This weekend I got to experience what it really means to “surround yourself with people who make you want to be a better person”. That particular adage was one of those things that I thought I knew what it meant but I didn’t actually grasp its vast profoundness of it until now, you know?
I was fortunate enough to have the chance to spend a long weekend in Ojai, California on a yoga and life design retreat put on by Rock Your Bliss with 20+ other women. Some of these ladies I had met before, and some of them I knew through social media (it’s not all bad, see?!). Most of these badass babes were new to me, but everyone left as lifelong friend, whether they currently know it or not. Ha!
Let’s address the elefante in the room: that’s a lot of raw, unbridled feminine energy flying around one little hippie town in California, I know. Can’t you just picture it? But seriously you guys, it was fucking awesome.
And this is coming from a girl (moi, in case you haven’t been following along) who was quite frankly terrified of other women for most of my life. For way longer than I care to disclose I let insecurities, limiting self-beliefs, fear and envy kept me from opening up to women; even those women who I admired or who I was inspired by. If you would have told 18-year-old me that I would be spending the weekend of January 18-21, 2018 with a large group of women in a relatively confined space, I would have told you that you were completely off your damn rocker.
Due to the nature of retreating, the theme for our weekend was all about self-care. It was about meeting ourselves in the moment, being present, open and receptive to what we wanted and needed at any given moment, and to hold space for ourselves to make decisions with ourselves as the priority, all while flipping guilt, shame, and limiting beliefs the bird. It really is as liberating, if not more so, than it sounds.
I’m not one to put myself first, second, or even seventh. In all honesty, I’m a huge b-i-t-c-h to myself. I’m horrible at taking care of my own personal wants and needs. I mean come on, I can’t even give myself the fucking consolation prize here? That ain’t right. Even I know that, but it has become habit and as they say, old habits die hard.
Here’s the deal: I’m working essentially four jobs which means there is always something to be done. And when there’s business to be attended to that allows for me to buy sneakers, travel, pay for my Netflix account and oh, buy groceries and pay rent, well, self-care just doesn’t seem high on the totem pole of priorities. I know you feel me.
With that said, though, I decided to really give self-care a go and doing some serious permission slip writing, and as you can imagine, I had the freaking time of my life. I got a massage. I walked around barefoot. I was grateful. I listened to my body, which looked a whole lot like hiking and yoga-ing when I wanted to and choosing to opt out when I didn’t want to. (This sounds a very simple idea but is a BFD for me; I am truly the queen of “should”-ing myself.) I read a book. I journaled. I made a vision board. I rested when I was tired. I ate veggies! I spent way, way less time on my phone than usual. I actively listened. I was generous with my time and attention. I took photographs. I let my freak flag fly high and was my whole, quirky, playful self. I ate dessert without letting my inner critic make me feel bad about it. I chose not to work because, really, I deserved my vacation, god damnit!
Moment after moment after moment I chose to do things that replenish me, that bring me joy and that make me feel whole again. It felt a bit strange at first, it almost felt wrong, but then I just started to feel like I was home.
All of this was made possible because of the space that Jacki, Mary Beth, and the rest of the women on the trip were holding for me. The space we held for each other. No topic was off limits—I mean seriously, nothing. We talked bushes, balls, braces and anything and everything in between. (And when you’re talking all those aforementioned Bs, you can help but seriously bond with whomever you’re chatting with. Try it sometime, you’ll see.) There was no judgement. We were all open and honest. We were all vulnerable. We listened. We laughed. We cried. Okay, well I didn’t cry but I almost did, which is basically crying for my emotionally constipated self. We went through all of the emotions and yes, I mean all of them.
And now that I’m on the plane, letting the glory of the weekend in Ojai marinate, I’m inspired. When I look at all the things I did or didn’t do, and who I gave myself permission to be this past weekend, I was my best self. And really, it was effortless. I didn’t feel like a poser or an imposter at any point. I didn’t should myself. There was no struggle. I was at peace with my mind and with my body. I allowed myself to simply be, rather than do, and that was so fucking huge for me. Like, monumental, you guys.
This weekend, I learned what my best self looks like; before this I really couldn’t have told you. And to be clear, “best self” is not one size fits all. What my best self looks like is different than anyone else’s and that’s why it’s special as hell. On that same note, I had the oh-so-necessary lightbulb moment when I realized that, gasp, when I take care of myself, well shit, that’s when I I operate as my best self. Who’d have thought, right?!
I don’t have any advice to give you and, besides, who would I be to tell you what to do? But I would like to say this: I hope that you too find your humans and, in doing so, your best self. That you find people who hold space for you to be your whole self and to love you unconditionally. People who listen to you, call you out on your shit when you’re acting crazy, and who will ask you “how you really feel about that”. People who will tell it to you like it fucking is. People who remind you to let your freak flag go wild in the wild and who make you laugh until you might wet yourself. People who feel like coming home. People who are in your corner and who are there to cheer you on every step of the way. People who believe in you and can see your potential even when you can’t. People who inspire you to be the very best version of yourself, whatever that looks like.
PSA: for all of my special humans who were not on this retreat but are all of the aforementioned to me, and I know you know who you are, this was a love letter for you too. I didn’t forget about you. Love you bunches.