So my 24 silence/solitude retreats usually are from Friday to Saturday. I tend to leave Friday afternoon and return Saturday at lunch. Most of the time it is more like 20 hrs away because I feel bad that Jeremy might be going crazy with our youngest’s unrelently need to be played with.
I have discovered that I love to meet with Barbara, my spiritual director at the beginning of my time away. Some have been weirded out when I say spiritual director. She is just a mentor on my faith journey. She asks me great questions and always points me back to Christ. Now I know someone who has a spiritual advisor and that experience has been way different with this individual “assisting” them in talking to dead relatives etc. So I recommend getting a spiritual director not an advisor. ;). I found mine by calling the local Catholic retreat center and asked if they had any spiritual directors they could recommend. Barbara happened to also be one of the cooks there but attends the local Methodist church.
Anyways I love rolling into my night right after spiritual direction. It is so wonderful to have the space/margin to ponder our time together. I shared things that brought tears and made me feel vulnerable. So to have the space to cocoon myself in silence and solitude is glorious. It likely takes time to build up the habit of silence and solitude since both are run from in our society. The drive after direction was so peaceful. I choose to keep the music off, not check my Marco Polo video messages (I often listen while driving, not watching;), or not even sing. I am certainly not against any of those. But silence is what I felt I needed. Normally I am so quick to flee the silence or my 5 yr. old is quick to fill the space with his bubbly conversation or music requests to play Old Time Rock Roll or Swinging by Thad (his daddy’s song). But having this intentional day makes me stop and pause the things I normally do.
What a gift to have this time to listen to what my heart wants. It was longing for a reprieve from words, spoken or sung.
The last retreat was at my mother in law’s house. She has offered it each time so I can enjoy the comforts of home with a hot bath, kitchen and comfy bed. Prior to this offer I usually crashed on a couch at church. Her apartment feels way more cozy and safe.
It was lovely to leave from direction to her house. I could change into my walking shoes and hoodie and grab a snack which was chocolate. On the table she had left for me a box of See’s candies!!!! Chocolate is my love language.
Next my heart wanted warm, comfort food. I ordered a bowl of broccoli cheese soup and a baguette from Panera. I found a spot facing the landscaped area with a mature tree in the middle surrounded by plants. It was my dear friend who helped me to see how selecting the table and seat facing God’s creation is restorative for this naturalist’s heart, far more than facing a wall inside a building. Anytime we would meet for coffee she always would rearrange where she would sit so I could have the best view of the trees for this hippy, tree-loving friend of hers. She saw a need in me that I did not even recognize. She’s like that. God has given her a divine gift of perspective. She picks up on things that I often don’t see. She is also such a nurturer. She is a host in whatever environment she is in whether she’s planned the event or not. She has taught me so much on how to love well.
Ok so after dinner I knew my heart wanted to enjoy more of this lovely 70 degree (not yet humid) spring evening. I also know my body will feel better if I walk after dinner and help it to process my food. I drove to a nearby park that I knew had a nice walking trail surrounded by woods. It was right at the magical time of the the evening as the sun is setting. Some refer to this time as the thin places, where heaven and earth meet. ;). I love how the sun peeks through the trees, illuminating some and not others. The segments of illuminated trees glow bright green. And the smell of the cool evening air, it doesn’t get better than this. Well a sunset over a west coast beach or over Hume Lake rivals it.
Following my walk I knew I could use some book therapy. I can’t get enough of the Barnes and Noble smell. Jeremy says its the book glue I’m smelling. Then get me a candle scented book glue. ;). Just kidding, I’m uber sensitive and artificial scents usually send this HSP (highly sensitive person, think someone who extra sensitive antenna or spidey senses) into headacheville. I just ordered 4 of Shauna Niequist’s books from Thriftbooks.com for the price of 1 new one. But trust me I still buy books from Barnes and Noble because if I lost my book glue smell/ brick and mortar bookstore I’d be sooooo sad. But my budget prefers Thriftbooks for most of my purchases. I wanted to pick up beautiful cards. Most of my cards are dollar tree finds. But once a friend bought me a box of beautiful cards. It was a perfect gift. The cards had a shimmery (l love sparkle) tree on the front and the leaves were pastel hearts!!! My love of trees and hearts rolled into one. I love them. I save them for extra special cards, not just a quick generic thanks. It was that kind of boxed set I was looking for. I found these beautiful diecut tree cards. I’m smitten with trees. I swooped them up with a cash gift I had recently received which made the purchase easier. True each card was only $1 but I am used to 8 for $1 at dollar tree. Live a little Kimi Copeland.
