Two weeks ago I left Ridgway in the company of one of my sweet new friends from the Running Wild retreat, and started the long journey home. It was a gruelling one, in distance and time and in the degree to which I longed to be home with my babies back in my arms, but it was made much better by the opportunity to spend time with two of my oldest friends, both of whom I haven’t seen in a couple of years. But in the context of friendships that span decades, what is a couple of years? Just a reminder of how everything and nothing always changes, and everything and nothing always stays the same. I’m so grateful for these friendships — and how time and distance only seems to make them deeper & more dear.
Since arriving back home, which for now is a campsite on the edge of a northern lake full of loons and trout, I’m slowly assimilating the experience of being away and coming back — and trying to feel conscious instead of helpless about the slow part. For the first week home, I did nothing but unpack, clean the trailer, organize inside & out, laundry x infinity, snuggle the kids, walk the dogs, and read stories on demand. I probably spent an average of about 4.5 hours a day reading, mostly from the series of Disney stories I brought back from our storage shed (Cinderella, Snow White, Peter Pan, and 101 Dalmatians), but I made a kind of unofficial policy to say “yes” every time Au asked me to read. So last week, no matter what I happened to be doing, if she asked, I dropped whatever it was and sat down and read her a book. It was kind of amazing for both of us (she’s a different kid when she’s getting all the attention she wants 100% of the time). I wish I could keep it up forever, but I knew it was a temporary thing — both my new 30-hour/week job and Au’s Kindergarten homeschooling started on Monday, although I technically started preparing & planning for both much earlier than that, because that’s how I roll.
I’m trying to roll consciously, though. I’m trying to create a good balance between how I work and how I parent and how I stay both grounded and inspired with the things I need to do and the things I want to do. And the things I have the capacity to do, which is another thing entirely. Sometimes recognizing and accepting my limitations is the hardest thing of all. How do I balance my aspirations with the practical realities of my daily life? How do I keep my dreams alive when it feels like such a struggle to do the basics: staying on top of the laundry, the shopping, the momming, paying the bills?
I don’t have any wise insights on that, but I have realized the value of chasing the audacious and impossible dream, one small step at a time. Honestly, the more I reflect on it, the more I can see exactly how miraculous and unlikely it was that I even made it to the Running Wild retreat. And now looking back on the experience I can also see exactly how much I needed it. To be away from everything in my normal, everyday life. For the first time in 18 months, to have this little piece of space and time to actually begin to grieve the loss of my oldest child. To do that in a place where I was surrounded by mountains and horses and this incredible little circle of women, each one on her own journey of healing.
I am starting to get it now. How grief and loss takes time to unfold, and how I am just at the beginning of a process that will last for the rest of my life. How for the past 18 months I’ve been holding it together for the babies and L and for the sake of just getting through, and how that is just a survival mechanism. How I can’t keep on doing it without finding some space for release. Some space to feel my grief. To cry freely. To feel utterly broken. To sit with it, in it.
I’m starting to understand how necessary it is for me to somehow carve that time and space out of my everyday life so I can keep doing what I need to do to carry on. Beyond the magic of horses and mountains and hot springs and wise women, attending the retreat gave me a taste of how it can be when people gather together in a time and space apart to learn and grow and heal. I didn’t know how much I needed that space and time — even now two weeks out, it is all still just sinking in. I’m so grateful for everyone who gave me the nudge and encouragement (and tangible, practical help) I needed to get there: Katie, Melissa, Grannie, my parents, all my friends near & far who chipped in — you will never know how much you’ve helped me. The poets have always understood how words are at best the smallest approximations, the smallest gestures pointing towards the most ineffable experiences of life. Still, thank you <3. I love you all <3.
Before the baby wakes up (because the sun is up and he is tossing and making sounds already) I need to make an Important Announcement — to bring to light an idea that I’ve been holding close for some time now because I haven’t been sure if I’m ready. Now I know that there is no such thing as being ready — there is only listening to the call, trusting in the journey. I have decided to say yes.
I am organizing a retreat. April 18-25, 2020, seven days of rest and healing beside the ocean in a beautiful B&B with daily satsang focused on being present with the grief of losing a loved one. This is a risk for me. A first. I will be co-facilitating and also participating in my own healing journey, inviting a small group of others to join me in practices oriented toward creating space for grief and healing: pranayama and meditation, yoga, writing, being with horses. I’m very excited to have Dr. Pamela Richardson joining me as a co-facilitator to lead contemplative writing and offer her gentle wisdom and experience as a counsellor. Our group will stay together at the beautiful Villa Star of the Sea, located on the serene and powerful Playa Coco (which just happens to be one of my favourite places to ride to a beautiful hidden secret beach). All meals (with the exception of one dinner out) will be cooked and provided on site, and optional activities include yoga (2 daily classes focused on pranayama, meditation and restorative asana), massage (1 included, more can be booked on request), horseback riding (2 scheduled rides), daily contemplative writing group sessions, private counselling, beach walks, napping, sun bathing, swimming in the pool… In short, 7 days of bliss, whatever that means for you.
Since I need at least a few people to sign on so I can put a deposit down on our accommodations, I’ll be creating a poster and promotional materials soon, which I hope you’ll share with anyone who needs something like this. In the meantime, if you are interested and want more details, please contact me at playacocoretreat2020 [at] gmail.com.
I couldn’t be more excited (and nervous) to bring this dream to reality, to take that big step to create the space I need for my healing, and to be able to share it with others. ❤