There’s a scene in the Fellowship of the Ring that catches me every time. Bilbo is tired, stretched thin like too much butter over bread. He tells Gandalf that he needs to see mountains, to travel again.
There’s just something about getting away from one’s own little hobbit hole and breathing the fresh air of new perspective that refreshes the whole body. And this past weekend that is exactly what I did.
It had been in the works for awhile, figuring out the timing and the logistics of it all. But Reading Week was upon us and with Jared home from classes all week, I thought I could take a day and retreat. It wouldn’t be the Last Homely House but it would be quiet and peaceful. But then, a day turned into an overnight at a B&B and I was thrilled. The stacks of journals and books to be taken grew, I scurried around putting together some of my favourite nibbles and threw my comfy jammies into a bag. My babies cried, obviously, for the ten minutes before I left (and they soaked up the daddy time like crazy) and the guilt tugged at my spirit. I kissed my little family goodbye and left.
With each turn of the wheel, I felt the weight of daily life lifting. I stepped inside the big house furnished with beautiful Victorian chairs and a big grandfather clock. My hosts were lovely, when they learned that I was a mom on a personal retreat, they offered a hot cup of tea and promised to serve me however they could over the time I was with them.
I read for hours. I journaled. I sat and soaked up the utter quietness. I cried. I went for a walk and had a long, hot bath. I slept, only waking up at the time my baby normally wakes up and realizing that I could sleep longer. Bliss.
I pretended I was in at Downton Abbey and had breakfast in bed because I was married. Fresh blueberry pancakes, a little French press, a white jug of cream. It was lovely. I hardly looked at my phone, just to be in touch with my husband about when I was ready to be picked up. I hardly spoke to anyone for 12 hours. I heard birds singing and wind blowing through the branches. I watched the sun set and I cuddled under blankets on the big four poster bed.
When I got back home, everything did seem different and yet it was still the same. The meals, the laundry, the cleaning of the house and the care of my little people. Breakfast isn’t served in bed at whatever time I ask for it. I was inspired and refreshed by my time away. I dug a lot deeper and allowed myself to rest more then I do at home.
Here are my five take-aways from my little retreat.
1. Know yourself: a quiet retreat may not refresh you like it does me. Get away with a friend or two, plan something a little more interactive.
2. Let expectations and guilt go. It is good to rest and how you rest is different then how others do. There’s no right way to go on a personal retreat.
3. Start small and plan well. I was orginally just going to a study hall at the university which is amazing and so peaceful. It could be an overnight at a B&B or a day at the coffee shop. I knew what I wanted to have done by the time I went home and so I kept my focus. I asked a friend for her suggestions and kept them close.
4. Just breathe and enjoy: at home I typically drink my tea in a big mug, at the B&B I drank it out of a delicate tea cup. It was lovely and I found myself savouring it more. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go and the whole purpose was to be refreshed. It took a few gentle reminders to myself to just enjoy this moment, right now.
5. Plan mini-retreats. Due to a cross-country move, a lifestyle switch, our stuff being delayed several months and other emotional pressures, I was pretty close to burn out. Our adrenal glands are not meant to handle massive amounts of stress, and so I’m building little moments into my day and weeks to replenish and be quiet. Sometimes it means getting up early and sometimes it means going out of the house for a few hours and sometimes it means closing my bedroom door.
Have you ever gone on a retreat? What would your ideal weekend away look like?