When tragedy happens, simple things can feel overwhelming. Loss isolates. After loss, however, truth and beauty can appear. In the spirit of letting life emerge from the ashes, it’s time to find some joy.
Most people haven’t attended a retreat for visually impaired women in gorgeous Utah as I did last weekend. Yet, we all remember traveling somewhere great like the beach or a national park or even a carnival. An energetic event revitalizes the soul.
There’s so much I’m still processing from my retreat. As the memories take shape and meaning, I’m grateful for the incredible moments it gave me. Actually, the time spent there was like visiting an amusement park. Not the scary, rickety kind, rather the friendly, welcoming kind.
When I heard about the retreat, I realized the opportunity to connect with other ladies with visual impairments could be frankly life changing. With the limitations of a small group size, I reserved my ticket early. Time passed and anticipation grew. Finally Stockton and I flew to Salt Lake City and I prepared to meet the group.
Leaving my hotel room to join up in the lobby was like passing through turnstiles, one way to the show. Eager butterflies jump in my stomach as I introduce myself. Some people have guide dogs. Some have white canes. Some don’t. It doesn’t matter. The sunny day matches the warm, friendly people I meet.
Chatting as if in line for a big roller coaster, we air our fears and hopes for the upcoming and challenging course. The ride attendants, our leaders in therapy, greet us and use their voices like an intercom to crack jokes and ensure our safety before starting the adventure.
Everyone chooses seats and buckles in mentally. We glance ahead, but on this ride, you can’t see the route beyond the first hill. Click-click-click our cars rise along the track. In a moment, we crest and hang in the air, weightless, uneasy, raw in our vulnerability. Someone screams. A few people lift their arms. The brakes release and we go. A rush fills our ears. We reach a second hill. There is no getting off this ride. We move together, speeding out of a turn of shame, facing a straightaway of guilt and racing up another tough hill on the emotional circuit. Nearing the next apex, we breathe and regroup. Then we drop again. Scenery blurs.
Laughter. Nerves. Crying. Singing. Primal screams. It’s all connection and it’s happening, together. I can feel it. I can hear it. Others sharing the experience. We are not alone. We round a bend in gratitude and approach the station platform. An attendant engages the brakes. More, more we shout.
Breathless and shaky, we seek out refreshment. Something filling and comforting. The park manager planned ahead and offers a range of options as the weekend retreat proceeds. Indulgent fare like peanut M&Ms, fudge, chocolate covered graham crackers, and mango coconut popcorn magically materialize. Hearty sandwiches and crisp salads share the culinary space with unique sides like lemon tarragon pasta salad and lots of tasty vegetables paired with balsamic vinaigrette or tomatillo dressing. In a bowl, juicy watermelon awaits.
Nourished, we jump onto other rides and work through the sprawling cognitive realm. Sometimes as new friends do we hop off a little dizzy, but giggly. Let’s try another ride And another. You know it’s a thrilling experience when you reapply deodorant in the afternoon.
The sun begins to set. Life comes back into focus with anxiety settled, stress evaporated. The retreat encourages neuroplasticity. I’m in the same physical space, but my outlook has altered. A sense of peace fills me. I’m ready for more, but it’s closing time. We gather and say, let’s do this again. We share hugs and separate, departing in all directions.
I have photos and keepsakes from the event. They remind me of intangible qualities, the insight and wisdom I gained. The retreat finished and my friends returned home, but I continue carrying a feeling of grace in my heart.
Where are you going this summer? Have you attended a retreat? What is your favorite amusement park ride? Tell me about it.
14 Comments Add yours
I’ve never been on a retreat. I read about them sometimes, wistfully wishing I could go but also wondering if the social interaction would make me too tense to enjoy it. It definitely is good for my soul to visit new places with time to relax and connect, rather than rushing around sightseeing. We don’t have any plans to go anywhere this summer but I’m determined to get away for at least a night.
I’m glad you had such a great experience!
Thanks, Trisha. Finding time and space to relax and connect sure is vital.
I have never attended a retreat but the Macular society, UK organises a weekend for volunteers each year with workshops and leisure for interaction. Most participants are VI and it is both interesting and relaxing to be with others in a similar situation. Wonderful. This year I am going on holiday to an eco centre in Portugal. Am a bit apprehensive about all those frogs and wildlife!! Hoping small great nephew will protect me! If nothing else it will be a new experience.
Sounds like an adventure, Bridget! I hope you write about it when you return.
Isn’t it great meeting your tribe? I will join my tribe in Boise, ID this summer for a hard of hearing convention. I get a natural high being with them and coming home is hard.
BTW, I live in Salt Lake. Maybe if you come through again we could meet up.
Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I was in your town!!! Enjoy Boise.
Your description of the retreat is so spot-on! I love the analogy of the amusement park. Jenelle and I’s husbands and girls are camping in Idaho at an amusement park this week, and I was feeling kind of sad we opted out, but after reading this, I realize we already had our big roller coaster experience for the year! LOVED getting to know you….you definitely lived up to your blog! 🙂
Thanks so much, Joy! So grateful writing and the retreat brought us together, you are a delight. And, it’s been hard to not be spending time with our newly formed tribe for me, too. Makes me realize how critical it is to find others who can relate.
I hope the husbands and kids have a blast and you enjoy your time, too. Oh and way to go on speaking at the art museum event for GDB, look at you teaching outside of the classroom.
So eloquently spoken Susan! Miss you!
Wow!!! This is so powerful and a reminder that while it can feel like a solitary experience, and I guess to some degree it is, we aren’t alone. So glad to hear that the retreat was such a success!!
Unforgettable and amazing really. Thanks, Steph!
You’re welcome!! 🙂
Reblogged this on Bold Blind Beauty and commented:
My friend Susan, writes powerfully on her recent retreat experience.