Dear future husband,
For the sake of our relationship, my mental health and sanity, I need to be able to go to a location outside of the city we live in, once a year without you or anyone else, for a few days to relax, be restored and spend my days doing only the things I want to do. This is non-negotiable.
The first time I went on a solo retreat was in 2009, a few days before my 29th birfday. I was staring possible unemployment in the eyes and frustration was rearing its ugly head within my mind. I was craving a few days to just put everything on pause and focus on me. I prayed for an opportunity to do just that and when it arose, I pounced on it.
I trekked down to the beach for a few days, a little nervous about how this was going to play out but excited about the adventure. Just a few hours into my excursion I found myself in a state of giddyness. I was hooked! This was absolutely amazing, I thought to myself as I sat in my hotel room and contemplated what I was going to do that evening.
I. Not we. I. Me, myself and I.
The only person there making decisions was me. Oh happy day!
There was no one there to tell me they did not want to sit out at the beach all day. There was no one there to tell me they did not want to go eat where I wanted to eat.
There was no one there to talk to me when I did not feel like talking.
There was no one there to make noise when I yearned for quietness.
There was no one there to rush me when I was taking my time.
There was no one there to interrupt me when I was talking with God.
There was no one there and I could not have been any more thrilled than I was.
What started as something I needed to do at that time to get my mind back on a positive track uncovered a need to do this every year.
Because I give. I give, a lot.
And anyone who knows me well knows those four words above are not meant to be a way of me bragging, boasting or saying hey look at me. In fact, I am quite the opposite. For how visible I am, I like to fly under the radar. But I do give, a lot. And I have realized that there have been times that I have given so much that I leave little room to give to myself. I leave little room to take care of me, mentally. I leave little room to allow my cup to be refilled.
Today, I can proudly say this is no longer the case.
Now, if you are a woman then you probably read that paragraph above and said that sounds just like me. I know it does because it is you! It is most women. We give, give, give until we are either forced to stop giving so much due to health issues or we have a breakdown. And that my fellow superwoman is why you need to take a yearly solo retreat.
When people find out I do this, especially women, they are shocked. I receive a lot of typical responses such as “That doesn’t sound fun at all.” Or, “Don’t you miss having someone to talk to.” And the most common, “Oh, I could never do that.” Of course, I am thinking “How do you know? You have never tried.”
Every woman needs time for herself. Time to just be. Time to just sit. Time to just do whatever she wants to do without being pulled in a million different directions. Time for reflection. Time for planning. Time for restoration.
Those reasons are why I do it plus more. I learn a lot about me on these solo retreats. I have always loved the beach but I realized on my retreats how much I really love the beach. I can sit out at the beach for hours. It is not unusual for me to go to the beach around 11:00am and stay out there until 8:00pm. Yes, you read that right. I take everything I will need for the day – my chair, umbrella, towel, straw mat, cooler, Yeti, iPod(yes I still use one) bookbag with books and snacks and Ziploc bags to put my seashells, sea rocks and sand in. Nine hours on the beach and its still not enough.
But it holds me over until the next time which I am usually already trying to figure out when that will be before I leave.
Oh and my phone is typically on do not disturb the majority of my retreat.
If you are reading this, I encourage you to give it a chance. If you think you would struggle with this then I challenge you to get to the root of why. I like me. I like alone time. And I like me alone time. You should too.
Give it a try. Your mental health could depend upon it.