wore on and the scale kept reaching numbers that my non-pregnant self has never seen, this weekend of investing in myself gave me the desire to declare that “enough is enough.”
Even more difficult for me, the time cut off from social media caused me to take Facebook and Instagram off my phone on Ash Wednesday. I usually don’t give anything up for Lent. I’ve found that’s not a great practice for me. (I have a lingering type-A control issues, so giving up things for Lent tends to be counter productive.) But I know I waste a lot of time scrolling. So if it’s only accessible while I’m on my computer, and not while I’m cooking dinner, I might be a wee bit more focused. That was the hope, anyway. After a week, I hadn’t noticed any major scenes of focused attention, and was seriously considering reinstalling those apps when my daughter stopped me before breakfast saying, “I’m proud of you, Mom for turning off facebook.”
Even though I couldn’t see a difference in my attention or productivity, she could.
That weekend away gave me time to reflect and it also gave me renewed energy to take control of my life again. I’m not merely surviving. Most of us were surviving through COVID, and there’s no shame in that.
But I’m ready to move on, whether life returns to “normal” or not.
That doesn’t mean I’ll be gallivanting around, ignoring science.
That means I’m taking control of my attitude*, my actions, and valuing the time spent with those around me.
By turning off facebook, I’m living my life a little better.
By eating healthier, I’m living my life a little better.
By choosing to say “yes” to each of my kids, at least once a day, I’m living my life a little better.
*While I may be able to shift my attitude, I realize that not everybody can just “shift” their attitude. If you’re stuck in a rut and truly can’t shake it on your own, explore therapy. Quite often we can’t do it on our own, and therapists have tools to get you out of that rut (or at least make it more manageable). We’re all different, so do what works.