I surprised myself with my decision to sign up for the Soul Sisters conference. The announcement came only a week after I’d ended a short workshop on self-care and had written “attend a retreat” as one of my life goals. I’d been thinking a week-long art retreat in a cozy house at the coast, but didn’t feel comfortable yet spending what a week-long retreat costs. And then the announcement about the Soul Sisters crossed my path. It spoke to the lost and hungry parts of myself with text like “No more ‘I don’t have a place to call home’.” It promised to connect me with other women also interested in building a life full of meaning, something I’d been lacking as I watched on Facebook as my old friends moved on with their new lives in ways that didn’t include or excite me. At a weekend length, and just a 2-hour drive from my front door, I could afford if it I pulled money out of savings. I promised my husband I’d repay our savings account, even offered to set up a scheduled repayment plan if he wanted, if only he wouldn’t object to me paying for a retreat.
And what I really want to tell you about is how wonderful and how valuable it was. I realized halfway through the weekend that although I’d done solitary retreats before, although I’d done virtual retreats before, this was the first time I’d done an in-person retreat with a group of women. Rachelle Mee-Chapman did such a good job of getting us to interact with each other before the event that I walked in looking forward to meeting friends in person, and really only had a couple of shy moments where I wondered where I found myself alone and uncertain.
What took me by surprise was the sense of safety in retreat space. From the time we broke our fast on the first morning, it was palpable, a collective sigh and a willingness to share the story of our life with each other. Jenna McGuiggan got up and led us through an exercise in brainstorming our stories - and I cried. I cried again when Rachel Cole asked us what we were truly hungry for, and again at the surprises that came out of that question. (“Really? I’m hungry for that? Who knew?”) Rachael Maddox asked us to hold hands and look into each others eyes with trust and love - and I cried again.
For this one weekend, I took my armor off - the breastplate of invisibility, the helm of fortitude - and left them in the corner of my cat-themed room. For this one weekend, I played with being vulnerable and letting people see my tears - and my passion.