Just planning to go to the writer’s retreat was hard enough for me. My health was still so up and down I had no idea how I would be feeling in April! But, I signed up anyway. I was so nervous to go. My stomach had butterflies and I didn’t know what to expect when I got there. When I was driving to the cabin in beautiful Heber, UT, I got lost and almost had a panic attack. Finally, I found the cabin and I was surprised how nervous I still was.
Here I was at a cabin with a bunch of strangers. Talk about uncomfortable. I even had to share my room with someone I had never met. Luckily, I showed up before my roommate and got to choose the bed I wanted and claim my space. When I met my roommate, we had an instant connection, and I was relieved to feel comfortable with someone new. The nerves went down a little bit, but not enough.
The instruction given at this retreat was surprising in so many ways. I thought we would only be learning every little detail on how to write a good story. But I had no idea I would also have an emotional transformation. The first night I was still nervous. Taking notes from the speakers and trying to let all of this information sink in. My walls were up and I was uncomfortable sharing things I had written with the group. My self-esteem was terrible, I felt like everything I said would not be liked by anyone, so it was really hard for me to share. But I was proud of myself for sharing anyway.
The second day of the retreat, I started to feel a little better. We did some group activities that really helped me start to trust these strangers around me. It was an information overload, packed day. It was wonderful, and at the end a great author came to talk to us about her successes. She had written like fifty books. I was so impressed and overwhelmed at the same time. She talked about how she did traditional publishing sometimes and self publishing on other books. After listening to her, I felt like I might never get my book published!! It seemed way too hard. But she had published so many books, so I knew there was a small chance that I could get published too. I loved the author she was really incredible!!
The last day was the longest day ever. Each day we were up so early, and I have NOT been an early bird for a long time, so every day I really struggled to get out of bed. The days were long and my body was struggling. I wanted to run down to my room and sleep but I didn’t want to miss anything. An angel, one of the ladies at the retreat, had some healing techniques that she tried on me and, miraculously, my headache went away and I didn’t feel so tired. It was incredible to feel the dark energy leave my body. It was something I had never experienced before. I was so happy to be more functional so I could participate in the activities.
We were challenged to post a video on facebook so we could start building our platform and our presence for our book. Immediately I decided there was NO WAY I would be doing that. I never posted stuff on facebook, even in my private life. Feeling very self conscious, I didn’t want people to see that I had packed on some weight and that I hadn’t really brushed my hair that day. It was in a very messy, camping kind of ponytail. But then I realized I had to quit hiding behind this illness. I had to quit waiting to do things until I was skinnier, or when I was feeling great, or when my makeup and hair were beautiful. I had an awakening moment where I knew I had to jump out of my comfort zone and just record the video. It was awkward and I don’t even know what I said, until I watched it back. What was I thinking would happen? That my dear friends would all call me stupid? I was pleasantly surprised when I started getting tons of likes on my video and the nicest comments that cheered me on. Those are my friends. They support me. I don’t have to worry about my friends and family thinking I’m dumb. It was a nice reminder of the great support system I have!
The hardest thing I had to do while at this amazing retreat, was to tell my story about my darkest night. And after I did that, I had to share it with all of these incredible people here with me. We all had to share. Of course at first, I told myself there was NO WAY I was going to do that. My darkest night is so dark and so personal. I grew up being known for my smile and dynamic personality. What would people think if they knew what I had been through? How would they react to hearing how weak I was? As I listened to all of the authors present their darkest night, I cried so much. I couldn’t believe what these inspirational people had been through. It was heartbreaking, terribly sad and wonderful all at the same time. The emotion in the room was so intense and loving. Quite an amazing experience. I had to read my piece after a lot of these people had shared theirs and I could feel my insecurities coming up. I took a deep breath and read my darkest night out loud. Of course I cried through it all but I was surprised that I was able to read it so people could understand. I had to stop and take a lot of deep sobs and breaths, then I would continue on.
That was one of the most powerful moments of my life. It shocked me how healing it was, not only to hear everyone’s stories, but to be able to own my own story. At times I have hid behind my chronic illnesses and depression. I have been ashamed of my circumstances (like I had any control over what was going on with my body). I have felt guilty for all the things I haven’t been able to do. But then I realized that all of these hard things I have been through, have made me who I am today. I felt fierce again. I felt strong for sharing my voice. Now I was ready to share all of my story, the amazing, the terrible and all the awful ugliness. I also realized that if I had been feeling this way, there were most likely some other people that were hurting like me. It was time to share my story.
Free. I feel free.
There is a power in acceptance, and I finally felt like I could accept my life and realize I had a purpose. I might be broken, but I needed to find the beauty that I could share, along with all of my shattered pieces. I have so much to be grateful for. There is so much to smile about. I need to wrap up my ideas of perfection and throw them away and realize that I need to share my authentic, vulnerable me.
Since I was doing so many things out of my comfort zone, I kept feeling like I should share one of my songs called “From the Ashes.” I was so nervous and kept telling my thoughts to go away. Trying to convince myself that nobody would want to hear my song. I wasn’t good enough. They might all laugh at me.
Then something great happened. I was able to quiet those thoughts in my head, and replace them with it’s ok, go share your song with these people.
So, I nervously asked if I could share a song with everyone. My voice was shaky and far from perfect when I sang but I was so, so proud of myself. Look how far I had come. Was I finally coming full circle, but even better? I used to sing and perform all the time and couldn’t believe how timid I was to share this night. I was so thankful I was able to share it. These strangers, that were now my friends, gave me hugs and showered me such words of encouragement. That felt amazing.
I hope I can continue to keep going out of my comfort zone and that I can write the story I was meant to write. I hope so bad that I can lift people and help them along their own personal journey.
Although our pain is so different, and we might have very different circumstances for our pain, it has hurt us. I hope that we can all quit comparing our trials to each other. Instead, let’s look deeper and acknowledge that we are all some kind of broken. And hopefully, we can see others beautiful broken pieces and love them even more.
I am thankful for how I have grown and for the people that have helped me along the way. I can't wait for you to read my book, all the good, bad and the ugly moments of it.