Posted by: pendrops | February 20, 2007

…or not to retreat


retreat – (verb): to move back or withdraw, to remove oneself from a difficult or uncomfortable situation

Hundreds of bright-eyed, chattering, giggling women congregated in small- to medium-sized configurations in the lobby of the state park inn. Pink-and-blue Vera Bradley luggage bounced on their shoulders as they giddily discussed the latest Oprah episode, whose children were sick, and which Weight Watchers plan was working.

Enter the introvert.

Fifteen minutes into my first women’s retreat ever, I needed a retreat from the retreat. The out-of-placeness I felt throughout the first day was painfully humiliating. Everyone seemed to know each other and know their place in the mass chaos. As a card-carrying member of the fringe club, I typically notice others like myself, in need of someone to talk to, uncomfortable, awkward, alone. I didn’t see a one like that this weekend. I was it.

As a result, the retreat was one of the more painful events of my life. But a little pain is good. It brings things to the surface, refines, sharpens, transforms, moves us to places we wouldn’t have gone on our own. It teaches.

And in the time I spent beyond the furthest reaches of my comfort zone, I learned two things: it’s not about me and women are special creatures. I also learned that women can be way grosser than men (bathroom etiquette, ladies…the power of a courtesy flush). But I’ll post about that later.

Ultimately, I learned about love. Love for all sorts of women, especially those not like me: the brazen broads, the tom-boys, the prickly ones, the nervous talkers, the know-it-alls, the pity-partiers, the conversation-dominators, even the anti-courtesy-flushers. And I’m learning how to love them because, for the first time, I see them for who they really are: my sisters.

Sisters who are the way they are for a complexity of reasons I can never begin to understand in just one weekend. Sisters who come in all shapes and sizes, in the middle of messes and maladies, hefting the broken pieces of themselves, wearing insecurities and defenses and deep wounds that will not be fully healed this side of heaven. And it’s their shit getting all over me that causes this inner wrestling, this discomfort. Not just my introverted-ness.

I’d rather not collide with their judgments, their harshness, their arrogance, their pride, their toxicity. But I think maybe that’s what I’m called to do. Collide. Life is made up of all sorts of head-on wrecks, oftentimes unintended, because we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got, hoping somehow to connect, to give and receive something that feels like the love of a sister.

Thirty-six hours later, I was back in my introvert’s dream world: cuddled up with Jason, engrossed in a movie, cozy in my favorite jammies. And as good as it felt to be home, I’d like to think the warmth wasn’t just from the fuzzy blanket draped around my shoulders, but from experiencing love’s richness even in dry and foreign territory.



  1. I can’t wait to read your blog on the courtesy flush! 😉 Love you, sister!

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