The truth is, I had no idea how the retreat would go. Meg, Sas and I had created a program we felt was juicy and inspiring, but there was no way of knowing whether the participants would get anything out of it. I swung between worrying it was all too simple to fretting that maybe it was too much. There were so many unknowns running alongside the reassurances that the food would be good (it so was!) and the venue was lovely.
As an introvert, albeit a confident non-shy one, I was also worried I’d find the retreat exhausting. I’m so used to being on my own I didn’t know if I could handle the energy of 19 women basically living together for five days. Sharing my world from behind a screen, book page or photograph is extremely comfortable for me — doing that out in public is something else altogether.
But as it turned out, it was one of the most illuminating, connected, nourishing and humbling experiences of my life.
From the moment we welcomed the first arrivals to the final farewell on the last day, we were carried along by something much greater than us. The pace of the days was perfectly in line with what everyone needed. The workshops and exercises stretched us all in ways we couldn’t have imagined (we were working right alongside our vixens). We stayed open to the witchiness that circles of women tend to bring, and we honoured our energy levels by retreating when we needed to. When I fell into bed each night I was tired, yes, but not depleted. Personally this was one of the greatest gifts of the week, discovering I can do this work and not be destroyed by it.
Every evening Meg, Sas and I would gather to prep for the next day, lying on each other’s beds, marvelling at how well it was going. It was such a joy to witness my two friends truly blossom into their roles as retreat leaders — you would have thought they’d been doing it for years (SO PROUD OF YOU GUYS!)
Each of us had a role to play – every woman in our circle brought something of herself to the group. We were a yurt full of equals, and that was exactly how I’d hoped it would be. There is something so powerful about being a witness to each other’s transformation. I’d seen it happen in my classes and have read about it in testimonials and emails, but to be there in person, looking into a person’s eyes as they tell me their story… I don’t really have words for it, actually.
Each woman went home with a map to her future and a tribe of women walking beside her. I returned home exhausted to my bones, yet also oddly filled up. I have a better idea of what I need to do going forward with my own goals and am ready to take that first step into the next chapter of my future. And part of that includes another Redfox retreat next year. This is just the beginning, in so many ways…
Thank you Amy, Amy Gretchen, Anne, Elizabeth, Esme, Fiona, Gerri, Jenny, Katherine, Kelly, Nicola, Rachel, Sarah, Susanne, Wendy and Yvonne for trusting us to be your guides for the week and letting yourselves be seen so beautifully. I’ll never forget it xo
If you’d like to learn more about next year’s Unravel Your Story retreat you can sign up for the mailing list over here. We’ll be updating the page over the next few weeks, but I can already tell you the dates: November 4th – 10th, 2014
We’d had a lovely afternoon at Treefest, riding the merry-go-round and helter skelter, sitting in a tent listening to stories of gypsies and kings, eating churros and chocolate sauce, exploring treehouses and generally running amok in the bank holiday sunshine. When it was time to head back to the car we did the usual you-can’t-catch-me game… and then it happened. He fell over, head first, onto the sharp gravel path. Oh my loves, there was so much blood. In a flash Abby scooped him up and we planted ourselves on the side of the road, searching for tissues and water, knowing it wasn’t going to be enough. Noah’s dad ran to get the first aiders, and it was amazing how many other mums stopped and offered us tissues and wipes — one lady sat down and unpacked an entire first aid kit from her bag. Mums, women, people are so good. Help arrived in the form of two ex-army medics, a husband and wife team who were absolutely brilliant. Noah let the woman — I think her name was Jane, it was all a bit fraught — clean up his face and we could see there was a cut on his forehead, he’d taken the skin off above his lip and grazed his cheek. HE WAS SO BRAVE. Crying, distraught and scared, but so so brave, our little man. He even swallowed down a spoonful of Calpol without any complaint, which definitely helped to ease his head.
And while all this was happening, I sat like a rock beside my sister, helping where I could, but staying calm. We all react to scary stuff in different ways — apparently I get really zen. After a moment of sheer panic when i saw Noah’s bloody face, I went straight into keep-everyone-calm mode. Once he was all patched up Noah stepped out of his mummy’s arms and came to me. I picked him up and gave him lots of cuddles, showing him the ambulance (the “nee-nah”) while Abby talked to Jane and let herself feel what had happened. As we walked back to the car Noah wanted me to keep carrying him, and though his mummy just wanted him back in her arms, we agreed later that it was a definite sign that he was okay. Usually when really bad stuff happens he just wants his mummy, so wanting me meant things were normalising.
