I don't like retreats. I even think the name is funny. Because when I think retreat I think to run away from. Run away from a retreat! But I suppose others are retreating TO a retreat. Plus, it has the word "treat" in it and I don't consider it a treat..... and it's too close to the word "retweet" which is kinda like forwarding a tweet. (twitter message)
Regardless, I'm going on a women's retreat with my church this weekend. It's last minute; I'm taking someone else's spot who is sick. I'm really thankful for the generosity but also a bit sad that this friend is sick. However, it's still exciting. I'm rooming with someone that I really like and would enjoy getting to know more.
I have good reason to not like retreats. It started at an early age.... when I was just 6 I went to camp. That's the equivalent to an adult retreat. It was a bad experience. Long bus rides, people throwing up, one girl showing UP to camp with the worse case of poison oak I've ever seen. (bumps on top of bumps!) It was a baptist camp, which meant a LOT of Bible verses to memorize.... and a sense of chastisement if one couldn't get it right. Bonus points for memorizing the New Testament books of the BIble. Which I did; but was too scared to go to the front and recite them. I'm still mad at myself for not being bold enough to go up there. Plus, I was 6 which meant I was pretty homesick and the camp smelled funny.
I continued to go on retreats and camps. On every winter snow retreat the van broke down. Oddly, I liked that part. I went to camp for a week and out of mere defiance brought a walkman, hidden in the bottom of a specially devised kleenex box, complete with kleenex coming out of the top. I was rather stupid I guess, because I prominently put it on the shelf next to my bunk. No other jr. higher brings kleenex to camp and yet, there is almost always tears...... so, I'm sure you can guess what happened. My kleenex box felt a bit too heavy and I was discovered. My youth pastor confiscated it, supposedly for 6 months but I never saw it again.
I've only been a part of 2 other adults women's retreats, and the first was really awful. I knew no one. I'm not even sure most knew I was a part of the church! It was very isolating and very difficult. I had such high expectations to get to know others but it never really happened. We were assigned secret pals and I love the idea of secret pals. I had my little small gifts all planned out because that is something I love. I had handmade note cards, I spoke in riddles and poetry, giving hints to who I was that she'd never realize. I lavished upon my secret pal and yet I never got up the boldness to introduce myself or meet her. The whole weekend; I never once said hello. Why? Because she was popular. Everyone seemed to love her. So, I was content leaving little notes, verses of encouragement and candy and other goodies for her enjoyment.
I left in tears. It was not a good retreat for me. In their defense, I looked awful, I couldn't speak. I did not realize it then but I had a medical condition that made my thoughts sluggish, cause me to look pale, hair falling out, and all puffy. It was not easy to have a conversation with me. I guess it was more convenient to ignore me.
But my bad story actually has a happy ending: My secret pal finally got to find out who I was. She sent me a little note saying how much she enjoyed my gifts. How thrilling that was for me! I so wanted to know if she liked them. It opened up a dialogue between us and later I read in the church bulletin of the church I attended then that she led a Bible study. I don't think I'd have just been bold enough to go to a class I had no connection with, but for some reason, knowing it was my kind secret pal that wrote a personal note of thanks to me, I thought: I can do this. I can go to her Bible study. So I did. And again, she showed me much kindness. Through her, I met the other "in" women in the church. Most were really nice. I don't know why it's so hard for me to get to know people. Because my friend accepted me, others also began accepting me. It also helped that at this time it was realized I had a thyroid problem and that was addressed and I began speaking a bit better, my hair returned to normal, I wasn't so puffy. Things were better. I braved another retreat and actually had a really good time.
So.... if I had a good time on the last retreat I went on, why am I still so scared for this retreat?
Last year at my church when I heard about the retreat I laughed. I was so against retreats! No interest at all. Of course, this was over the summer and I really (once again) hardly knew anyone. But this year, I know more people. I'm cautiously optimistic and have been assured that it's their best retreat ever. Great speaker, great facilities, location, food, fun, people. How could one go wrong?
I hope so. but I'm bringing a stack of books just in case.
And my laptop.
And my iPhone.
And my iPod.