When you have to retreat

I start crying, like ugly face sobs. I mean i commit with my whole face.

My husband said “Why did you book it then?”

I reply; “because it wasn’t real then!”

The next morning I was due to board a flight to attend a women’s healing retreat, nestled in the womb of Uki, NSW. I was having second thoughts as to whether I would be strong enough to fly without my safety net of people.

I’d booked the retreat less than two weeks before it was scheduled, after putting out a message to the universe asking for an opportunity for great healing to present itself.

You see, I am in recovery.

I am recovering from grief and trauma and death.

Almost three months ago now, my first child was born still. I literally felt a piece of my die and nothing you’ve done in your life can prepare you for that. (Read my blog “Dear John”, if you’d like to understand more of this part of my journey)

In that time since, I have struggled to find a sense of peace within my very soul. People move on from it, while you’re still scrambling to pick up all shattered the pieces and stick them back together. Except they never quite fit back the way they were.

Some days I feel like I am screaming on the inside, fighting a war within myself. I catch myself looking around, wondering how no-one notices. It all feels so loud in my head.

I felt this proverbial nudge from the nest by the people who’ve been insulating me the most. I had to at least try to spread my broken wings again. And so, with shaky hands and feet, I navigated the chaos that is Tullamarine airport and found my way to the sardine can of the Jetstar terminal.

I found myself being pulled out of the queue to board my flight by a stern looking Jetstar employee, who told me I had to weight my carry-on and handbag. Let’s just say, Jetstar wrangled an extra $60 out of me for 3kg excess luggage. I thought to myself that this was not an ideal way to greet their customers, but certainly didn’t appreciate the scolding I was getting from the staff and people waiting behind me.

I spent the flight in bum end of the plane, where they decided to seat every child ever born, so they could either kick my seat, chew on the headrest, scream or poo and leave a very aromatic scent to waft in my vicinity.

When I touched down, I had been instructed to contact another two people who was attending the retreat and we could carpool together. I made contact with a lovely, fiery haired lady named Tanya. She had decided to hire her own car and was more than happy to play uber driver. When I asked where our third companion was, she replied that she’d been in a car accident on the way to the airport and probably wouldn’t make it. The strangest thing was, on the way to being delivered to Tullamarine airport, I passed a terrible accident, where the car had been flipped onto its roof. As we’d passed it, I had felt a strong empathy for whomever was involved. It turns out, I had witnessed the accident and the girl in it was the person who was meant to be accompanying me on the other side of the flight.

Tanya and I got along instantly and our banter turned to personal faux pas very quickly. She put me in charge of being the navigator, which I assured her was not in her best interest. A couple of back roads and wrong turns later, we made it to our destination.

The setting for this retreat was magnificent. Gymea eco retreat rests in front of mount Warning, a very sacred place, where the light first touches the land in our country.

Tanya and I were greeted by the owner, who promptly showed us to our rooms. There was some confusion over my name, as my door had a sticker with the name “Kelsay” on it. I decided that Kelsay would be evicted in any case. I then asked where our keys were, to which I was told they didn’t lock the doors. The Westie in me was shocked.

It took until around 5pm for everyone to arrive and by that stage the group had expanded to at least twenty other people. I felt a bit shy and because I was a bit fragile in myself, I didn’t have the usually keely piz-zaz to simply strike up conversations. Luckily, the beautiful facilitators, Lisa Jolly and Nanette Abbott began the retreat with a welcoming circle, where we were all formally introduced.

Dinner was served in a big dining room around one long table. I struck up some conversation and found myself being asked what had brought me there by myself for the weekend.

It’s always a tricky thing in how to tell someone about my journey over the last few months. You literally never know how someone will react. But I decided that if I was going to be there, I had to be willing to open myself up and share my story. As it turned out, one of the girls participating in the conversation had also been through a similar journey. This girl was very special to me, as she offered herself up to spend time the following day talking to me about it and helped normalize so much of feelings and experiences. At times, I worried I was slowly losing it and she assured me that given how recently my world had been blown open, I was doing very well.

