For the third time in three years, I am enjoying a silent retreat at a local monastery. I'm here for twenty-four hours....well, twenty-six hours, really, given that I am committed to being home by dinner time tomorrow. It's mid afternoon and I arrived about forty-five minutes ago. After taking a few minutes to settle in, I sat down on this lovely little rocking chair in my room, and I have just been sitting here for the past half hour. Head back. Feet up. Enjoying thoroughly the two things my life affords so little of: time; and silence.
Given how terribly I was doing prior to Christmas, Geoff took the initiative in November to call the monastery and book me in for one twenty-four hour silent retreat for six consecutive months! How lovely is that. Yay Geoff. He will be doing the same himself. So every month from now until June, I will have one full day and one full night all to myself, with meals prepared for me, and a private room/bathroom on the silent floor of the retreat centre. I am so glad to be here. I literally breathed a sigh of relief as I sat down here.
The first time I came here, approx. three years ago, I had a 48-hour weekend of silence. I read, slept, wrote a ton, prayed, walked, and pressed the repeat button on all of the above. The second time I was here was last summer, about three months after the little kids came home; I was in a dire need of getting away from the raging and grieving going on. So I came here for 24 hours and did only two things: slept; and watched movies. Although I went down to the dining room for dinner on the first night, I didn't even leave my room the next day for breakfast or lunch, instead nibbling on popcorn that I'd brought with me and sipping hot chocolate from the stocked little kitchen on the silent floor. I was simply in need of sleep and of of being able to manage my own schedule of nothingness...hence the hours of movies that I watched on my computer.
Having just been away for Christmas, and being in a better place emotionally now than I was in the last few months of 2011, I almost cancelled my current retreat this past week. But then I thought...Ruth, are you an idiot? This is exactly the time to be taking a short retreat, so that you don't get into the same desperate situation that you were in before Christmas! So here I am. Trying to do a better job at taking care of myself because, frankly, I was headed towards burnout before Christmas and I was scaring myself by how low and out of control I was feeling.
I was shocked, during our time in LA over the holidays, when I was feeling better than I had been for quite a while, to recognize how bad things had become for me. It was a hindsight perspective that I'm very grateful for, because it was only in feeling a little better that I could realize what I mess I've been since sometime in fall. I think my lowest point was a particular week in early/mid December when I was so low in energy and zest for life that I couldn't even bring myself to bathe my children for a week. Laundry piled up, we had a few scrambled-egg dinners, and I spent a lot of my nights in quiet, sleepless tears. How's that for embarrassing? It, everything, even bathing my children, was too hard and required too much energy. I had arranged that week for my parents to take the kids for a few hours so that I could get a bit of rest, but that got cancelled last minute due to things out of my control and I was frankly devastated...I cried for quite a while about that one. There were a few days that week when, by the time Geoff was home, I was physically shaking.
The problem with me is that I don't always see things clearly in the moment. I mean, I knew I was having a very hard time before Christmas, and I knew I needed to change something or face burnout, but I couldn't seem to focus on what it was that needed to change, or the how of it. I was lost in the quagmire. It took until we were away for the holidays, when the kids were distracted by other people/events enough to allow me a bit of respite, that I could gain a little perspective on what had been happening.
That brings me to today, to this next 24 hours. I'm not sure of my agenda this time, but I intend for this to be a more thoughtful retreat than my last time here. I don't need entertainment so much this time as I do a time to be quiet and to think. I want to think about some God and church stuff; I want to think about some plans for helping Matthew continue on his journey towards accepting brotherhood; I want to think about our progress on the h/school front and whether or not I need to shift some priorities; and I want to start on a plan for how I can better manage my own life so that I don't get myself in such a pickle as last year.
And that plan starts now. In just a moment, I'm going to put my feet back up, and I will rest in the simple and peaceful surroundings of my room, and just be for a little while. In a couple of hours, I'll eat my dinner in solitude, and then come back here and do...well, I don't know. Maybe sit back down on this chair again and put my feet up. Seems to me that maybe some of my best thinking can be done in the gentle rocking motion of this very chair.