Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Putting the "Treat" in retreat

[Retreat continued]
Later that day:

One of the things that’s tied me down lately is the day in/day out routine of fixing meals. I know that’s what I signed on for when I agreed to be Dad’s caregiver. I know that’s part of the job description that goes along with the position of Kitchen Maven. I know that I told Jack I like cooking. And all that is true.

But it gets so tedious. Cook, eat, clean. Cook, eat, clean. Go out, eat, and so on. Left on my own, I think I might be more like a cat. I’d snooze most of the day, eat when the mood struck, clean myself regularly (in my case this would involve a long hot shower rather than that intricate licking process) then I’d do it all again. It, too, might get old after awhile, but it sounds like the life of Riley when you’re worn out, stressed out and burned out.

After giving myself permission to take some time off, I decided to break a few more rules. I wondered around Target without regard for time. The irony was not lost on me that this was the weekend that the battery on my $14.95-pawn-shop-watch that has “kept on ticking” without fail for three years decided to quit. I lost all track of time and I believe this was part of the Divine plan.

I did a lot of sleeping and some not very good eating! I had a Butterfinger for dinner! How bad is that?!

I could feel a cold coming on, so I stopped by the drug store and stocked up on fluids and antihistamines. Once back in my room, I donned my flannel PJs and climbed into bed. Ahhhhh! I watched a little TV, read some and fell into a peaceful sleep. I awoke around 9:30pm with rain dripping onto the balcony chairs sounding like a Chinese water torture. I checked and the rain didn’t seem to be blowing in the room so I left the door open.

My head was fully congested and my throat beginning feeling a little scratchy. It would be easy to think these were the reasons I woke up, but I still had work to do. “Between living and dreaming,” said the poet Antonio Machado, “there is something more important – waking up.”*

Another retreat exercise that Joan Anderson suggests is to write yourself a letter. She recommends that you share the retreat experience and the feelings surrounding it as if you were telling a friend. After paying homage to the ocean and the gentle rain, I climbed back into bed, pencil and paper in hand, and began to write my letter to me. I don’t recall now, what I wrote, but I remember that it was easier to do than I expected; the words spilled onto the paper without difficulty, the catharsis well underway. (I look forward to reading it in a few weeks, per the book's instructions.)

As with the letting go exercise on the beach, when I was finished, I was finished. Unlike physical exercise, I needed no cool down period. I put the pen down, snuggled under the covers and snoozed some more. A good dose of Nyquil and candy bar will do that for you, but so will the release of emotional baggage that’s gotten way too heavy to carry.

I got up a few more times to watch the ocean and listen to the rain. What could have seemed like an overdose of Mother Nature was really just the elixir I needed.

*A Weekend to Change Your Life, Joan Anderson, Broadway Books, New York, pg. 152

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