Naomi is a writer, graphic designer, and tea specialist. I’m delighted to share her piece about a one of my retreats. I love her honesty as she reflects about the death of a friend, the value of being on retreat with a group, her awareness of her own needs, the challenges of the entrepreneurial lifestyle and the search for deeper meaning.
Yeah, it’s a lot. Humans. We’ve got a lot going on.
A Writer’s Retreat by Naomi Beaupre
My desire to write had returned after the distractions of the past few years, so when I saw an opportunity to join a group of like-minded women there was no question but to say ‘yes’. It would allow the writer’s voice to come forth again with some commitment and accountability. The tap would be opened. Although I have given myself some time and made the commitment to write, I’ve found that the pump needs priming and the flow of words and ideas has come slowly, dribbling and dripping, in fits and starts, then drying up again. I longed for time away from duties and distractions to really get into it. The romantic idea to get away from it all, to sit by the ocean with the only purpose being to write and connect with my fellow writers – surely that was the answer. As always, the takeaway was not what was expected but is no less meaningful.
We found ourselves in cabins by the sea on a moody socked-in west coast day, low fog and heavy rain pattering on the rooftops and dripping from the cedars but a pub and warm fire nearby and nothing to do but write. The writing, for me, came slowly. I tried a piece of ‘travel/food’ writing I’d been thinking about for a while – about an amazing sandwich in Instanbul. Disjointed, but some ideas on paper – a start. A discussion about eldest daughters started a piece about being the eldest. There was energy behind it, a little flow that might end up somewhere but it was sounding a little more bitter than I’d have liked it to. Again, a start.
Gathering that evening in a cozy room to share our writing showed me that this group is what I’d signed up for and what I wanted. To hear honesty and humour, allow vulnerability, take risks and to hear each of our unique voices come through opens, encourages and inspires our writing. I read the piece about my friend Pam. I had only expressed the shock of her death on paper. It has been the only writing since a piece I wrote about Syria that has flowed from my passion. It was heartfelt and I wanted to speak these words out loud -- for someone else to hear about and know a little about her. I knew this place was safe.
Connecting with these women, feeling their support, their lack of judgement, hearing their ideas, learning more about who they are, their passions, insights and writing voices is comforting and motivating. We are all so different and yet so much the same – women, eldest daughters, writers with things to say and valuable experiences to share.
But, of the many things I took away from this weekend, a stack of writing was the least. I learned that I was more sick and rundown than I thought I was when I returned home and realized that the mild cold I thought was leaving was actually only about half way through.
I learned that although I’d thought I’d come a long way since losing my job and that I had the more entrepreneurial lifestyle I desired, allowing for things like indulgence in art and writing, I have not yet learned to manage or enjoy it. There is no particular part I dislike, but I find it difficult to keep changing hats and shifting gears.
I am still feeling the desperation to put a roof over my head and food on the table. This seems to have zapped some passion and joy. (Universe, did you hear the part about ‘job that I love’?). I think this has stifled my writing. I feel as if I have nothing to say sometimes. The other women seem to have things that they want to impart, goals for their writing. I feel a lack of purpose for my mine. I don’t compare myself to what they do but wonder where my voice has gone and where my passion lies these days.
I also learned that Pam’s death might be underlying much of this. If someone so full of life and fight can be here and gone so quickly, then what does it all mean? I learned the lesson, years ago, about cherishing each moment because it could be gone too quickly, to do things, live life, not procrastinate or sleepwalk through our precious time here. But something deeper is going on that goes something like ‘what is my purpose’ and ‘why does it matter’.
A retreat from the routine to breathe fresh clean air, leave distractions behind, clear my head of stress and worries, along with the gift of time, allowed for insight. Not exactly the insight anticipated but I am a believer in process and knew that whatever the result of ‘retreating’ was that it would take me somewhere.
Mission accomplished in more ways than one. The day after the retreat upon waking I wrote, ‘My writer’s voice is strong inside my head this morning’ and these awarenesses poured onto the page. With understanding comes the ability to re-evaluate, make changes in priorities and ways of thinking, to refocus and move forward. This is the magic of putting thoughts on paper, no matter what they are or how silly or unrelated they may seem to anything significant you may have or want to say, they will take you somewhere and that somewhere is always a fascinating destination (if only to the writer). The pump seems to have been primed.
A million thanks, Naomi. How about you, what do you find when you take time to enter that small, still pool inside?