Give yourself time to heal.
At the end of a personal retreat, it’s important to feel rested and refreshed and ready for what lies ahead. However, the reality of that isn’t always the case, so I’m hoping that it works out for me by the close of today, as it’s onwards to ‘normal life’ at work in the office, tomorrow. Thankfully just a two day ‘work week’ (although I have been working hard on my novel at home).
The approach I’ve taken over the past couple of days has turned out to be very productive for me. By 11.30am I was able to put away my novel writing for another day, note down a few ideas to research, explore and take forwards in between now and my next focussed writing session, save my work, tally up a total word count over the two ‘and a bit’ days to 6,369 words, back up my files and give thanks for a productive time.
Retreats and ‘Couch potato syndrome’:
It can be hard to shift gears back into the ‘real world’ after a personal retreat. It’s therefore important to smooth out that transition as best as we can rather than expecting to be bright eyed and busy tailed and ready to go the next morning.
Ahead of me ‘looms’ piles of unwashed dishes, a messy bedroom and other ‘to do’ type things. It’s only mid afternoon, but I don’t want to end my retreat feeling rushed, busy or distracted. I don’t want to end the retreat tidying up, I’d much rather ease into the evening in a tidy environment, a soothing atmosphere and have the time, space, opportunity and mental focus to reflect upon what I’ve learned, what I want to take forward, and to do some calming activities (such as playing my violin, doing some adult colouring in, working on my photography, reading, decorating my ‘planner’, being calmly prepared for work, praying, and generally feeling accomplished, relaxed, refreshed and rested, rather than anxious).
The big however, is that for the past couple of days I’ve been all but a complete couch potato. I went out for a short walk on Saturday afternoon after I had accomplished my writing goals, but yesterday I didn’t even get ready, and stayed in all day, sitting on my couch and typing on my laptop, interspersed with eating food of various sorts, and drinking cups of tea!
Today therefore, although feeling like I have made progress creatively, physically I am experiencing a bit of couch potato syndrome. To overcome that I set aside a bit of time for the next ‘segment’ of my personal retreat, to help me to shift gears and actually get up, move about, and do things so that I can hopefully relax and do some light creative activities in the evening. I started to do some light exercise, using one of my usual You Tube exercise video series. However, even doing what is generally quite easy for me, was a bit of a challenge for me – I suppose my legs feel a bit ‘floppy’ after couch sitting for two days, and my mind is ‘in between’ creative space and physical action at the moment. We don’t always consider this dynamic when thinking about retreats, that there is a shifting of gears and adjustment required on the concluding day. Definitely don’t expect to do hours upon hours of focused work on your last day of retreat, and to feel prepared and refreshed afterwards. Get your best work done earlier on when you can more fully dwell in that creative space, and consider less to be more for the last stretch of retreat time.
Another thing to consider is if you are a deeply creative person, it can be difficult to suddenly expect to go from one mode of thinking and being to another. For example, after spending hours writing my novel, if I had to suddenly switch straight back into work mode, that would be difficult for me – I would miss the experience, discovery and engagement of writing too much – which is why it is helpful to have other avenues such as writing my blog that mean it isn’t such a sharp mental, emotional and creative contrast, as I will still be able to express the creative part of me on a regular basis, even when there is no focussed retreat time.
So back to easing out of the world inside our heads and computers, to the world around us. Leave a bit of time and space for you to do this on your retreat. Have an afternoon of gentle exercise, stretching, if unlike me you are dressed and ready for the outside world you could go for a walk somewhere peaceful, and maybe do your tidying in short segments of time while focusing on being present, noticing things creatively, or listening to something inspiring while you work – don’t fully reconnect with the outside world yet, especially online, this is still your time, and headspace, enjoy it, savour it, even as you gently shift gears.
Travelling teaches you (if you have the luxury to travel on your own), to take time out from the people you love so that you can connect on a deeper level with your own life, centre yourself and most importantly connect with your Creator, rediscover your life purpose, all of which in turn will ultimately help you be a better version of you and better care for the people you love when you return to them.
