When my writer’s conference up and left to parts unaffordable, I tried to set up my own writer’s retreats; a solid week to concentrate on me as the writer with minimal upheaval to my family and my pocketbook. I would be home in the morning to send the kids to school, and then after Mass, I’d spend the day out, writing, visiting places I didn’t typically get to visit, taking photographs and making plans.
And, of course, writing.
It was good for my depression, and good for my soul, and fortunately, it didn’t upset the household balance too much.
Oftentimes, it reminded me of my solo trip to Wales that was a godsend and a challenge and spiritual and so many other things that five years later, I still write about the wonder of it all; about the aloneness but the comfort in that aloneness; that sense I had of self, and the want to do it all again.
Yes, even the driving on the wrong side of the road, which is less a string of expletives and more a warm musing of my adventures.
The Spring Enrichment offered by our Diocese fed my soul in a similar way, although I’m not sure I would call that a retreat per se. Some parts of it were certainly that positive aloneness, time to meditate, but other portions were too exhilarating; too mind racing to be mistaken for a private retreat. It was less solitary, but it also led me out of my comfort zone in several other ways: asking questions, introducing myself to speakers and strangers alike, getting involved in conversations, offering my opinions. I was comfortable enough to be me for a little while.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to attend a spiritual retreat. I hadn’t ever gone on one before; everything there was new to me. This was a weekend of prayer and artistry, no artistic talent needed. A retreat director, artist Brother Mickey McGrath guided us through his five sessions giving our creativity an outlet through prayer and bringing us closer to G-d, whether or not we were drawing religious symbols or objects from nature, like flowers and leaves. Except for our private rooms, we shared classes, prayer and group meals.
For this retreat, I’d need drawing paper and colored pencils and as I mentioned I’d have my own room. It was very exciting, and it was a little intimidating, and very much out of my comfort zone, but for the most part, I was looking forward to it.
All of it.
The packing, the unpacking, the communal bathroom down the hall, meeting strangers, all here for our own reasons seeking our own spiritual fortunes; the quiet, the nature, the prayer, the wonder of something new and old at the same time, all taking place in G-d’s presence.
Typically, I’m not much for being alone, but this was different. For starters, I loved my room. A bed, a chair, a desk. It sounds spartan, but it was homey. There was a ceiling fan and a big window next to the bed. I almost didn’t want to leave the room. The wifi didn’t reach the room and cell service was spotty, but that was a good thing. It gave me the quiet space to meditate, to think, to write.
It was two and a half days of good food, good company, and good meditating time. I was surprised by my drawings. I enjoyed doing the mandalas. I also think I did pretty well; my drawings came out better than I expected since I’m not much of an artist. I drew my favorite flower – the daffodil. I drew the triquetra that’s been so important to me lately.
Once I got home, I started drawing small circular badges to use on my website. It made me feel like I’ve accomplished something artistically. I wasn’t overly critical of myself as I usually had a tendency to be.
I prayed. We had prayer services every day, and Mass on Saturday night plus I sat in the courtyard with my journal and prayed the rosary. It was the first time I felt connected to the rosary in a meaningful way, and it started me praying with it a little more regularly once the retreat was over.
This is my introduction to this week’s retreat. I’m doing something a little bit unlike what I’ve done before on my other ‘retreats’.
I’ve done the writing retreat and now I’ve done the spiritual retreat. Last year, I was fortunate enough to travel to Williamsburg, a gift from my best friend, which was a kind of retreat in itself.
However, beginning tomorrow (maybe even parts of today), I’m doing both, maybe more. If I can plan it out and prepare my family, I should be able to recharge my batteries on so many levels before the holidays surprise us like they do every year.
For regular readers here, I have had the new weekly format in place for two weeks now, and it seems that people like it. I do. I’m very comfortable with it, and since my family is always taking my computer, I’ve even made sure that I can post the first couple of days each week from my Kindle, my very favorite piece of technology that I own.
This week it’s hard to say if my posts will be feast or famine.
I do have plans, reflections I want to write, places I want to pray, thoughts and scripture that I want to meditate on, continuing my creative recovery through The Artist’s Way book, ending next Saturday with a full day creative retreat at a nearby Dominican Retreat Center.
I’m also using Fr. James Martin’s book, Together on Retreat as the basis for the spiritual guide for me. Having just finished his recent book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage, I love his tone, his style of writing and his insights which more often than not match my own. Where we diverge, he offers questions for my own meditations. I’m looking forward to sharing my week with you.
There are so many things flying around in my head that I’m hoping to and trying to set them up in their own homes, rooms if you will, and organize them into manageable chunks.
As anxious as I am for this weekend and succeeding at my retreat, I’m also very excited.
My primary theme is to center myself spiritually through prayer and writing. Writing is my lifeblood. It is the second point of my triquetra.
My secondary theme is taking care of myself.
Focusing on me, pulling my creativity along, seeking past my comfort zone, and finding me because I’m still lost, but also combining all the positives as coping and managing tools, mechanisms for living with my depression and anxiety and letting me be me, and then be able to introduce myself to the people around me.