After my father-in-law died, after the funeral, after coming back to New York, everyone kept asking, How are you? And I couldn't think of a proper (accurate) answer. Fine-ish was the best I could do. We were partly glad to get back to work because it gave our minds something else to groove on for a few hours a day. There have been days we've been lonely and relieved to have company, and days when the thought of returning an email or calling to make plans felt exhausting.
We were willing to wade back into life a bit, and life was more than willing to not slow down. At last week's story slam in Manhattan, I thought if I could just step back into the stream, it would carry me along. But I felt like I was standing outside somehow, looking in.
How are you? I'm starting now to see. I'm doing just well enough to look fine/normal/fully-functioning on the outside. But inside I feel flat, and brittle. I'm tender and raw when I'm with people here. If my phone friends were here to see me in person, maybe they could see the shock that still lives in my eyes. Maybe they could hear the way my mind gets stuck on this loop:
I've never heard anyone cry like that before.
But I'm here, and I can diagnose myself (if slowly). Yesterday I finally realized I need to handle myself more gently. The final tell was my inability to write four sentences.
I've had a new retreat in the works for April for some time, and instead of watching Netflix on demand in bed when we got home, I got to work finalizing the details. Because we're moving closer to April every day, regardless of how I feel.
And this retreat is a particular dream come true for me. I'm bringing in Phyllis, who has been one of my mentors and close friends for the last ten years, to facillitate it with me. I wouldn't be who I am today without her love and guidance, and I can't wait for you to meet her.
So we have the dates, the place, the schedule, and all I have to do is update the retreat page with a few new details, and four little sentences to invite you, to give you a sense of what the weekend will be about.
And I got nuthin', as Phyllis said.
Well, that's not exactly true--I have a couple pages of ideas that haven't passed muster with my first readers. And I've been beating myself up for this for days--because let's be honest--in my line of work, not being able to eek out four sentences is a problem.
"Your heart isn't in it," one friend said. No shit, I thought. This morning, my heart is still sitting by a grave that my mother-in-law has to pass every time she comes and goes from her house. My heart is till awake in the Oklahoma night listening to tears that rob us of our rest.
But this is no reason to stop hoping for healing, or to stop building transformative spaces and inviting people into them. No reason to stop being together, just because life can be sad or hard.
So the retreat is on. My word faucet is spitting things out in bursts and stops, and when I finally pull those four pesky sentences together, I'll post all the details. If all goes well, registration will open next week.
For today, I want you to have the dates so you can start making your arrangements. Here's all you really need to know:
Integrate: A Voice and Story Retreat in NYC
April 10-13, 2010
I would love for you to come.