It may be glaringly obvious from the above statement that I am writing as a single person. I am aware that for many travel, holidays, vacation or whatever form seeing the world takes for you may involve spouses, family, children and even extended family and friends. Maybe you are able to carve out some time to yourselves if that is what you need, maybe that seems impossible for you at present. However, a word out for the singletons or solo travellers among us to really make the most of this time in your life, whether it is a temporary season or one that might stretch indefinitely ahead, learn in all seasons of life to view things positively. As humans we need ‘re-wiring’ as by default we seem to be wired to look at (or complain about) what we lack rather than being grateful for what we do have, even if what we have is a lesson or challenge. Perhaps we dwell upon aspects of loneliness or dreams of company rather than seeing the opportunity for spiritual growth, connection and self reflection and nurturing so that we can be better to the people in our lives. I am sure that there are many who would cherish a few precious moments to themselves that they just can’t seem to find in the busyness of their lives. So if you are able to take time out and reconnect with the deeper things in life, see it as an opportunity, one which so many others would love to have….alone doesn’t have to mean lonely, so find a way to thrive in your solitude if you are a solo traveller, or single through the journey of life just now. xx
It’s Friday evening, almost 7.15pm, and I’m not long home from a day at work. It’s been a blessed sun-kissed day, which is a special treasure in my part of the world where precipitation is by no means an uncommon occurrence! I’m sitting on my couch, feet up and laptop propped upon my knees, as I enjoy the view.
I live on the tenth floor of a flat that overlooks a city bridge where right now I can see cars scurrying to and fro, most likely taking weary commuters home for the weekend after a long day at work in some office or other.
Of course, there are so many more stories than there are cars or people within them. Stories that I know nothing about. And here I sit, in solitude, not knowing quite what my heart wishes to express. So let’s find out together as I write.
As well as the city sights of cars and buildings, hotels and grey block flats, I can also see blue skies, and hills in the distance, trees and church steeples and spires. In some ways it is like a moving picture postcard of an evening, and the sunlight catches the bonnets of vehicles and they look like moving jewels upon a conveyer belt.
I wonder where they are all going to? I wonder, also, as I take the time to think, just who you are, my dear reader, if you have been so kind and gracious to visit my space online, and read this far. If you have, then thank you. I find that wondrous. That somewhere in the ‘ether’ of a wired up world, we serendipitous strangers cross each others paths and connect. At least, I hope we do. For I hope that these writings, musings, ramblings, or ‘whatever you call thems’, this Blog, is as much for you as it is for me.
I am making an educated guess that given the tags I have used, you are likely to be musing over what it means to live the single life too. Either that or you have friends or family members who are single that you care about. Whatever the case, I can only write from my own experience and what I have learned.
Singleness is not a disease!
One thing I have found through many years of walking this path, along with longings for love and a family of my own, is that society generally does not have a healthy view of the single adult. I am blessed to have overcome challenges in my younger days of struggling to make friends to having come to know and share parts of my journey with some lovely people. Towards the later years in university, I made some connections with friends of different backgrounds and stages in life. I’ve now been working full time for a few years, and have also come across all sorts of people, some that I hold close and dear to my heart and others who I know for my own peace of mind I must hold at arms length and pray for from a distance.
Through the years and as the seasons have changed and as we have grown from one stage of life to the next I have been the friend lovingly ‘cheering on’ my friends, as they have had engagements, bridal showers, weddings, and then baby showers, babies and toddlers and children’s parties, and so forth. I wonder if you too have watched the endless stream of ‘updates’ of your friends lives as they celebrate the significant ‘milestones’ of life that we human beings tend to feel the existential need to celebrate? I wonder if in all of their ‘Significance’ you have felt insignificant? I wonder if you do not have friends whose milestones you can even celebrate, and if you feel all the more so alone in life, and in that also sense an insignificance or unworthiness to who you are as compared to who society and maybe also your own heart tell you you ‘should’ be.