Back at home we tucked him up on the sofa with a DVD and offered biscuits and chocolate but Noah wanted an apple and some juice :) The next day we stayed at home, but he was jumping off the sofa in no time, fearless as ever. His face is scabby, and, of course, he’s constantly picking at it, but he seems absolutely fine. His mummy, daddy and auntie, on the other hand, are still processing it all!
Our brave boy.
Our blondie bear is a real little chatterbox. I’ve lost count of all his words — he talks in sentences now! Once in a while he’ll say something in such a sophisticated way I just stare at him, wondering who this teenager is. His daddy says “oh em gee” a lot ( in jest, you understand) — Noah’s version is “oh eye jim” which he says emphatically and often. His pronunciation is becoming faultless for so many words, though there are still a few I hope he gets ‘wrong’ forever:
fallahs — flowers
butter fallahs — buttercups
mingos — flamingoes
atchalen — actually
Auntie knocked it out the park with the Rapunzel and Eugene dolls (Noah: Punzel and Nugene). We spent a very happy Saturday afternoon taking their clothes off and putting them back on again, ooh, about 50 times. Then we put Tangled on the DVD player and acted out half the film — it was EPIC, let me tell you. Later that evening I had the rare honour of reading him his bedtime story (no mummy or daddy allowed in the room!) I lay next to him on his big boy bed (he has a big boy bed now!) and read Room on the Broom while he finished his milk and drifted off. Then I tucked him in and tiptoed out the room, my swelling heart trying to escape out of my chest.
Sunday morning we went to see the most delightful children’s theatre, and played with the water hose in the garden all afternoon. We made a miniature garden (his mummy’s brilliant idea) and ate our dinner on the trampoline (Noah: jumpoline). Punzel and Nugene joined him in the bath at bathtime (of course) and there were a few dramatic tears at bedtime, but cuddles with mummy sorted that out…
On Monday morning we watched his current favourite music video (Feist’s 1234) then headed out in the car to Bristol Zoo (Noah: zoon). We saw monkeys and lion cubs and butterflies and lots of insects. He found the dinosaurs a bit scary at first, but quickly overcame this when we explained they were ‘pretend’, though they were animatronic models and pretty convincing!
Later we were in John Lewis stocking up on a few essentials when he looked up at me and said ‘Susie, I need a wee’ (our little man has been potty-trained for a while now and only wears nappies at night) so we hotfooted it to the nearest mother-and-baby room, luckily only a few feet away. It had a normal-sized toilet and despite Noah wanting to do a ‘standing-up wee’ I said it would be better to sit down, so I lifted him up onto the seat and he put his little arms around my neck for balance. ‘I’m going to do a poo,’ he declared breathlessly, so I said okay, and then he whisphered ‘I love you’ into my ear. It was the sweetest, most comical, spontaneously brilliant moment ever, me crouched in front of the toilet, holding on to him while he pooed and declared his love. Did i mention comical?
On the way home we stopped off at a supermarket to pick up dinner. While his mummy shopped we waited in the car singly along to his three favourite songs* VERY loudly (he knew all the words… like, all of them) and I made him scream with laughter at the silly shenanigans of a parrot hand puppet. Later, at bedtime, I curled up on the end of his bed and listened as his mummy read him a story our grandmother used to read to us as little girls. As the past met the future there were definitely angels dancing in the room that night.
He’s starting to get a handle on the concept of time, though it’s still hard to explain that even though I have to leave I’ll see him again soon. He knows what ‘missing someone’ means and says it a lot. I wish I lived closer and visit as often as I can, but it’s still hard. But he knows I love him as big as the sky, and I know he loves me, and when we’re together we have the best time. He’s my tiny little 3-year-old best friend, he really is.
* Bounce feat. Kelis by Calvin Harris
We are never ever getting back together by Taylor Swift
When will my life begin? by Mandy Moore