Three days

photo by napfalevel via creative commons

I lived for three days in a Victorian-era house in a historic neighborhood of Detroit. It is a creaky old joint, with drafty windows, wobbly wood banisters, and enough chipped plaster and gouged floor boards to tell a thousand stories.

I handed over my life, or maybe I reclaimed it, in this place.

I opened up my head and my heart. It was boring. It was painful. It was fabulous.

When I arrived on Wednesday with a small overnight bag and a pillow, I buzzed with anxiety and dread. I’d taken on this retreat on as a personal challenge. It was no pampering spa weekend in the woods.  Letting go of all that I control (or think I control) was tough. Dismissing the idea that I could have any vanity or ego while doing this was even tougher. No showers, plenty of hard work and sweating, and very little privacy or down time. I’d have to face a group of people, some who know me and some who do not, without props or facades.

There would be no radio, TV, Internet, cell phone, books, or even pen and paper to jot down thoughts. There would be vast expanses of silence and lots of work. When I found my room, bare except for a futon, night stand, and a lone lamp with a low-watt bulb, If started to feel like I’d checked myself into a prison of sorts.

But once I let go of it all, and just lived with what each moment handed me, I began to really feel light and joyful. There is a certain peace in dedicating each moment to one task. Eat at eating time. Sleep at sleeping time. Work at working time. Clean at cleaning time. There were times to be serious and focus. There were times to laugh and get crazy.

I realized I have it pretty good, in spite of some hardships and challenges. I have a great husband and wonderful children. I realize I need to eat better, get more rest, and unplug from the electronics a little more often.  Most of all, I need to stop clock-watching and multi-tasking.

By the last day, when our bags were packed and the chores were done, we declared the retreat over by sitting in a circle on the kitchen floor surrounding a pan of freshly baked brownies and cups of hot tea. We joked, told stories, asked questions of each other, and just basked in the collective peace we’d built together. I didn’t want to leave.

Did I miss the Internet, TV, phone, radio, and my iPod? Yes and no.

I missed being able to cater to my whims. I didn’t miss the chaos that comes with answering too many whims at once, mine as well as those of my children, my spouse, and the world at large. I tested myself and came out better than I ever could have imagined. How long will it last? What is the next challenge?

It's time to unplug


Last night, there was too much noise. 

There was enough noise and mayhem to send me running for the sleeping bags and outdoor gear.

We’re heading out of the city to unplug, recharge, refocus and relax.

I’ve traveled in too many directions lately, juggled too many balls. This week, I lost my way and dropped all the balls. I feel a little like Humpty Dumpty.  This is surely a sign that I need a break.

I need to get away from a lot of things. Mainly I need a break from the noise.

Yesterday, within a few miles of our home, a home exploded from a natural gas leak, then a tanker truck crashed on the freeway, resulting in multiple explosions, causing a raging inferno, followed by a bridge collapse.

Once I read about the accident online (thank you, Twitter) the wail of sirens, the buzzing of helicopters, which must have been in the background all along, came to the fore.  Toss in the jerk neighbor and his endless supply of illegal fireworks and the marching band practicing two blocks away and you get the idea of the Symphony of Chaos.

Independently, these things do not bother me. I like marching bands. Fireworks, when ample warning is given or it’s a holiday, are dandy.  A random siren, a chopper overhead, are not really a big deal to me. Last night, the cacophony nearly unhinged me. 

I had a hard time falling asleep last night. Too much to worry about. Not much in the way of solutions. Not to mention the thoughts about all the folks involved in these disasters. What traumas are they working through today?

It’s time to escape for a few days. It’s time to get off the grid. It’s time to unplug and unwind.

I know not everyone is into camping or roughing it. It’s a lot of work. But it renews my spirit to follow the rhythms of nature. 

We will not have: television, cable, Internet service, or electricity of any sort. We will not have running water. Phone service will be spotty at best.

We will have: peace broken only by birds calling, deer snorting, assorted woodland creatures gnawing and shuffling and clawing about. We will have the sunrises and sunsets to ourselves. We will have a starry night to take our breath away, complete with shooting stars, and if we are lucky, aurora borealis. 

While I am breaking out in hives and hyperventilating about the idea of disconnecting, I know it’s what my soul needs now.

I need time to wake up with the sunrise and bird calls, to collect fire wood and cook over an open flame.  I need to spread a blanket  on the forest floor, crack open a book, and read or daydream or write stories in long hand. I need meditation time on the banks of a woodsy stream.

I tell myself that I do not need to know what’s going on with everyone and everything at every given moment. I do not need to relive Michael Jackson’s hair fire or  to know whether the Jonas Brothers are still chaste.

So, I’m giving the keyboard a rest. I won’t  be Facebooking; I’ll be facing a book. I won’t be tweeting but I’ll be listening to the chatter of birds.  I won’t be blogging, but I will be gathering logs and maybe even hiking by a bog. Maybe I’ll carry some logs along a bog. 

I hope it’s quiet where you are.