I experienced a wonderful time with a friend of mine this past weekend. She had invited me to a weekend retreat months back and I knew it would be a wonderful idea to join her. I, however, did not know at the time why it would be so wonderful. You, dear reader, are privy now to why I found the weekend so extraordinary: I learned a lot about myself and accept myself for who I am (cue heavens opening and angels singing). Ha!
A N Y W H O . . . The retreat was held at a YMCA camp in Muskoka north of Toronto – you know the one with bunk beds, canoes and a mess hall.
This is also known as: every single YMCA or church camp in North America. I hated my church camp back in 1982 somewhere west of Dothan, Alabama with the scorpion in the showers and I am not a fan of multiple wooden bunks at the age of 42. There, I said it. Note to self, no more bunk beds for a loooooong time.
We arrived on a Friday afternoon after an almost four hour drive through the colourful countryside with the gold and red leaves contrasting beautifully against the pines and spruces. Along the way we stopped at a Kelseys. Although I thought I knew that I disliked the restaurant without having every stepped foot in one much less eaten the food ever, I can now confirm that I do not like Kelseys. I ordered what is billed on the menu as the ‘Lobster’ Poutine. It has nothing to do with either lobster or poutine. Instead, the sweet potato fries (mushy) were smothered in a habanero cream sauce (I know, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit myself – sorry) which was not in any way spicy and I am pretty sure that habanero is a spicy pepper. Oh well. The lobster was not the ‘best lobster’ ever. It had been chopped and diced and butchered to the point of no recognition save for the obligatory claw meat that looked more like a crawdad claw than some gorgeous lobster claw meant to be dunked in a bowl of butter. Again, oh well.
Having all of the above mentioned items, however, on one plate and later in my stomach (coming up to say hi over the next day) let me know that I needed to trust my gut (literally and figuratively) and never step foot in a Kelsey’s again. But my decision is now based on fact (I went into one and ate one) rather than basing it on outside appearance of the neon signage. Lordy b, am I superficial (and a marketer’s dream). You make nicer signage, I think, and the food must be better. Crappy signage = crappy food.
So with the lobster poutine says ‘hello’ intermittently throughout the evening, off we went into the cabins. Yes, some people like cabins and bunks and all that awesome camp life they associate with their childhood. Not me. Nope. The cabin was fine. The place was clean. I can say nothing about the really cool and amazing women that I bunked with or those that I met in the workshops. Honestly. But I enjoy my time off. I am an introvert by nature, even if the facade says extrovert. People doubt me to be an introvert as I am loud, outspoken and even (shock) obnoxious. Those traits don’t make me an extrovert though. They make me an ambivert with introverted tendencies.
To be with over 80 women for almost 48 hours to recharge mind, body and spirit, I must say that I needed more time to myself. And, not being true to myself, I did not take that time … enough. Instead I forced myself to get out, meet new women, chat about our journeys and explore our dreams (it all sounds oddly ‘Kumbaya‘ I find, but its true). It was good. I met women there who have been friends for decades. One lives north of Vancouver, the other outside of Toronto, and their friendship spanned the time apart having only lived the first five years together as childhood neighbours. They were pen pals (remember that concept) after the move and now in adulthood continue their friendship with their respective families vacationing together and also spending girl time alone. I must say, it made me a little verklemmt as I thought of my daughter and her two best friends still in Germany. The story gave me hope that my little one can keep those girls who have known her the longest and accept her for who she is (and vice versa).
I did one thing that made me extraordinarily proud of myself and simultaneously taught me again to expect of myself and not always of other. On Friday I had decided to participate in a lake swim early Saturday morning. At 7am a group of ladies (it would turn out to be only about 10 of us) would run, jump, walk or swim in the lake. It was 6.30am when my alarm went off, I took my bag of goodies (a towel and change of clothes) and walked to the lake. It was balmy with no wind or rain and 8C. The water was also warmish with 8-10C. And on the count of three we went in. I practiced my breath and waded in towards the island. I dunked down and slowly, still continuing with my breath, and then I walked back to the beach. Some ladies chose to swim, others to submerge their entire bodies but I was more than content with what I, as a true Southern girl who hates the cold, accomplished. After drying off and taking the obligatory selfie, I sent a photo to my man and his only answer at 7.30am was ‘cool.literally.’ and so began my other realization of the weekend. I did not need his congratulatory applause from afar for something as trivial as going into water. I was pleased with what I had done and that was more important than anything.
Saturday afternoon I skipped one of the workshops and instead walked around the lake with my friend alternating between quiet reflection of the weekend’s activities and chatting. The walk refreshed me again and confirmed in me the need to take walks and runs more often … quietly. I need that in my life and often I don’t take the opportunity. Again, lesson learned.
So the weekend was great if not in the way that I had originally thought it would be. I needed to learn to acknowledge my limits and follow my gut … both of which I have done now and will continue to do.
Thank goodness for friends who help us realize what we need to do.