A few weeks ago, as I mentioned here, I went on a women’s retreat that was offered by my church. I was a little bit nervous, not only because I’d never done anything like that before and I was leaving a large number of boxes and other assorted post-carpet mess behind, but because I was pretty sure I was only barely acquainted with anyone else who would be going. (My social circle there is fairly small at the moment, which is part of why I wanted to attend.) And I’d have a roommate, which is always a bit of a crapshoot.
As it turned out, the weekend was wonderful. I at least know names and faces now for the 30 or so other women who were there. I heard some wonderful stories, got to run two SoulCollage® workshops, made my very own mandala, and walked a labyrinth—something I’ve wanted to do for a while—for the very first time.
All these things were great, but possibly the best moment of the whole weekend for me was the Charades game our first night. We’d just introduced ourselves and the group broke up a bit. I didn’t realize that by staying put, I was unintentionally assigning myself to a team. I, fool that I was, thought I could be a spectator and watch other people make fools of themselves, but ’twas not to be.
I was always the quiet, introverted kid who read books on car trips (or anywhere else) and mostly kept to herself. College did a lot to bring me out of my shell, but didn’t change my fundamental nature, which is still to cocoon myself away from other people. As a result, the closest I usually get to charades is the fantastic film with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. As the realization sunk in that I was going to have to get up and try to play this game, I was more than a little mortified. The realization that this was a perfect opportunity to practice not only being imperfect, but being okay with that imperfection, helped but did not exactly fill me with glee. I decided I’d get up and do this once, and then I’d have done my bit and would shrink back into the sofa cushions when I was done. (I could guess from there—and it turns out I’m pretty good at guessing!)
So I hauled myself up from my comfy chair and reached into the big jar of titles. I opened it to find Meet Me In St. Louis. I almost had a heart attack at the thought of having to act this out somehow. (As one of the other women observed, people seemed to get religion, or at least feel inspired to pray, immediately after reaching into that jar!) But then something unexpected happened—I managed to figure out how to get this across to my teammates more easily than I thought I would (turns out the first two words are all you really need!).
The thing that surprised me when I sat down was that, well, I sat down. I was ready to get up and do it again. I did actually play a few more times, but it took some restraint to let other people have a turn. I was shocked, but the simple fact was that making an idiot of myself (which I may or may not have actually done, but it certainly felt like I did), turned out, to my shock and disbelief, to be fun.
Was it the environment? Not feeling like I had to impress people since I didn’t really know most of them and was away from home? Was it the people, and that no one really had any expectations because we were all just hanging out for the weekend? Was it the fact that I did something so far outside my comfort zone, that I’d never really let myself try before? Was it just that it was all so ridiculous right on the face of it that you couldn’t help but laugh at yourself at least as much as everyone else? Was it all these things? Something else?
I’m really not sure, and I’m also not sure how much it matters. I do credit the retreat with giving me the chance just to BE for a while, which is far too rare in my life (and probably in yours). I am now a firm believer in the positive power of retreat, of trying new things in a pressure-free environment, and allowing the possibility that our grandmothers were right—if you try something new, you might find out that you like it.