That is a quote from May Sarton from The House by the Sea. I am not next to a sea, well I am close but not at its edge. My life split between ocean and mountain. The sea moves me toward activity and the mountain invites stillness, well, as still as I get. And I have learned to be still at the shore, and active in the mountains. But I do find that retreat matters less on where you are, than what you do with your time while there.
And currently I am on retreat. I have spoken to almost no one and spent my days reading, writing, meditating, yogaing, sunbathing, hiking and lounging and each day has had a slow, quiet rhythm and it has been so healing.
I came to work on my book. I feel like I made some good progress on it and am proud of what I committed to the work during this time.
My original purpose in coming here was solely to write. I was so out of touch with how hard and miserable my life had become, I thought that all I needed was time alone to write. However, in a turn of events that was surprising even to me, the one living this life the whole time, I found myself in quite a situation. And the only real response to that particular situation, was retreat.
I retreated away from my life at home which was horrible. He left on Friday for Houston. (I am waiting for "Houston, we have a problem..") So while he is absent at home, I know the quality of life there is better now. However, the memories of that last day wound me still.
I arrived here in desperate need of healing. And I have found it. Here on the side of a mountain, working, writing, reading. The quiet hum of my life unfolding when totally God and self directed. There was no schedule, nowhere to be, no one to see, and nothing that MUST be done. Nothing, even writing. I gave myself permission to just be and allow what happened to just unfold. And, of course, for someone who writes daily, writing had to be a part of it all.
I feel better. Whole’er. As if the fractured parts of myself attended a reunion of souls this weekend. The mom, the worker, the asshole, the traumatized, the funny, the sexy, the sober, the lover, the writer and reader, all of us were brought along on this retreat of Erin. Some of us were not too happy about it actually. Yesterday the mom iteration was dead set that we should return home a day early. The traumatized stated clearly and plainly, in her utmost adult voice, she needed another day. And the rest of us, just nodded in agreement, that it was, in fact, hard at times to be alone with all of us. We are a lot at times. Even for us.
No, I have not developed multiple personality disorder over the weekend. Just owning that the whole of me was in desperate need of peace, quiet and solitude. For each day to unfold without agenda, without being hurried, without discussion, without argument and without things to do. We all just need to sit on the side of this mountain, take in the air as well as vista and allow that slow cadence of a day to be a kind of healing. I get you May, for fuck’s sake, I fucking get that.
After our communion of souls, I feel like we are unified in our parts and able to return tomorrow, whole’er and in more complete cohesion.
I ate last night’s leftovers for dinner and it was almost better tonight than it was last night. Although I do miss the salad. Regardless, I sat last night in a busy, nice restaurant by myself while every table had only combinations of two or mores. And I sat there alone feeling comfortable, at ease, not longing for anything I lacked in the moment. I read my book in-between salad and entree, looking up at the massive, amazing encircling redwoods that created a community to which we were invited to intrude. I marveled that here, redwoods are everywhere, and create that special, stalwart presence in scared places, as well as the outdoor patio of a restaurant. How lucky it is to be among them anywhere.
I danced in the kitchen to Crosby, Stills and Nash. Just me, all by myself. Which was both fun and healing.
I am learning healing takes many forms. It is a delicate balancing of time spent in solitude and in community. I have bounced back-and-forth in my life between solitude and community, always feeling like I never had enough or the right kind of either, Always feeling like life was demanding I pick one over the other. I can be alone or I can be with others, there has always felt to be no middle ground worth having.
But as I read, and lived, and re-evaluated this life that is so worth living, all the lessons I am provided (ones usually I do not want to learn or stubbornly refuse to learn, or even see my part in my own personal suffering) I am beginning to realize that it isn’t ever one or the other. That was never the question...
Instead it is an ever changing balance of the two: the need for community for purpose and fellowship and the need to be quiet and still, encased in solitude to give life, oneself and all the many others who grace our lives meaning and sanctuary. To give it all time to filter through all our defenses, traumas, rationalizations, excuses and reasons to blame others. Solitude is the only thing I know that can cut through all your own bullshit and reveal to you, you in stark contrast and relief.
It is in solitude you become re-introduced to yourself. Where you can assess that shifting balance between community and solitude. Assessing more accurately to whom you want to give your time, what they add, what they take away and what you are left with to offer back.
After this retreat, solitude feels more like a duty than a luxury. To spend enough time in both to stay engaged in the process while evaluating each and their relative merits and negative consequences. I know for me, when I spend too much time in either camp, I get depressed. Too much community and I begin not to like any of you. You drain me with your problems and your issues. I just want to get AWAY, fast. And what I know is that it is never, well rarely, you. It is always me. This knee jerk jerkiness I pull out of thin air is actually me letting me know I need to be alone, quiet and still. Well, perhaps I am really just letting myself know. Sometimes it does feel like I am the last to know things about me.
And then if I spend too much time alone, I become fearful of you. I mistrust you. I find it hard to re-engage and begin to believe the fallacy that I do not need you at all...when all of the evidence of my life points to just how very much I need you.
I always thought that life kind of took care of this balance all by its self. But it doesn’t, it is incumbent on us to figure this out for ourselves and accept the hard realization that there will never be a percentage that will work in all times and seasons. No, we must engage constantly and consistently between the two extremes of connecting to self and connecting to others.
An important component that was totally lost on me until recently was how much communion with nature, God and universal spirit helps to sort all this out.
I am imperfect and without the welcoming and space making efforts to bring in the Divine, I really don’t have a fucking prayer.
So this weekend, I sought a great deal of solitude and Divinity. A lot of meditating and praying. A lot of writing and reading. And I feel like I can re-enter community renewed, refreshed, and whole’er.
Yes, Ms. Sarton, to live the slow quiet rhythm of a day as a kind of healing works just fine.