I went to bed that first night, wondering if I’d sleep well. I’ve had a lot of challenges with my sleep patterns in the last couple of months and sleeping alone in a foreign, unlockable room was something I thought would be tough for me. But I managed to get myself settled without any sleep aids. I had been prescribed some tablets that help me with anxiety around sleeping. This absolutely pushed up against my belief system at the time. I took the little bottle with me as a safety net, hoping I wouldn’t need them. Hoping my body would behave itself.

The interesting thing about trauma is that the body is still reeling from fight or flight and I can be triggered into waking up with a racing heart, without actually knowing why. My body is still trying to figure out that it doesn’t need to react and that’s been very difficult for me to make peace with – feeling out of control.

The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 6:30am for an early yoga class.

I was greeted by the mum-to-all Margy, who was telling me she’d had a terrible sleep and was very tired. Strangely, it made me feel comforted to know that other people have problems with sleep too.

The food all weekend was served Vegan and I actually didn’t mind it. Quite a few people found themselves going into detox or withdrawal.

Mid-morning on the first day, we had a workshop with Lisa about gut health and how it affects most aspects of our lives. It was quite a good refresher for me, but I found myself getting a little edgy. I think perhaps because a lot of what Lisa was talking about mentioned diet helping with mood and I found myself in negative self-talk surrounding my own situation. “I eat well and do all this stuff… why don’t I feel better?”

I was driven by the urge to create some space for myself, so I found a hill and climbed it. It was about half way up I realized it was basically an attempt to defy gravity to scale it, but the personal trainer in me moved me to the top and it was well worth it for the view. Although my butt didn’t agree later that day.

When I returned, I felt a bit more balanced and was moved onto what was called the “healing circuit.” First stop was the steamiest, steam room ever. It actually made me claustrophobic, as you couldn’t see anything. It made for a fun game of “Marco-Polo.” Then we moved into the sauna for dry heat and then (sadistically) the freezing cold plunge pool. I am not going to lie, I was not brave about it. One of the lovely retreaters, Trudy, quite literally held my hand to get me in. After you conquered the plunge pool, you could get in the spa. This had to be done at least 3 times. It also helped speed up detox for the cells and stimulated the vagus nerve – the relaxation highway. I yelled as I jumped into the plunge pool “My Vagus nerve is so stimulated!”

We finished the day with a meditation held by Nanette, who gave us an introduction into her practice of kinesiology and how to set energetic boundaries. It set the tone for the following evening.

I do believe that there was a huge charge around the full moon on Friday the 13th too.

The next morning, I once again pulled my bum out of bed to do yoga and then breakfast. So far, I hadn’t cried and I was just wondering when it was going to happen.

Nanette was teaching her workshop on ESR reset techniques and how they can be used on friends and family. I was paired up with a beautiful soul named Narelle, who was brave enough to open up to me a little about herself. I found it very easy to drop into the support role for her, but when my turn came around, I knew it was going to be hard… and so did Narelle. She quickly ran off to retrieve Nanette to assist with my heavy baggage. I was a two-person job!

Nanette has a unique way of cutting through all your bullshit and getting to the crux of the matter. I’ve had a handful of one on one sessions with her and she knows I have a tendency to run away from facing the hardest, darkest stuff. And that day she didn’t disappoint. I realized that I keep saying to myself the things I don’t want in my like – “I don’t want to feel this pain anymore” Or I “I don’t want to feel sad.” It was quickly rephrased as “I invite love for myself” and “I deserve to feel happy.” When you focus on what you don’t want, it implies that is what you have.

