Seven years ago, when I was turning 45, I decided to gift myself with a personal retreat. “All I want for my birthday,” I told my incredulous husband, “is a night away. Alone. By myself.” At that point, I had been raising kids continuously for 22 years and I craved peace and solitude above all else.
My husband wasn’t the only incredulous one. Most of my family and friends were either perplexed or aghast. For many, the idea of a wife and mother spending the night away from her family was unheard of. A girls’ night out was one thing…but a whole night away? Alone?? To do what? They couldn’t wrap their minds around it.
Here’s what I did: I booked a room at a quaint B&B just down the street from my house. The room had no TV, and I brought no electronics. I checked in late in the afternoon, lay on the bed, and soaked up the beautiful silence. I read, journaled, played with my Tarot cards and read some more. At dinnertime I wandered down to the outdoor restaurant with my book, and very leisurely savored my meal, listened to the live music, and fended off questions from my curious waitress. (“You’re here on a personal retreat?Really? By yourself??”) I lingered over coffee and dessert, and then made my way back to my room, where I read some more and did another Tarot reading. I had no internet and spoke to no one. It was glorious. The next morning, I began my 46th year feeling like an utterly remade woman. It’s one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done.
I understand that not everyone will be able or willing to get away for a whole night (although I urge you to seriously consider it) but a personal retreat can be as simple as a few sacred hours locked away in your bedroom. Or a solitary walk in the woods, or on the beach. Leave the kids with your partner or a friend. They’ll be fine. You’ll be coming back to them refreshed and renewed. I’ve been known to traipse miles down a wooded trail just to get some uninterrupted alone time.
The idea is to consciously use the time alone to feed your soul and recharge. That means step away from the laptop and the phone. If your mind is an anxious jumble of thoughts, grab a pen and notebook and spill it all onto the page. Light a candle, burn some incense, soak in the tub…whatever you need to do to mark this time as sacred.
I think the reason people were so befuddled by my personal retreat is that they so rarely see any woman put her own needs above others. And that’s what I did. For one night, I put my own needs above the needs of my family and that was okay. It wasn’t just okay…it was necessary. I was worth it, I am still worth it, and you are too.