We learn when we give ourselves the opportunity. Sometimes the things we learn aren't necessarily the answers to the questions we ask. Once we open up our minds to the opportunity to learn, that's when things start to fall into place.
I came away to find that space where for a moment, I could simply be... and, here, this is what I've learned.
1. Solitude. Too often I confuse alone with lonely. Today, I am not lonely, I am alone, without shame and without fear. Alone is a dirty word in our culture, especially for women; it becomes almost synonymous with lonely - we are expected to be dependent, subservient, and needy... and I guess, in many ways, I have a pretty decent history of all three. Break the cycle. Reclaim the word. Alone is not lonely. It is freedom for your soul.
2. Environment. I like the sun and the sea, far more than remember. Landlocked for many years, a simple change of scenery reminds me of the extent to which different environments can shape our state of mind. Like a goldfish, we grow to fit the place we live, whether it be mentally, or with our physical belongings - our real and our imagined baggage takes up that space and we are immersed in it. Sometimes, that reality is not healthy or nurturing.
3. Stuff. Ryanair might be money hungry dickbags but they've given me a lesson in minimalist living. Unable to pack much more than underwear and my phone charger (OBVIOUSLY), I consider how my possessions shape my reality. Too much stuff becomes oppressive. Too many choices, too little reflection. Shopping versus thinking. We become numb to our own pain when all we do is avoid it through self medicating with food, alcohol, online shopping. Retail 'therapy'... We keep hoping it might help and yet just keep wanting for more.
4. Pace. I began my trip at my usual speed - in a hurry. Desperate to fit in a thousand things to see and do. On a mission to get as much out of the weekend as possible. Walked for miles on my first morning, only to find I needed a rest where my stitches were pulling (or something, I have literally no idea what hurt, I just needed to chill out for a couple of hours). Reflecting over the course of the day, I realised there were things I wanted to do, and things I didn't want to do. I had become so caught up with the thoughts of all the things I thought I should do, that I'd forgotten to focus on what I really wanted to do. I stopped planning. I actually relaxed. Emptied my head, and chilled the fuck out. This is skill I need to take home with me!
5. People. This is where I've really been struggling lately. How much of ourselves do we sacrifice when we put others, or the needs of others, or the potential needs of others, before ourselves? At what point does it become unhealthy and unsustainable to maintain a certain interpersonal dynamic? There are buzzwords like 'toxic' that we use to describe people who aren't good for us... but I can't help but feel sometimes, we don't do ourselves any favours. We are only ever treated in the ways in which we allow ourselves to be. If we tolerate behaviour from others which makes us uncomfortable, we give the signal that it is ok to continue. The more we do this, the more we erode our own self esteem, giving permission to others to behave in ways that we find unacceptable. What does this mean? It means people who engage in this kind of behaviour (i.e. me, lol) need to learn to say no. That's really just a start point, and it's really not that simple. It means putting on hold the thought that saying no or voicing your own needs will result in a negative outcome. Being treated well, and in a way that affirms and contributes to our own wellbeing, is a positive outcome that far outweighs any childhood need to be liked, or to be impressive or to 'fit in'.
All in all, I'm feeling pretty great about this weekend away. Grateful for everything I do, and see, and feel. There are no real obstacles outside of ourselves. Let's keep always moving forward x