Choosing to be alone for days is not an obvious extrovert choice. Yet for over a decade I’ve taken a solo annual retreat. I don’t go far, but I do go away from home where I am tempted by the dazzling distractions of unorganized drawers and the unfinished anything.
My yearly ritual is usually in winter, the season of slowing down, anticipating the new year, and hoping the arrival of spring can be trusted. As usual, I marked my calendar for January. But the universe had its own plans. I postponed until summer.
This time away is to look back, forward, and mostly within.
I looked back. It hasn’t been my happiest year. It began with my son Benjamin carried into my home from the hospital, after his multiple surgeries, after the life flight, after his car was crushed in a head on collision two weeks before Christmas.
Along with the sorrow of waiting for the light in Ben’s smile to return, sadness seemed to surround me. Two of my dearest friends divorcing. My joyful friend Joyce diagnosed with a rare dementia type disease. My nephew falling deeper into addiction. My childhood friend dying.
And, like for all of us, the daily news of near and far and all.
I looked inward. What did I see? What was most important to me? What would I make of the season of life I am in? How will I serve? Love? Be?
As I sat on the bed in the quiet of the sweet small apartment that was my three-day sanctuary the sadness was wrapped in layers of gratitude. The miracle that Benjamin was walking and able to use his fingers. That so many supported our family with penultimate generosity. That my own body was strong and pain free. Our law firm thriving. Feeling never surer that the love of my beloved will carry us into our final days.
There were too many joyful moments to count. Eating Dutch Babies with my law partners. Watering roses on the rooftop and hollyhocks in the garden. Easter brunch on a picnic table in the park. Laughing with my zooming co-workers.
Life can be hard. And good. At the same time.
I looked forward. Having witnessed the wonder of life while looking back, I allowed myself to look beyond goals to the pondering of dreams. For this I turned to two of my favorite things: paper and scissors. My intuition unfolds in the creation of a vision board. Appealing images and words collected from magazines and mailers cut and glued onto poster board create a picture of a possible future. Purposeful playtime.
What you see above is a glimpse. Backward, inward, forward.
Do you allow yourself time for reflection?
Are you holding happiness and sadness at the same time?
When was the last time you let yourself look at your dreams?