I had dragged myself out to college one night last February, right when the wheels were starting to come off my life. I was burnt out, anxious and surrounded by gloom, but dammit I was not going to let it beat me. So off I went, just hoping I could make it through the 4 hour class without sobbing or hiding under the table.

We were looking that night at Gestalt theory. I’m not going to lie, I still don’t really understand it all but here’s the important part: I realised that night that I had been meeting my need to be seen to be coping, to be a good mum/wife/daughter/friend, to appear in control, competent, able, at the expense of an overwhelming and desperate need to rest. It had become more important to me for others to experience me as ‘well’, than for me to actually be well.

Maybe this is obvious to the rest of you, but understanding that completely floored me. I came home that night, told Jayber and asked if he thought he could hold the fort for a week. I needed to go away and get some heavy duty rest. Honestly, it was terrifying to even say it out loud, to ask for such a huge thing. It is a testament to the fine character and heart of my husband that, in the face of a week juggling work and three small children, he said, ‘of course’, without hesitation.

So a few weeks later I headed off to a wonderful cottage in Donegal, to rest and restore myself. While I craved the peace and space, it was a scary prospect too. When was the last time I had been by myself for that long? Would I be lonely and feel worse? I brought a mountain of wool to crochet, books, fire logs and comfort food. I went for a lot of walks on the beach and watched a lot of dreadful daytime television. It was hard at times: you can’t just leave the gloom and anxiety at home: unfortunately it travels well. But it was the turning point for me, the beginning of the long, slow, crawl out of the pit. The beginning of learning to pay attention and listen more deeply to myself. To value my wholeness enough to take risks in protecting it.

I am in a better place now, but this is still a hard time of year for me. So we have agreed for me to head off again for some rest and recuperation. Only this time Jayber gets to gate crash half way through the week and have some R&R too. I head off on Saturday for 4 days by myself before he joins me but I’m finding it harder this time around to know how to spend this time. Last year I was in crisis and just needed to do whatever. This time I feel like I want to switch off, chill, box sets/ crochet/ walks, but I also want to do something that will feed me too, without feeling like duty or homework.

I’m open to suggestions …..

4 thoughts on “Retreat

  1. Your words “I had been meeting a need to appear in control…at the expense of an overwhelming need to rest”have floored me! Thank you for writing. Enjoy your rest this week and I pray it is nourishing and gentle.

  2. great to ‘hear’ your voice again. good to hear the honesty that i know you will bring to life beyond the pinterest photo moments we all take and would rather believe our lives are like. certainly my morning today has been far from what i would rush to capture and write about. may your retreat be all that it needs to be.

    • Lovely to hear from you Roz! Thank you for that. Maybe we should create the anti-Pinterest board, full of pictures of epic parenting fails, bad decor and unappetising meals?!

  3. Lorraine: ‘Nourishing and gentle’, those are great words to carve my time around. I need to write that on my hand in permanent marker. I’ve been remembering some theory we did in class last year around the idea of being your own good mother: treating yourself with love and compassion and silencing the inner critic/bully. Nourishing and gentle fit perfectly with that idea.

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