Recently I planned a "self-retreat" for myself. I really wanted time to reflect, rest, plan, and dive into work in a way that's been really difficult to do at home for the past two years. I was craving uninterrupted time to allow the noise (figurative and literal) to settle so I could feel clarity around my own priorities, hear my own thoughts, and dream up things that are part of the bigger picture instead of responding to whatever thing presented itself to me in any given moment while at home. I started planning and went on my self-retreat two weeks later.
So, what is a self-retreat exactly? It's simply protected time you give yourself that can look or feel however you want:
- Where you want... maybe that’s the ease of home but to be present in a different way.
- For how long you want… 8 hours? 24 hours? 48 hours?
- Doing what you want… maybe that’s diving into work, out on the town, visiting your favorite place, or spending time with someone you want to catch up with.
I rented a lovely AirBnb in Topanga for two days. Cozy and peaceful, yet only 20 minutes away from my house. I let go of the tyranny of "making the most of it" by spending the nights there because I really wanted to be home in the evenings with my boys. I let it cost what it did and gave myself permission to have what I wanted. This was the hardest part because it's a luxury and an unusual one at that. I committed to not filling my time with anything but my own company and my of-the-moment priorities.
I packed books I wanted to read, my journal, a notebook, laptop, my favorite tea and some palo santo. I arrived at the house later than I had anticipated because one babe was sick (should I still go? yep.) Then, I stopped and explored a few cute spots in Topanga on my way like picking up lunch at Topanga Living Cafe (and some DELICIOUS gluten-free cookies!) I reminded myself that frolicking around with no agenda was also a worthwhile and good use of my time. It felt so good to let go of the need for every moment to count towards something pre-determined.
I loved my time there. We should never forget how novelty feeds the soul. I took a little nap, I read and journaled, I made plans for my year. Most importantly though, I indulged in my own timing, my own thoughts, and my own space. Things I took for granted before pandemic life and before children. I allowed myself to be curious and provide myself with whatever I needed in the moment. It went by quickly, much too quickly, but I felt grateful and connected to my own agency in the world. I could create what I needed and make it happen.
I make it a goal of mine to do a little self-retreat every season/quarter now… to allow it to be a little different each time, to be imperfect or inconvenient, and to do it anyways.
Would you do a self-retreat? What would you want yours to be like?
Jaimi Brooks is a licensed marriage and family therapist, women's group leader, founder of The Well Lived Woman, and creator of the Values Deck.