A few weeks ago I attended a retreat–Knitting and Fiber Arts–at a beautiful camp and retreat center in Mountain Home, Texas. UbarU is managed by a foundation established by Unitarian Universalist churches in Texas. I’ve attended several retreats there, including last year’s needle arts retreat, but this was the best–actually one of the best weekends I’ve ever spent.
The peaceful setting–amazing, creative women to talk to, time to knit, stitch, read, take long walks or just chill on the porch–were just what I needed after a tough few months of running a challenging household. One late afternoon, I sat on the porch with a glass of wine and a magazine as the sun was going down and thought, “This is paradise.”
I have walked different labyrinths over the years, always hoping for some new insight, spiritual experience or a bit of serenity. I know it’s best to enter a labyrinth with no expectations, and most times I’ve had no remarkable experiences.
It was a cool, damp, misty Sunday morning. After worship I headed out, since the previous day I gone with two other women, and we were so busy chatting we missed it, walking right past it and returning to the meeting-house by a different route!
My thoughts on the walk centered on how to maintain the incredible sense of peace and timelessness the weekend was providing. My main issue has been my constant struggle with time.
A voice in my head (although it almost seemed to come from outside my head) whispered: “Whatever you struggle with becomes your enemy.” Wow, ok, I thought. “Do I really want Time to be my enemy? That’s a fight Time will always win.”
As I process this epiphany, I am learning to becoming friends with, or at least respectful to, Time, rather than being ruled by it. I try not to look at the clock too often. Don’t overschedule. Get enough sleep.
Of course I’m not doing it perfectly. Punctuality has always been a high value for me, and I hate to be late (or for others to be late). Trying to reduce stress by being more relaxed about time may actually cause stress if it makes me late or hurried.
I hope the peace treaty will hold. One of my favorite expressions is that “You have to pick your battles,” so this is one I hope I’ve quit.
* It’s uncertain if there will be a Part 2. This experience of walking the labyrinth brought other deep, profound insights that I am still processing and have not shared, and may never share, with anyone.
Several months before we decided to move, I told my therapist I wanted to destroy my old journals. “Burn ’em,” was her response. I burned a few outside in the grill, and quite a few more in the fireplace during the winter, but shredding was more efficient and environmentally friendly. I’m finally done shredding about 20 years’ worth of spiral binders.
Some were writing journals and many had dreams, so I tried to salvage poems, writing ideas and dreams for future use, especially for a long-planned (but sidelined) book of dream poems, titled either “Nightly Visits to Other Worlds” or “Skating Under the Aurora.”
I couldn’t take time to read everything so I skimmed randomly. One thing that struck me was how much pain I was in during the late ’90s and early 2000s: back pain, stomach pain, severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome, headaches, vertigo and ear problems.
Like many people I journaled to rant and unload pain and unhappiness, but this was real suffering, and I’d almost forgotten about the dizzy spells, about the time I visited my brother shortly before he died, and I was afraid I’d miss my plane because I couldn’t get out of bed. I underwent treatment for allergies and ear problems, including years of allergy shots.
The stomach pain turned out to be a huge mass on my pancreas. Thanks to good medical care, I’m alive and pain-free. Good chiropractic care has made my back more stable and less likely to give out without warning. Retirement has helped with the IBS–one thing I noticed was that I had bad episodes on days the Medical Board met. I loved my job and it wasn’t always stressful, but board days were hard work and very busy, and it was no coincidence my body responded. I also manage my diet better and have learned the array of irritating foods to avoid, including apples, oranges, pears, lettuce, seeds–I just can’t digest a lot of fiber.
The biggest differences, though, I attribute three or four factors:
First, getting on Prozac in 2012. I’ve covered this in several blog posts, but I can’t say enough about how it changed my life.
Second, acupuncture has helped reduce allergy symptoms and has virtually eliminated my headaches. It’s also just made me feel better all over; I sleep better and generally feel better. Along with chiropractic care, my body feels strong and balanced.
Third, self care. Since my granddaughter moved in with us and I’ve moved into my 70s, I need to be more careful with my body, my diet, my sleep habits and how I spend my time. An afternoon nap isn’t just a treat; it’s essential.
Fourth, spiritual awareness, or wisdom of age. I’m more patient, open-hearted, generous and joyful. Two years ago, when we were trying to decided whether to ask the granddaughter to come and live with us, I was anxious that it would make my life so stressful and difficult that I would mourn the loss of my free and easy retirement. And I did. It’s been hard.
But when I take the dog out before dawn on these soft spring mornings, I actually enjoy being awake. I’m grateful for the sweet dog (which we wouldn’t have if we didn’t have the child), for good legs, a strong heart and all the other parts that still work pretty well. When I take Chloe to school (on time or early, not late every day like last year) I enjoy greeting friends and walking on the greenbelt during doggie morning happy hour.
I’m excited about the upcoming changes in our lives and the opportunities to keep making art and to create a beautiful new home for our family.