I had realized that there has been a part of me that’s felt sad for a long time, long before losing my son. It stemmed from not accepting a spiritual part of myself. I’d always worried that if I acknowledged it, then people might label me as mentally ill or crazy. Deep down, I know I am a deeply connected person. I have the capacity to empathise with others to the point of feeling their emotions and physical pain. I can tune into the energy in a room quite easily and I can help heal others. I have just let my fear of not understanding it stop me from working toward embracing that part of myself. I can’t completely love myself if I won’t acknowledge a part of who I am.

I realized I have to find a way to let go of the war that’s raging within myself. That whoever I am meant to be now, was always there and what I am feeling right now is actually ok. Just because I realized it, doesn’t mean it was magically cured. It’s a work in progress.

I was very tired that day, but I was a bit like an excited puppy that wanted all the experiences, so I found my new friends Trudy and Narelle, and crashed their bush walk. The one thing I noticed was how dried out the land is. There’s no water anywhere. All the creek beds and lakes are bone dry. The retreat has had to phone in additional water from the towns supply. I felt a yearning of the land to be nourished. I know that sounds a bit hippy, but in all my years visiting the northern part of our country, I have never seen them so desperate for rain. I tried to help by not flushing my toilet too much.

By late that afternoon, I found myself feeling a bit coiled again, so I disappeared back to my room. I knew that even though I was tired, a nap was unlikely, I still lay down for a minute. Then, the tears bubbled up. I couldn’t explain what they were for, but I suppose I didn’t need to. I just let it flow out until the energy had shifted and made my way down to dinner. After that, I felt lighter somehow.

I got chatting with Mum-to-all Margy again and she finally asked me The question. I knew she’d been getting around and chatting with everyone, so it was only a matter of time before she got to me. I told her my story and she began to weep.

You see, people do that.

I was asked if it upset me that people reacted in that way, but I understand that its their way of showing genuine empathy toward me. I would prefer to see someone offer a vulnerable emotion than completely ignore or minimize my journey. Women in particular really seem to feel this loss on a deep primal level. There’s something that the fragility of losing a life that you created that bonds all women together. It’s a pain only a woman can understand.

Margy marveled at how happy I seemed to be and that she could not believe I had recently been through such a difficult time. I told her that sometimes you can be happy and sad at the same time. I wonder if perhaps that might always be the case.

After dinner that evening, we had a sound meditation, hosted by a strikingly beautiful Maori/Aboriginal woman named Fyre. She was so completely connected to the land and her sound bath was very powerful. I knew that I wouldn’t sleep very well that night. For some reason, I never sleep well after sound and frequency healings.

The next morning, it was time to begin packing up and preparing to return back to our lives. It was quite fortunate that I had the forethought to double check my flight time the night before, as I had the wrong departure time in my head. We organized a taxi to come and pick us up, but at 10:30am, the taxi was nowhere to be seen and my flight was at 12pm. Tanya who had hired a car, saved the day by offering to drive us early leavers to the airport. We made it with 1 minute to spare.

Upon boarding my fight, I found I was sitting next to a man probably close to my own age. He was clean cut and was immediately friendly toward me. With all the conditioning I’ve had in my life, I offered him pleasantry in return, but not much more. Somehow though, we struck up a conversation about business, our lives and of all things, Jesus! He was devoutly passionate about the teaching of Jesus, but claimed not to be religious. I found this to be utterly fascinating and wanted to know how he differentiated between them. So much of what he explained to me aligned with the concepts I’d been attracted to through spiritual teachers and I realized that part of our disconnection with nature, people and ourselves comes from our immediate dismissal of the Devine. The flight went really quickly and I had yet another facebook friend.

When I stepped off the plane, I didn’t feel like I was radically changed or that all my inner turmoil was magically gone, but I felt stronger. There’s so many layers to work through and I like to think that I peeled back another one through this weekend. I found a way to be on my own and be ok. I took back some of the power I felt like I had lost and had the chance to reflect on my life objectively. When I recounted some of my experiences over the years, from being with a partner who was emotionally abusive, to having skin cancer, to my journey with John, I reaslied I had endured more than I credited and it had all lead me to becoming a complete version of myself.