"None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet we still go forward.
Because we Trust. Because we have Faith."
-Paulo Coelho, "Brida"
Part III of III
In the time since my retreat last month, I've struggled to get back into the swing of things. I've felt unsettled, out of sorts, frustrated, impatient...honestly, what did I expect? Instant enlightenment and an easy transformation/reintegration? Impossible. One thing I turn to when I'm feeling this way is the practice of structured creativity; another thing is to take care of others.
I know, right?! So strong is the lure of the comfort of old habits!
I've tried reallyreallyreally hard to break that habit (the care of others) and take care of my Self. I've used up all of my vacation time at work as of this writing (never fear- a new bank of time starts October 1st), and have enjoyed it so much. What's surprised me is that I've had to continue working on identifying my wants and needs more than I expected. I mean, I get that it's a process, this work on Identity, but let me tell you: there is so much more I want to do now, and I'm finally- FINALLY- grasping the full importance of Self first. Yes, I've always subscribed to taking care of yourself first in order to help others (by being an example or through hands-on actions). But post-retreat? I'm able to delve into the why of it being important to me.
Gather some food and some basic supplies- a place to sleep, something to write on, something to write with, something to move you. Take as much time as is available to you and add Introspection liberally.
Part of knowing who you are is knowing how you'll react to certain road blocks or life situations. I know, for instance, that I need to have some sort of schedule to my day in order for me to play. Yep. It helps me to know that I need to get ABC done before I can indulge in LMNO. And one thing I've really been lamenting is my job and how the current lack of structure is paralyzing me and my thought process. I know, right?! You would think that no parameters would make it so easy to be creative; alas, it is a big road block.
Next, take the Blank Page as the Opportunity to truly present your wants and needs; be sure to check these often, as time may alter their shape. Review, reflect, and edit with prudence.
And the rest of my life? Well, there have been some challenges with Blonde Daughter this year, and those have had me questioning my abilities and intuition when it comes to parenting. Single parenting is never anything I would recommend, especially if you've had a partner at one point to help you and now don't. Not having that confidant to discuss matters of child-rearing with is frustratingly sad, especially when your child is dealing with her own internal battles. Knowing yourself first helps ease this pain, gives you material to tell stories that, whether asked for or not, can help your child come to an understanding about their challenges, can maybe guide them to a place they always thought wasn't really meant for them.
After a time, share what you have created with those around you, friends and not-yet-friends alike. Learn to trust others, even if it leaves you feeling uncomfortable and unguarded and small and broken.
My friends have, of course, been supportive and wonderful and encouraging throughout this process. Do they get it, do they understand the importance of this work for me? For what it means to how I'll live out my days? Maybe some of them do, I don't know. I know that I've been able to re-connect with friends on a level that is deeper and more genuine, and that the girl I used to be is lurking around, ready to make a move on those last pieces of the social construct that has been in my mirror for the past 20 years.
Look around your feet for the sturdy bits, for the supporting bits, for the structural bits, for the shiny bits. Use these to build up not walls, but ladders, maybe, for others to climb onto. Be a Giver of _______. Anything, everything, yourself.
In short, what have I learned from my retreat? More than I could ever put into words, is what I think most days. And then other days I'll draw a picture or write a short story or take a photograph and think, This is what I have in my head when I think about _______ from my retreat. I need to share this before I explode with excitement over this discovery, this tangible and tiny flake. And then other days I'll think I've got it down, and during a three-hour conversation with a Buddhist Hippie Sage discover that, no, I have more work to do, that my pain runs deep and the wisdom at my core is just dying to get out.
And that, friends, can only mean that the old saying must be true: the Journey is the Destination. And I'm so glad you're all here.