The last year and a half has brought significant changes to my life: a new city, a new job, being a new mom to name a few. Any one of these changes on their own would be stressful, so to have them happen in short succession was particularly challenging. While it was happening, I thought I was handling it well and I probably did deal with all the changes as best I could but I can look back with honesty and say I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t exactly unhappy though either. The best way I can describe it that I was living in a house with some of the lights turned off. There was enough light to see by, enough that I didn’t realize what I was missing, but once I finally got all the lights on, life got fuller, brighter and so much more vibrant and rich.
Part of turning the lights back on it doing things I enjoy even if they don’t include my son. My mom guilt is intense and overwhelming at times. Why did I have a kid just to pawn him off on someone else? I’ve slowly come to terms with this. I can leave him with other people. He enjoys doing things without me. In fact, it’s important that he learns to do things without me. The people I leave him with love him too and love spending time with him. I created a mantra I recite to myself when it gets tough. It addresses my mom guilt and sometimes low self-esteem. It goes like this.
For together to be our favorite place, we need to be apart.
To love my family as a whole, I will love every part.
So, in the spirit of being apart, I made plans a few months ago to do just that. This past weekend was spent with a group of amazing women. A few times a year, they gather under the guise of quilt retreats. Yes, a lot of quilting occurs, but after being away for more than a year, I can see there is so very much more. These five days are filled with pretty much everything that I need to recharge and return to life a better person. In no particular order these are:
- Quilting and crafting: Of course this is necessary at a quilt retreat. It’s no secret that I like to create pretty much anything. Fabric is a really great medium with endless possibilities and is a joy to work with. Even in the scope of quilting, the options for projects are vast. Quilts themselves range in size, intended use, and intricacy. And then you have your quilted table runners, wall hangings, place mats, bags, and the list goes on and on. I started quilting about 7 years ago. I had done some garment sewing before that and it was an easy transition. I’ve lost count of the number of quilts I’ve made and the people I’ve made them for. I do know that every single one is special and unique. Each one took my time and thought. Most of the people I have given quilts to understand this on some level, that quilts aren’t just pretty blankets. They are extremely personal and hold so much feeling. It’s such a pleasure for me to make a quilt with a specific person in mind, to go through the process and experience the fabric taking shape. It has to be because if you look at it for what is really is, cutting up fabric to sew it back together again, it seems insane. Some would argue that most artist toe the line of crazy and quilters are no different.
- Good food and drink: The last few retreats I’ve attended, I’ve also done the majority of the cooking and food prep for meals. Someone else purchases the food then I set it out and cook when needed. Many people would balk at making meals for 18 people but it doesn’t bother me. I really do enjoy cooking and the sense of accomplishment I feel when a meal is served and everyone is enjoying themselves. Additionally, there is always good food, not just what we eat for meals but good snacks that I never buy o make myself. We joke that it’s important to eat no less than every two hours to avoid feeling faint and there is never a shortage of food to accommodate this. Good food always is a key part to a good time. And let’s not forget happy hour, or more like hours. Sometimes a little liquid courage is needed to tackle some difficult blocks. We’ve developed an impressive bloody mary bar that has become a staple.
- Scenic Running/Biking Trail: The retreat house we visit most frequently is right along a really nice path. It’s shaded, mostly flat, and goes on for miles. This trail in particular is so very peaceful. It crosses very few roads and is sheltered by thick woods on each side most of the way contributing to a sense of isolation and privacy. Running for me is a kind of therapy. I can tell when it’s been a few days without a run. I feel unsettled and edgy. It doesn’t matter if my body is tired, my mind needs the runs to remain in a healthy place. I run every day at retreat, not always far, but the fresh air, the near perfect trail are too enticing to pass up.
- Friendships with like minded people: The women who attend retreat are united in their love for quilting. Even if they are new to the art, by the time Sunday rolls around they are already thinking about their next project and coming to the next retreat. Beyond that, the ages and the background vary greatly. I have yet to find anywhere else that allows me to befriend women in this way. Additionally, some of these women I only see at retreat, but like old friends, it’s as if no time has passed. They remember what is going on in my life, and I theirs, and I know when they ask about it, they care about my answer and it’s not just small talk. You will never meet a more caring and accepting group. I am so lucky to call these people friends.
I had a really good time and finished a quilt top that has been taking up space in my closet for too long. I ran 11 miles. I finished the book I was reading. I slept through the night. I had at least one bloody mary a day. I got to catch up with friends. I got to talk about O and show off some pictures of him. I missed O too but not as much as I worried I would. I got to think about me and what I wanted. I don’t feel bad about planning to go again and looking forward to it. I found a happy place where I can go to be me again. Just me and not mom, not wife, just me.