The cat wakes me at 5am. He slept with the twins and is trapped upstairs. He is usually banished from the sleeping quarters at night, but Nicky begged to sleep with him. I tried to take the cat out of their room before I went to bed, but he was draped on Nicky’s chest, face comfortably tucked into my little boy’s neck. I couldn’t bring myself to separate them.
So I reluctantly pull myself out of my warm bed to free the yowling cat before he wakes the entire family. After his release, I stumble in darkness back to bed and hope for sleep to return.
But something is wrong. I feel the nagging seed of dread deep in my belly. It takes my tired brain a moment to pinpoint the source and then I remember…I am going away today. Apprehension washes over me and I am now completely awake.
An incredibly talented friend of mine is hosting a women’s crafting workshop on Cape Cod this weekend. She has been advertising it for months and has asked me if I wanted to attend many times, but I never had any interest. I can craft with the best of ’em, but the idea of spending a whole weekend doing it-especially with a bunch of people I don’t know very well- did not appeal to me one bit.
But two days before the workshop, something happened: the idea of going popped into my head and would not leave. Something deep inside me whispered, “Go.” Before I thought it through, I texted my friend and asked if there was still room. The next thing I knew, I was packing sheets and towels and preparing to sleep in a room with strangers. What the hell did I do? The sinking feeling in my gut tells me not to go, but I have committed. “How bad can it be?” my other voice asks. I am going to the ocean, for goodness sake! I take a moment to appreciate this privilege and remind myself to be open. I have to honor whatever impulse it was that called me to this workshop. I have to have some faith in that inner voice.
My GPS has lead me to my destination, so I haven’t even seen my surroundings. I haven’t even glimpsed the ocean. Disappointment creeps in. I walk into a warm, inviting house full of strangers. Everyone is friendly, but I am way out of my comfort zone. I am led up the creaky stairs to the campy room that I will share with three other women. I have never done this before. I like to go on weekend escapes, but I always, ALWAYS, have my own room. Shit. Shit. Shit. I should not have come. I want to flee, but I am four hours from home. I sit in the drafty (shared!) bathroom and take some deep breaths. I try again to remember the instinct that caused me to send that damn text inquiry in the first place, but whatever it was has been smothered by this ridiculous, disproportionate fear. The only thing that comes to me is the Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
And then I remember that I am at a crafting workshop and not preparing for battle.
My “grow the hell up and get your ass downstairs” voice forces me out of the bathroom and into the mass of unfamiliar women. I get something to eat and drink and settle on the couch. I relax a teeny, tiny bit. But then the hosts introduce the next crafting project and everyone seems to be enthusiastic but me.
The pit in my stomach grows. I am tired. The doubt tries to get hold again: “These are not my people.” “This is not my thing.” “What was I thinking?”
As the others dive into their project, I quietly sneak away to my strange, cold bed. Before I crawl in, I consciously take a moment-just a moment- to abandon my self-pity. I close my eyes and appreciate the fact that I have a weekend to myself, away from the demands of my family, and that I am indeed at the ocean, even though there is no evidence of it yet.
When I open my eyes, I see that one of my roommates has entered the room. She has a soft, kind voice and lovely aquamarine eyes. I know in an instant that this is a beautiful soul. She quietly excuses herself and begins meditating in her corner of the room. I turn off my light and snuggle into my flannel covers. My belly finally relaxes as we breathe together in the dark. I close my eyes, but now I see some light.
I wake before the sun. I know the ocean is out there somewhere and I must find it. My meditation parter is in synch and quietly descends the stairs with me. We silently make tea in the kitchen as I prepare for the worst November can offer. With hat, gloves, down coat and a steaming mug of tea, I step alone into the darkness. I have no idea where the beach is, but the waning moon is out to guide me. I sip my tea and fill my lungs with the cold, November air. Before I even find the ocean, the realization comes to me:
Oh…this is why. This is why I am here.
I smell the ocean before I see it. I am unsure how to access the beach, but then I notice that the private beach association has kindly left their gate open for me. I walk out onto the deck and receive my gift.
I walk to the waves and sit in the company of both the moon and the sun. It is so beautiful, I am not sure where I should keep my gaze, so I close my eyes and breathe with the ocean.
I sit and sit and sit. The sky changes to something more astounding each and every second. The offering is almost too much to take in. But my physical body limits me; I am getting cold. I pull myself away and head back to the house.
The house is now awake. Morning yoga is being offered. I roll out my mat and am met by it’s comforting, familiar scent. I move my body and feel my strength.
Some angel has prepared breakfast and we eat together. The crafts begin again. They are not projects that I am drawn to, but I know I want to be in the room with these women. I decide to work on something for my children. I let my anxiety go and I talk and listen and create. There are 19 women at this retreat: 19 different styles, 19 different perspectives, 19 different lives. We all have something to offer. I listen. I share. I learn.
One of my dear friends arrives and I am thrilled to see her lovely face. She has come to offer bodywork to anyone in the group that is interested, so I don’t see her most of the day. She finally emerges from her room as the sun goes down in the sky. She catches my eye and nods her head to the outside. I get my coat.
Back at the warm house, the crafting continues. I get it now, this creating in community thing. We are all given the same project, yet each woman has a different set of skills and expectations. The end result is always beautiful and uniquely her own. It is about creating an object, but it is also about conversation and connection and sharing. All of that will live within these creations.
I sleep later the next morning. I have tea on the deck of the house overlooking the marsh. The day is delightfully mild for November. I am joined by my lovely friend, a cardinal, a flock of geese and a great heron.
Then it is time to go. Our group does a closing circle where we all join hands and share a piece of gratitude for the weekend. Our connection grows stronger with each proclamation. When we are finished I am filled to overflowing.
Before we all disperse, I seek out my meditation partner. She creates a line of greeting cards that I love. I ask her to choose some for me. She looks me in the eye, smiles and accepts the task. When she hands them to me she thanks me for letting her choose. “I enjoyed that,” she says warmly. I take my treasures back to my car and look at them in private. My eyes fill.
She is right.