By Sandra Lee Schubert
I was looking forward to the retreat. It is my annual weekend of rejuvenation. The retreat house is a monastery nestled in West Park, NY, right off the Hudson river. The view is spectacular, the monks are nice, and the food is just the best. There are several daily services that you can attend or not. The services are very meditative and calming. The retreat is sponsored by my congregation in NYC. We all like each other and enjoy the time together. It is the highlight of my year. I am sustained by each visit.
I had asked for some time off so I could get up there before dinner. I packed Thursday night and on Friday I wheeled my duffel through the subway system, Times Square, and up the stairs to the office. The clergy had gone to convention so I was basically alone trying to get things done so I could leave early. I had this nagging feeling something was not right but just attributed it to feeling tired and overwhelmed.
When the time came I happily left work, lugged the duffel down into the subway, took a train one stop, lugged the duffel to the shuttle, and headed into Grand Central. I bought my ticket, a muffin and water. The train was packed but I finally found a seat. If a woman ever needed a retreat it was me. I was now officially exhausted but on my way.
The ride was long but I had my iPod and a book. It was dark when I got to the train station. I looked around to see if any of my fellow retreatants were there. The cab ride cost $23 but it was worth it, I was so ready and excited to get there.
It was time for Vespers so the monastery was empty when I got there. I saw a couple of people who were not part of my group but that was not unusual. A sign on the door said I could find our room placements on the welcome book. I scanned the list and had the most horrible feeling ever. There was not one person I knew on the list. I looked up at the welcome board and my heart sank into a deep and dark horrifying place. I realized right then that I was there on the wrong weekend!
The bell rang for service. So I dragged my duffel and went to the chapel and sat in the back and looked around at people I didn't know and was very close to an all out sob fest. After the service the monk who schedules the retreat was very kind to a very embarrassed, exhausted traveler who had lost her way. I stayed for dinner and a very nice woman took pity on me and drove me back to the train station. I left work at 2 PM and got home at 10 PM. I had traveled over 180 miles in one day and spent over $50 to go to a retreat I clearly needed but on the wrong weekend. Sigh.
We don't always know when we are in trouble. Or when exhaustion has taken hold of our faculties. We think we are doing OK, tired, but holding our own. I have been burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Up and writing before work, 8 hours there, then back to the computer at home trying, trying, trying... to get ahead, make some money, to carve out a place in the world that would provide me enough security so that I could just stay home and write.
I have also been failing, slipping down some slippery slope to a dark place.Trying to just make ends meet when all I want to do is feel inspired, be creative, feel like I have accomplished something.
What do you do when you have lost your way ? The book we are reading in preparation for the retreat is, The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri J.M Nouwen. The prodigal son returns home after he realizes he has gone astray, traveled in the wrong direction from his roots. I am giving the story short shrift here but the son comes to his fathers house and is received happily back into his home. When wandering off course just return home. It took me 180 miles to get back home, a short journey for a wayward traveler.
What do you do? I know that I have to refocus on more important things. The first is my physical well-being, the second is honoring my creative life, the third is making certain I keep my datebook up to date.
Next week I will be back at the monastery at the right retreat, humbled, but knowing more about the hurt I carry. I traveled far to realize I needed to be home. Tonight I sleep early and tomorrow I begin again.
Sandra Lee Schubert is a creative vagabond, a poet, writer and dabbler in the arts and online entrepreneur. She co-facilitates the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. She is also the creator of the e-course, Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own. Visit her blog: Email her firstname.lastname@example.org or @writing4life via twitter.