If you metaphorically tick any of the above boxes, then I salute you. I say this because you not only have to overcome the inner challenges that you face, whether that be of self doubt, fear of the future, loneliness, isolation, abandonment, low self esteem, lack of confidence, wondering ‘what’s wrong with me?’, or whatever inward challenges they may be, but you additionally have to face the many hurdles of a society that too often views singleness as some kind of a ‘disease’ to be ‘cured’ by a relationship (and sometimes, sadly, at any cost!), rather than a season of life, or even a permanence in the way of your particular unique and individual life, whether wished for or prayed against, to be celebrated! When was the last time anyone threw you a ‘Single Shower’? Nope, me neither, friend! 🙂 Don’t worry, you’re not alone. And moreover, rest assured, singleness, the state of being uncoupled, not in a relationship, independent, flying solo, all alone, whatever you prefer to call it, it is most certainly not a disease!
p.s. As a side note, if you are fortunate enough to have a single friend who has lovingly celebrated your life, whether that be an engagement party, bridal shower / hen do / stag party, wedding, baby shower, children’s party, etc, etc – think seriously about showing your appreciation for them….they have waited and ached long enough for appreciation, and have lovingly yet also dutifully taken on the role of cheerleader or wallflower, wondering if anyone cares about the state of their heart….show them you care, even if in a small and understated way….do they have to wait for a ‘significant other human being’, a Mr or Miss ‘Right’ to complete their life in some way? What if that never happens? Do they in and of themselves not deserve some loving kindness, and celebrating just for who they are? I think so 🙂 Plus, isn’t it better to give than to receive? 🙂
All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
And so, the stream of traffic flows endlessly to and fro. That phrase ‘the city never sleeps’, well, I can tell you, it’s true! No matter what time of day or night I see it, that bridge always has commuters going somewhere or perhaps even driving away from something.
“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?” – The Beatles.
Was a question The Beatles once posed. I can guarantee you, it is not from some dismal cave of singleness! At least, not all of them 😉
We do not live in a ‘whole’ society. Our communities are not made up of wholesome families, living perfect lives in a fairy tale world with a white picket fence (I’m not even so sure why the white picket fence should be so important 🙂 ). We live in a fallen, fractured, broken world. Yes, there is a lot of love. Some people do seem to have ‘perfect lives’ or as near to such as this present life can offer. Pull back the curtains and light shines through. Open the closets and no skeletons fall out, but in their place fragrant roses of love and trust, companionship and respect bloom. These are blessed people indeed, but I would venture to guess they are not the majority. And even if they are, we should be happy that our society has such ‘building blocks’ of healthy families in place. For what starts in the home extends outwards to society, to friends and colleagues, co-workers, and relations. So we should celebrate rather than envy what is wholesome in this world, even if it is something that we feel we lack. And even if that is a challenge.
Some of these commuters in their nameless matchbox cars will pull up in front of a building this evening. They will look in the mirror, take a deep breath, and step out of their cars and into their lonely, frustrating or volatile and dysfunctional family lives. Some will not have families to go to but may refuse to stand alone and independent for fear of feeling the ache of loneliness. And so they will compromise themselves, and other people, and feel guilty for it. I don’t know what all of their stories are or will become, and I pray for all of those lonely people, who are going back to houses filled with people, but also the many problems that they may bring.
The Blessings of Singleness
Right now, I have time to think about these things. It’s Friday evening, and I have it as a gift all to myself. There is no one vying for my attention, and I can enjoy my solitude. I can relax and plan out my evening just as I like it. There are so many things that I could do. I can relax and reflect, I can write and think and pray, I can watch a film of my choice, put a pizza in the oven, read a good book, study, dance or sing if I feel like. I can reach out to other people. I can cook and study. I can dream of travels. I can pray about how I can be a blessing to other people. I can indulge in my creativity. I can plan something to do for someone else. I can plan a treat for myself. I can connect with my Creator, God, Who really Is the Only One Who makes me Whole in life. I can smile at my independence, as I can hear myself think and peacefully listen to the chirp of birdsong ringing clear through my open window.