This weather was too glorious to spend the twilight hours indoors so once book glue land closed (early at 8pm likely due to the fact we are still living in a pandemic) I found a quiet table under some trees outside of a closed doughnut shop and journaled the evening’s events. For me one of the greatest gifts of this monthly time away is the chance to write. I try to write when I feel like I can’t do anything else but write. I love to write when it feels like this. I hope one day to have a book contract. I hear authors often have to write even when they don’t want to so maybe that will happen one day. I’d prefer no deadlines;). This spontaneous adventurer (ISFP-Myers Briggs) hates having my butt on the line for anything hence why I don’t have a job in a cubicle. That life would squash my soul. I still stand in awe of people who know how to make a spreadsheet and it also brings them giddy delight. A spreadsheet for me would involve a poster board and crayola markers. Ok, where was I? Of yes, writing. I hope to maybe write a book one day on silence and solitude or these self-care retreats. P.S these times are meant to be restorative and not a time of rules. So technically it is not silent because I talk to myself plenty. 😉 I often send audio messages to people. the quiet space often results in my heart thinking things I want to encourage another in. I know God has given me this passion for writing so I trust and wait that God will use to uplift others one day. Right now my blog has like 10 subscribers and most are like fake robot things I think.
As I was losing daylight I headed off to my mother in law’s apartment to eat more See’s candies, write some cards and then a hot bath. A hot bath is true treat. Our current home’s bathtub is only suitable for small children. I’m the size of a hobbit and I still can’t fit. I’ve tried. The water doesn’t fully cover my body so it ends in quite a disappointing attempt but I keep trying and hoping. So a hot bath where I am fully submerged is a treat!
Think Homer Simpson mouth open drooling, eyes closed and indecipherable groaning. That is how I feel about hot baths. I forget my undying love of hot baths until I get one. I’m not sure why I love them so much. There was not much silence as I could not stop saying, “thank you Jesus.” The words of gratitude could not help but be expressed.
Jeremy jokes my baths are unhealthy. I always stumble on out after my bath red as a lobster. I am often slightly comatose and incoherent. ;). I am so sleepy that usually an episode of LOST is out of the question. And about half of the time or slightly more I feel a tad bit yucky, a wee bit nauseated. I know sounds horrible but leading up to that point it is so delightful just not sure when to get out to avoid these things. You know how they say you can boil a frog. It is said you can put a frog in a pot of room temperature water and slowly increase the heat. The frog will never jump out but eventually be boiled to death. Lovely thought I know but that’s me in the tub. I often tell Jeremy we should get a hot tub but that would just likely be a lobster boil each night for me. I bet my nurse friends could tell me what is going on in body with my lava baths. I love having nurse friends. But I can’t say that they love having me as a friend. If one has gone to medical school I basically think she/he is omniscient. I often have to resist the urge to text my random health questions. I tend to be catastrophic in my thinking so I can have alot of medical worries/questions. Working on it. I am also working on asking google but actually better yet just letting it go – whatever medical thing I am stressing about.
Now it is the morning of my retreat. I went to bed late at midnight watching stuff I’d just like. I watched a fun episode of Home Edit with Reese Witherspoon. I tend to be more of a minimalist partly because my closet for both hubby and I is smaller than a front coat closet. But I do also find more freedom in less. It is less to manage, wash, put away etc. And so now it is just my favs. I even kinda envy those who have the set look and it is more like a uniform ;). There is no time wasted in figuring out what to wear. Anyways back to this fun Netflix me time. I enjoyed the show because I geek out over labels, symmetry, and tidy spaces. I had thought I’d write cards to friends after my bath but way too relaxed so my heart decided I need to chillax with Netflix. Now don’t be mistaken, it was not Netlix and chill. lol.
So I went to bed late. I slept in. I woke originally at 6am but allowed myself to go back to sleep after I peed. 😉 I rolled out of bed at 9:30. I decided to type out this post. I think I might write a card or two that have been on my heart. Shopping alone without our 5 yr.old is restorative. He likes to pick up and touch everything so taking him with me is like an exercise in patience. I may go return something to Target and pick up a few things I need from Dollar Tree then grab some lunch and head home. I had hoped to do Lectio Divina but I think I have a pocket of quiet time later today that I can do that. Or I might just eat lunch at home.
The cool thing about these retreats being regular is that most of the time I do not enter them in desperation. In the past (prior to this past year) my retreats were scheduled out of desperation. I would drop into them absolutely spent and 24 hrs usually was not enough. I would often need the whole weekend. But it was a little over a year ago that I read Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry and in that he shares his monthly practice of 24 hrs aways. When I read that I knew I wanted to build this habit into my life. It wasn’t til about 5 months later that I started this monthly habit. Now I wonder how to people do life without it. This habit/discipline is soooo RESTORATIVE. I was telling my spiritual director why would I ever give it up. I feel like these retreats have been key to my well being. They have been key in maintaining peace in my life. My hubby says they would not be restorative for him but taking time to retreat with me is good for him. So I am hoping to perhaps retreat with him every other month. I would love for him to spend at least a half day each Friday out on a lake fishing.