Fun fact: some “guided” retreats are also “silent” retreats. I had no idea, and considering this was my first retreat ever, I really had no clue what to expect. I arrived on the Friday, everyone ate dinner and shared stories as to why this retreat came at the perfect time in their lives; most women already knew each other, so you can imagine the blow my pride took the next morning when I was greeting everyone with a cheery “Good Morning”, and no one replied. In fact, they all stared at the ground as they passed by. I couldn’t imagine what I had done to upset all of them so much, and instantly I was beating myself up. They hate you. They think you shouldn’t be here. This was a mistake. My self worth was non existent, and I was so vulnerable to other peoples’ impressions of me, even if they were perceptions of impressions.
Once I clued in to the fact that it was a silent retreat, and people weren’t actually being incredibly rude, I was able to appreciate the solitude. I stood in awe of the picturesque sky starting out over the lake, the birds flying overhead and disappearing into the distance. But in all this beauty, I could not stop my mind from going a mile a minute.
I was worried about work and my relationship. I could not wrap my head around why my life was turning out this way. Why was I being stripped of everything I loved, everything that I knew? I questioned my belief in a higher power so much that weekend. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of a man with a white beard, or with any sort of sin list – considering I could easily check off over half of any list you presented to me. But I was desperate to find something, anything to believe in. I knew I wouldn’t last long if I stayed where I was.
I believe now that that “something” actually led me to this retreat. I didn’t want to go, I had originally called (only a few days prior) for my partner to go and there was one spot left. Was it fate?
“Something more than Ordinary. That’s their tagline at this retreat centre. Isn’t it exactly what I’m searching for? Something not so mundane and routinely? Something that speaks to me on a deeper level and brings some peace while encountering the chaos that is “just a regular, ordinary life”.
Maybe there are other ways to connect and get to know God that have nothing to do with going to church. I’m sure there are. Even being here, Sister Jane has never said the word “God”, she uses the word “Divine”…”
My heart knows I am loved. My head, chatter from others, books people have written try to confuse me, to sell me on untruths. But if I am still, and I am listening, this is a matter of the heart – not the head. The sunsets here are incredible. There is something about the sun setting on the lake that is just so magical. For the first time this weekend I can say that I’m connecting with the theme – Wrapped in Wonder. Looking out at the burning red sun and the ripples from the water radiating that warmth, I feel energy around me, and all the wonder that it brings. I’ve come to discover that I am Wrapped in the Wonder of Creation – nature. This is where my peace is. Any time I am near a lake, I feel it very strongly. It was hard to connect with being wrapped in wonder of my being this morning, probably because I’m being very hard on myself lately. But I find such peace in nature – creation. It’s indescribable, and it’s so real.
Reading back in my journal now it just amazes me the tiny little nudges, hints, signs that I was getting from above. Very few that I was able to catch on to at the time. People would look at that and say yes, it’s fate. I would say that it’s Divine timing. That’s the thing about a journey right? It’s all about timing. Nothing happens when you want/expect it to, it happens when it’s meant to. And there is always learning being done along the way, whether you like it or not.
It was at this retreat, sorrounded by silence, that I decided to be honest.
I wrote down a list of my symptoms and I went to my doctor. That may seem ridiculous to you, but I knew that if I didn’t write everything down and actually put the paper in his hand, I would have lied – to him, and to myself. He started the process for a short term disability leave from work before I could even gather the courage to admit that I didn’t feel competent to work with individuals, especially individuals who are incredibly vulnerable. As a social worker, it was my duty to be open and honest about my shortcomings. Too often I see people pushing past their warning posts, for what? That has absolutely no benefit to the clients! It is so important to admit that we are suffering – we are not super human! It is so easy for anyone in a helping profession to push themselves to the side, to look at other peoples struggles and instantly minimize their own.
Often we are afraid of how others might judge us. I know I was – my manager might think I’m weak and shouldn’t be working here, my parents will think I’ve failed, my co-workers will never trust me… When it got to the point for me that I felt like I was either going to end up in the hospital or face these fears, I chose to just deal. And for the most part, the response was the complete opposite than I had expected. Yet another shift were seeing in the universe – people are more and more open-minded when it comes to mental health. So let’s keep talking about it!!