I can…..I can…..I can……
Is that how you view your solitude? Don’t worry if it’s not, for that is understandable. I have wrestled with it too at times, and I have cried too. But you see the thing is, singleness isn’t the source of unhappiness just as being in company or married isn’t the source of happiness.
This is a blessed time to focus on yourself, take care of your needs, get to know who you are and what is important to you in life, and to invest in yourself and what matters to you. It is a time to grow in character, and in the virtues of a ‘good’ character – that of love, kindness, joy, peace, patience, temperance, self-control, and so many more wonderful things. It is a blessed time to shed the wearisome, dull and lacklustre garments of envy, jealousy, bitterness, and self pity. It is a time to stretch forth your arms in praise, and to count your blessings rather than resent the blessings that others have that you don’t have, or don’t have yet.
For in each stage of life there are plusses and minuses, ups and downs, pros and cons, blessings and challenges. Sometimes being on your own shields you from a lot of challenges that come with being with other people. People face conflict, they hurt each other, they even die.
We cannot put our hopes for a happy or meaningful life in any other person. Yes, the people in our lives can be real blessings to us, and we to them, but ultimately they are not where we find our Answer, nor are we theirs.
We need to be whole in ourselves or on the maturing path to becoming more whole or less broken, in order to be a blessing to others. Otherwise we seek from others what they cannot possibly give and things fall apart, ‘the centre cannot hold’, and society goes on fracturing and breaking itself.
Embrace Your Freedom
So dear one, look up, and take time to embrace the freedom that you have. Many people long after it secretly when the thing that is weighing them down is a commitment that they just can’t get away from. And so the lonely people do often go home to full houses.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy & The Grass is always greener…..
Comparison is the thief of joy: it speaks for itself, really.
The grass is always greener…..where you water it. Not on the other side, but on where you invest your time and love to nurture it, it will be greener than it was before. And what can you do but live the very life that you have been gifted with, with all its joys and sorrows, right here and right now?
So water that grass you’ve been given with all your heart. Put love into your life, right now, this day. Nurture yourself, grow in independence, and ultimately you will grow strong enough to reach out to others. Even your tears may water and birth something beautiful, who knows?
Solitude can be deep happiness
Well my dear ones, if you have made it this far, ‘Congratulations!’. I hadn’t intended to write this much, but this was a freeflowing and unplanned journey that we have taken together.
I encourage you to think about what is special about you and your life, and if you feel like that is ‘nothing’, then that is your starting point of self discovery, because I truly believe that you are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, special and precious to God, and even if you don’t believe in God, know that you are unique and there is no one else like you. You have hopes and dreams and gifts and character unique to you. Maybe you need to fight through some thorns and thistles and briers to find the treasure that you seek about yourself, I have had to do so myself, but there is treasure there in who you are and I pray that you will find it.
Your life is also special and important. Right here, right now. You have the very gift of life in this fleeting world. Your very breath itself is a miracle. You have the wonder of sight if you are reading this page, and of knowledge and understanding that comes from the gift of an education that many do not have. You have access to the Internet, which very likely means you are not in severe poverty and that you are blessed to know where your next meal, and even next paycheck is coming from. Or at least you have enough to ensure your survival and safety for today. You may have many, many, many more blessings heaped and overflowing on top of these, if only you would take the time to think about and notice them, and be thankful for them.
And if you have insights of your own, as I am certain that you do, that I or others may learn from then please do share your beautiful ‘voice’ with us that we may learn from your unique journey and perspective too.
And in the meantime, I am off to put a pizza in the oven, pour myself an nice cold drink, put my feet up and enjoy this evening of blessed solitude.
Much love my blogger friends, whoever you are, and wherever you may be going, you are never truly alone, and your life is a wondrous miracle if you would open your eyes and heart to see it! Be blessed, and know how blessed you already are.
Image 1 and Image 4 from Google Images.