Life has a funny way of redirecting me when I’m off track.
And by “funny” I really mean, “not fun at all.”
The last half of 2014 and first bit of 2015 was chalk full of amazing (my daughter off to her first year of college, being appointed to the board of my church, a surprise marriage proposal, a wedding, a new puppy, rehearsals and performances for two shows) and also some super hard stuff (death of my beloved furry Newfoundland dog, some rough experiences at work that I’m still working to clean up, a friend that has chosen to leave our friendship, and March – which used to be all celebration, but now is a really hard month for my sister and I).
So March hit me, and after being under the weather on and off for a few months (I am rarely sick, so I started to take notice), I hit a wall. When I started wondering if I wanted to switch careers my clinical supervisor said, “You’re burnt out. You need time off.” And when the executive director at my agency said, “Yeah, sounds like vicarious trauma + life…you need to take a good long chunk of time off.” And when my minister told me, “You really should find time to to go on retreat, is there a way you can prioritize that?” I decided the message was clear. As soon as I decided to take time off, things started falling into place.
Right about that time a dear friend was recommended a book by her dear adult child, the title of which she passed on to me: The Desire Map: A Guide To Creating Goals With Soul by Danielle LaPonte. Yes. This sounded just right.
And then my sister-in-law’s husband enthusiastically offered me their rustic, primitive cabin in the mountains of Montana for as long as I wanted it, and I jumped at it. These good good people went out of their way, joyfully, to accommodate my every need for my time in isolation for a restorative retreat.
I cleared my schedule for two weeks both at the agency I work for and in my private practice (something have never done, even when taking a vacation from the agency) so I would have NOTHING to do. My appointment book has joyful, giant lines through each day, “OFF” each one says. Off Off Off. For two weeks. I could feel myself breathe again, just with the plan of taking the time for myself.
I drove to Missoula and was whisked away with love on my birthday to the cabin. I cooked on a propane stove, lit the cabin with a propane lantern, and heated it with a propane heater. I enjoyed a camp fire on the non-rainy days, and relieved myself several yards from the cabin – using a shovel when needed – with a view of trees and mountains and valleys. There was phone and text service, but I didn’t get internet. It was so peaceful. I didn’t even want to turn on the radio…I tried once, but it felt like noise so I turned it off. It was stormy for the first day and a half, rain pelting the tin roof, wind buffeting the walls and trees swaying dramatically outside. Then it was still. So still the silence felt like my ear drums were expanding.
And I wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and I thought, and I cried and I read. And I did the work from the book to identify my “core desired feelings” from which I could make decisions and guide my life – based on how I wanted to FEEL, not what I wanted to HAVE. I needed the help at one point of a dictionary and thesaurus so my beloved husband, at my request, sent me screenshots of definitions and synonyms of words I sent to him via text.
After two days of work, I landed on three core feelings I desire: Tranquil, Radiant, and Whimsical. These words open my heart, excite me, bring me peace and a sense of adventure – and there were things in my life that were not bringing me those feelings.
I came back home and still had over a week off from work. During this time, I did some sorting about my life. What stays, what goes, what needs some tweaking and enhancement. My life was too full. I had too many communities and tasks I was invested in and there were aspects of my daily life that weren’t in integrity with those core desired feelings, so I had to cull that and let go of what wasn’t serving me in return. I had to decide, “Where does all of me, the whole being of me, feel met?”
I feel lighter already. I went shopping for some new clothes because my jeans sag and make me feel frumpy. I’m making plans for a vegetable garden, and this attempt feels more solid because it’s coming from a different place – not a “should” place, but a “YES!” place, and along with the raised beds I have some funky and whimsical ideas for some yard art to brighten up the scrap wood frames. I’m not using the electric, bulky Keurig to brew my coffee anymore, but rather a single cup, cone & filter, which then can feed my worm bin. Little things, bigger things.
I have a new way to look at what I want: How I want to nourish myself with food, service, movement, creativity, living in my body, and connecting with the earth and myself.
I feel revitalized. Redirected. Renewed.
I’m coming to the end of my two weeks off, and *almost* feel ready to go back to work and do the service of helping and healing that brings me such joy. And this time, my life is lighter and I can decide to keep it that way by continually asking:
Will this (idea, choice, activity, project, event, friendship, class…) make me feel tranquil, radiant and/or whimsical?
If not, I will let it go, or tweak it if I can. If yes, I will embrace it, with much gratitude.