In the past couple of weeks, in the midst of winter, I’ve felt a familiar restlessness– one I’ve experienced at this time of year for a long time. There’s a need to escape the gray of winter to a new place, a new experience; it’s the time when the next Solo Journey starts to form.
That journey will take place in September. The first leg of my trip will not be solo; my cousin, Kim and I will be traveling to Scotland with the mission of placing her mother’s ashes at the Isle of Skye. Then we’ll fly from Edinburgh to Dublin and spend a few days. She’ll return to the States and then I’ll do my Solo Journey in another area of Ireland. So while that trip is on the horizon, my spirit is restless and can’t wait until September to find relief.
Last week I was searching through books on my shelf and found one I’d read back in 2006:
A Weekend to Change Your Life: Find Your Authentic Self After A Lifetime Of Being All Things to All People by Joan Anderson. I looked through the pages and found comments I’d written in the margins as well as notebook pages I stuffed inside. That was the second book I’d read, even studied, by Joan Anderson.
Those of you who’ve read my memoir, He Heard My Voice, may remember that her first book,
A Walk on the Beach: Tales of Wisdom from an Unconventional Woman was the memoir I found when I took my Solo Journey to Jekyll Island, Georgia. For me, it had been “the right book at the right time.” The description on the book jacket said that it was a “poignant, insightful exploration of renewal at midlife” and that’s where I was that summer–fifty years old and examining my life. I’d spent hours reading and then mulling over what I read as I walked along the Atlantic Ocean as well as under the live oak trees of the Jekyll Island Club. That book helped me understand the need to draw away and find the time and quiet space to see my life; it helped to reinforce the reason to take those journeys every year.
Now, at sixty-six, I see the validity of what I learned and put into action.
Looking at the chapters in this second book I have by Joan Anderson, I see how her life changed from the response of the readers, particularly women, to the same book that helped change my life. As I leafed through A Weekend to Change Your Life, the section “Small but Powerful Journeys” (p 191) caught my attention. In the opening paragraph, Joan says:
“Second journeys come in all sizes and shapes– and they are not measured by mountain peaks scaled or marathons run. Small journeys can have just as significant an impact on the overall course and tone of your life. It’s all about embracing unpredictability–creatively disengaging from your typical day and the people with whom you live, to follow your instincts, whatever form they may take. Any activity has the potential to become fertile ground for growth. New involvements especially revivify your intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical outlook. In the process, they also illuminate the unexpected paths.”
It occurred to me that my obvious second journey, that’s not small, is my life as a single person after forty years of marriage. Along this path, there are many opportunities to take smaller journeys, side trips you could say, of self-discovery at this age– now as a senior. I can go back and reread this memoir–that is also a workbook, at this point in my life and see how things are different, what works now.
Like always, this post is not just about me and what I’ve discovered; my desire is for it to be about your self-discovery along your unique path. For all of us, we have been forced by fate, circumstances, life choices, or whatever cause– to embrace unpredictability that has led to unexpected paths. These can be life-shattering or the changes that we sort of expect that come with developmental changes– like retirement, caring for declining parents, our children becoming adults and making decisions we don’t control. No matter our circumstances, or our age, we can find ourselves needing to move beyond our status quo, out of “stagnation”–as Joan puts it.
In the section “Small but Powerful Journeys,” she says:
“Most of us long for wholeness. We long to unearth those raw-material resources that we own but simply haven’t had a chance, or the courage, to use. You must literally begin again and again over the course of a lifetime. You can’t really know what it is you are supposed to do unless you take the time to experiment with this and that and then retire your spirit. Experimentation is the only way out of stagnation.” (p. 192)
Like I felt when I was fifty, I continue to need to draw away and find the time and quiet space to see my life; I suspect you do, too. Sometimes as seniors, our schedules become about as cluttered as they were in our younger years. So many who have retired, have told me, “I’m busier now than ever.” While some of that is good and provides purpose and structure, we can become buried under all that activity–like we were at mid-life, and lose ourselves.
In the book, readers are encouraged to start small, if they need to, with solitude and retreat– a few hours, a half-day– just time to break away from the routine to be able to “listen to our own voices.” The more you spend time in silence the more comfortable you’ll feel; that was her experience and that’s been mine. Eventually, that may bring you to an entire day or even– a weekend in retreat.
And that brings me to the “weekend to change your life.” Ms Anderson offers weekend retreats on Cape Cod that are crafted to move through various stages of self-discovery, purging of the old, arriving to a different place. I think it’s possible to take the time to design your own retreat to heal and discover new truths in your life. It requires valuing yourself, knowing that you’re worth that investment of time and energy; it takes courage to leave others–and perhaps their needs, behind to attend to your own.
Once you decide to find your place of quiet and solitude, after you’ve settled into the place, these are questions that the book lists which I think are a good starting point:
What am I yearning for?
What am I seeking?
What must I eliminate from my everyday life?
What do I need more of?
With focused attention, with the desire to find your best life right now, I think it’s possible to change your life in the course of a weekend– or less. We all journey through this life not knowing the course it will take, surprised by the twists and turns. We deserve to slow down, take time for solitude and self-care and allow ourselves to be new creations as the new times call for.
Blessings to you all,