I’m writing this from a cafe-come-brunchery (new word)-come-bar in the evenings-come-hub for ladies of leisure who cannot reverse their husbands’ Range Rover for shit, in Didsbury. I arrived home last night after being away at a yoga retreat where my biggest worry all weekend was finding my “center”. I’m wearing Lulu Lemon leggings and supping (yes, supping), on a soy cappuccino, horrifically aware of how much of a wanker I look whilst simultaneously blending in effortlessly.
Fortunately, as I close in on my 30th year on this planet, I’m beginning to care less and less on the thoughts of others and embracing what feels good for me; which evidently is wearing overpriced active wear and eating ethically sourced eggs in a wide variety of ways (I feel the need to reassure you that there is some depth to my psyche in spite of this).
I decided to book a long weekend at The Tree Relaxation Retreat after progressively feeling further and further away from myself. My brain was clouded with worry, I overthought everything, I was unable to focus on specific tasks, I was constantly moving or doing; unable to stay still and present in the moment and constantly thinking about what I should be doing. I couldn’t be who I liked to be for the people I cared about, I felt short-tempered and irrational, sweating the small stuff rather than dabbing it away with a hanky of resolute. In short, I needed to get out of my brains way and chill the fuck out…forcefully.
I engaged the out of office function both literally and figuratively, packed a bag and set off for the moors. 2 hours and 45 minutes of Ludovico Einaudi later, I arrived in the middle of nowhere, where the retreat sat glowing (not a metaphor – I lost count of how many salt lamps were positioned around the house) like a beacon of safety.
72 hours of no signal, no wifi, no screens. Where my main source of entertainment was watching the ducks on their morning walk and shouting “SHE DIDN’T GIVE CONSENT!” Out of the window when the boy ducks tried to gang bang the reluctant girl duck at the top of the hill, (alongside this family fun, I also spent my downtime gobbling up this book – highly recommend, it’s truly hilarious). 3 home cooked meals a day, the equivalent of 8 hours worth of yoga, mindfulness and meditation training. Eating round a table with 18 total strangers, some which wearing t-shirts which screamed; “STILL HATE THATCHER”, most of whom were 30 years my senior.
Days which focussed on being present , feeling the sensation of breath leaving your body, filling up your body, leaving your body, filling up your body; oh wait, did I fall asleep? Nope you’re awake, hey the sound of the gong is quite nice. What if I never find anyone I’d be happy to bound myself to for life and have a child with? Wait, Frank, you’re definitely thinking, what did the teacher say? Accept the thought and move along, So Hum, So Hum, the doctor said my eggs look great when I had an ultrasound the other day, whats the point in having all these free range, elite Goose eggs if I have no basket to put them in? Frank, you’re thinking too much, breathe, breathe, breatheeeeeeeee.
The sound of the gong brought me back to reality as our teacher told us that that was the end of our hour meditation practice. CHRIST, an hour already!? And all I had selfishly thought about was which handsome vessel I’d like to crack some eggs into? Surely I should have been thinking about how I can help slow down the effects of climate change, maybe how I could contribute to the achievement of World Peace? But no, my natural flow of thoughts still linger on the societal pressures of womanhood. It’ll take more than a weekend of “Om”’s to kick that habit, lemme tell you.
By the 72nd hour, I was feeling well and truly unscrambled. My toes had uncurled, my breaths were deeper, my thoughts clearer and intentions kinder. Worries, not obsolete; but definitely more a book of short stories than a battered copy of War and Peace. I left the retreat feeling as though I had just left the embrace of a kind and cuddly auntie and went East for a quick look at the sea before heading home.
I live by a rule where if I’m in a chippy, and plaice is offered – I order it by default. The theory being that plaice is never ready done – battered cod is always poised to be wrapped at any given moment, stacked in the metal bunker like sandbags (delicious, delicious sandbags). Plaice however is the rogue choice; they never know who might order it next; and so when someone RSVP’s to the plaice party, the fillet is flung fresh into its creamy bath, lowered slowly into the spitting fryer and fished out, the remnants of the crackling oil still audible as it’s plated and delivered to its new owner.
In addition to the above, plaice only ever comes in one size, which means you completely skip the worry of choosing wrongly between medium of large haddock or cod. Will you be full enough with a medium? Will you be TOO full after a large!? So many uncertain eventualities – better to take the choice out of the equation completely if you’re a recovering over-thinker, in my opinion.
“Do you want white bread, brown bread or mixed?”
“Oh! No one’s ever offered me mixed before! Mixed please!”
A simple offer which made me feel like some kind of King.
I drove home with a bellyful of contentment amidst a flicker of anxiety to switching my phone back on. A ridiculous fear, I agree with you – but these devices, created to convenience our lives become the biggest inconvenience at our own peril of being without them. Constantly feeling like you need to be in touch with everyone always, and what it might mean if you’re not. Being left “on read” simultaneously meaning nothing but also meaning everything; when did we become so co-dependent on mediocre communication?
I don’t have an answer sadly, nor do I have advice on how to overcome it. Only that, if like me – you’re susceptible to sensory overload; getting out of your brains way and turning on aeroplane mode once in a while might be the sweet relief your head is calling out for. Don’t look in the fridge when you’re not hungry, and don’t try and fill the empty space with an ugly (and not ugly in the ironic way), chair…or maybe an analogy that works slightly better than that.
Breathe, breathe, breatheeeeeee