Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Walking into Fire" without an Extinguisher

My writing retreat was today.  It was called "WALKING INTO FIRE: Sidestepping Fear, Writing Your Heart Out, and Letting Your Story Tell Itself".  I have been looking forward to this for months...I'm not even sure when I found out about it but it was at least 3 months ago.  If you read my post from yesterday, you know that there was some question about whether or not they had received my payment, if I could get in if they HADN'T received it...AARGH!

I made sure to get there early in case I had to finagle my way in.  When I got up to the registration table, the woman who was there looked me up and my name was on the list. That was almost more puzzling than finding out that my payment hadn't gone through last night.  Now, I'm wondering if Patti saw my FB post and added me so there would be a slot. Then I realized how egotistical that, how did I get on the list?  I asked the registration woman how I could know if my payment was received - she put a note on my name. But I didn't receive any emails...other people got a confirmation AND a note about coming to Kennedy School.

All day, I was trying not to be distracted by thinking about how I can make sure that my payment was received. I HAVE to make sure they got my payment, but they are teaching for goodness sake. I don't want to bother them with something so menial. I know that when I have taught workshops, I want to be dealing with the participants on the topic, not things like "Can you make sure I paid?"  Finally, I decided that I would email the place where the registrations were and just make sure that way.  I don't want to miss out because they were going to provide the participant's email addresses later this week so that we can maintain contact. Once I had a plan of action, I was able to breathe easier and sink into the workshop.

I find as I get older that workshops are less about learning something new and more about deepening what we thought we knew or getting affirmation that what we already know is good.  I did learn a meditation technique that worked for me. I was surprised at how relaxed I felt while doing it. Most of the time, when I have done meditations in workshops, they make you sit or lay on the floor and it either makes me tired or I start thinking, "How long before we are done? I'm uncomfortable." This meditation was different and I liked it. I may continue to try to practice it...

My favorite part of today was that I laughed A LOT.  I also met some amazing women who I hope to continue to know in some capacity.  Erin, Gail, Brigitte, Teresa, Sher and Molly were particularly people I connected with.  Erin and I were talking in the lunch line and I mentioned that I was a sign language interpreter - Molly was a few people ahead of me and overheard "sign language interpreter" - she is an interpreter, too, from Kansas.  We struck up a lovely conversation at lunch time.  Teresa runs a special bed and breakfast in Seattle and writes a blog about recovering her life after the sudden death of her 20 year old son. Erin is a children's librarian in Idaho who has a blog called Sexual References.  Sher is from Michigan and is working on moving to Portland with her two kids to change her career path and possibly deepen a relationship.  I didn't get to know Gail and Brigitte as well because we were partners in different exercises and were focused on the specifics of the exercise. Both these women were gracious and kind.

One of the things the presenters challenged us to do was to take the retreat day as an opportunity to do things differently. They challenged us to come at things from a different approach than our "usual".  I really tried - I noted a couple of things that I was not comfortable to change, but I did try some others. One of the things I decided to do was to be myself - to be open to people.  Sometimes, I feel so shy when strangers talk to me. Yesterday, I made sure to ask people's names, look them in the eye and talk with them. I tried to ask them questions to draw them out. I was open to talking to the women in the line in the bathroom and that is how I started talking to Erin and Molly.  Usually, I just get so uncomfortable that I can't maintain. I judge myself pretty harshly so I have a hard time talking to people sometimes.  Yesterday, I just decided that I could be myself and if they didn't like who that was, they could choose not to stay.

The other way I challenged myself was to participate in the larger group. Usually, I don't ask questions (at work, it is different). Normally, I don't offer my own answers, particularly if it is creative in nature.  The other thing that came up was that I had my own unique response to some of the prompts. One of the questions was what is another word you use for creativity?  The first word that came to mind for me was COLOR.  Then they started around the room and everyone started sharing their words: imagination, freedom, voice, expression, safety, unique, flow, etc.  As they continued to go around the room, I was frantically trying to think of a "better" word - something that would fit with theirs. I didn't connect with their words so I couldn't find one of theirs that I could repeat. Finally, it came to my turn and I said, "Color."  There. I said it. I didn't burst into flames. No one pointed and laughed. It felt right.  Later, we did a free write about our intention for the workshop. Once we were done, we were asked to select one word for our intention.  Again, people had a variety of words for their intentions - all valid, all good, but not MINE.  My word was "RECLAIM".  This time, we just needed to raise our hand if we wanted to share. I waited and listened to many words. The words the other woman used were good, but none of them expressed my thought, so finally, I raised my hand and said my word. Again, no flames, no laughter. It was so interesting - I wasn't judging the other women's words, but I felt I wasn't represented and I wanted that word or something close to it to be in the air for those of us who may have lost our way as writers or creatives.

The experience was rich and deep. I laughed a lot and it made me think and it made me long to find my voice and to say whatever it is that I think I want to say. I'm up for the challenge, I think.  I'm sure I will have more to say once I have processed everything a little more.

**Follow up:  I just sent off my note to check on payment. It is bothering me, so hopefully, I will hear soon so that I can either breathe easy or get it taken care of so I don't feel guilty and a little bit stupid. :)

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