This weekend, I retreated. To a quaint little cabin in Maine—to write, to plan, to focus, all of which I did, and quite effectively, if not exactly in that order. I was there with two other creative friends, but, all told, we spent only a couple of hours together. I was alone for hours and hours, and what I discovered was this: I still am very am much who I am, and who I always have been. It actually was sort of a surprising discovery, given that I never consider that I might have "lost myself" along the way. I have plenty of what some call "me" time, really: I have a full-time career in content, which I love. I teach yoga, which I also love. I spend a good amount of time with friends, at least for a working mom of two.
But this weekend truly was all about me, going my own way. Meandering—physically, intellectually, emotionally. I read and wrote. I drove into town for takeout at a Thai restaurant that looked amazing and, while I waited the 45 minutes it would take for them to prepare my garlicky greens and tofu, hoofed it to a Hannaford a mile away. Along a very busy two lane-highway. Passers-by looked at me skeptically: did they think I was a murderer, or about to be murdered? My goal was to get toothpaste (which, as it turned out, I hadn't actually forgotten) and some exercise. Seems ridiculous now as I write it. After procuring the goods, I picked up my dinner and contemplated ditching my plans to write for some sort of performance at the opera house next to the restaurant, mostly because the space and the show reminded me of the market house in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where I'd gone to college. But the play was more than an hour away and the aromatic box of food I'd just picked up seemed worthy of eating back at my cabin versus on the sidewalk.
During the rest of the weekend, I ate lots of hummus on a rotation of items: snap peas, carrots, rice cakes; I snacked on LARA bars and almonds and dark chocolate. Every few hours, I'd walk to the common area to refill my coffee mug or make a cup of ginger tea but often opted to stay in the room and just drink seltzer, straight from the big bottle, so as not to interrupt my flow. I did yoga in my pajamas. I fell asleep with piles of books in my bed. I did not wash my hair. I chewed lots of gum.
I spent time with Jessi Klein, Seth Godin and Debbie Millman. Their words made me feel happy and whole, excited and inspired. I organized files and made to-do lists. Imported old blogs and read entries about my kids as babies, toddlers, preschoolers, realizing that they too still are very much who they are and pretty much who they always have been. Jotted down ideas for a few pieces of writing and started in on one. Plotted out a plan for a conceptual art project to which I'm pretty sure I can actually commit. Realized that, indeed, given the space to compose a complete thought before someone else interrupts, my brain is very, very good at systems thinking. Truth.
Also truth: my brain is not very good at following directions—even when guided by multiple GPS systems, as my drive home reminded me. But after a few U-turns, I figured it out, choosing the roads less efficiently traveled—the ones leading me to apple-pickers filling baskets right along side the street and tall, Seussical grasses; a sweaty man mowing his lawn wearing bright orange ear muffs and golden-yellow gloves and a young mom playing frisbee on a hill with her two young boys; deep-blue ponds with sparkly surfaces and big tall logs stacked high in a lot. All these little moments and majestic landmarks filled my heart. I kept going.
Eventually, my path led right to Dog Mountain, Home of Stephan Huneck Gallery in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. I'd been wanting to visit since Dempsey passed away in April of 2015, and there, right on the side of Route 2, was the entrance. Right there. I steered up the dusty hill, found my way to Dog Mountain's now-famous chapel and wrote a short remembrance on the back of a scrap of paper with pink pen. Then I sat in a carved-dog chair and sobbed. For the beauty and the pain. For Diggity, who'd been the most loyal and loving friend to me for nearly a dozen years—and for Stephen, who'd built this beautiful space to honor and hold so much love—and then who, years later, took his own life.
I got back in the car and continued home. I stopped for a coffee. I ate a quinoa-almond-butter blondie that I'd gotten at a bookstore hours earlier—without guilt. Feeling lucky and happy and very me. And in that moment, I promised I'd work really hard to keep feeling this way tomorrow.