My birthday has rolled around again, almost, and I’m treating myself to a weekend retreat, a retreat that includes wine and chocolate (thanks, Kathy!). The retreat center is near my mother’s home, and I’ll be able to visit. My family is planning dinner for Sunday evening, when I get home, to celebrate my birthday.
It sounds perfect, and yet it has been hard to be faithful to this retreat. The friend I am traveling with called the other day and said, “You’re off the hook. You do not have to go if you don’t want to.” I had been showing a surprising lack of enthusiasm, and probably deserved to be dumped. But The Artist’s Way saved the day. Isn’t this the extended artist’s date I’ve been denying myself? Aren’t I supposed to do this? I insisted that I am, really — somewhere, buried inside — excited, and that I want to go. “Okay,” my dear, brilliant friend said, “but no work. You are going to relax.” This comment resulted in 24 hours of arguing with myself about how I have to work every day. My better angels won — I’m taking my journal and novel and book of (someone else’s) poetry. No manuscript.
Next kerfuffle: I learned yesterday that my mother has another UTI. Texting with my sister, I felt a flurry of guilt. Maybe I should cancel my plans to attend the retreat and just visit my mother instead. Wouldn’t that be relaxing enough? And doesn’t my mother need me?
I recalled, then, that my students used to make similar excuses (a gift, of sorts, to remember): “My brother is having surgery,” a young woman once told me, “so i’m going to miss a few days of classes.” Wait, I wanted to ask her, are you doing the surgery? (And what are you doing taking my composition class, if you’re already a qualified surgeon, for crying out loud?!)
This morning, another test: one of my daughters turns up sick. I knew last night that she had a sore throat, but now her tonsils are all gnarly and white and — as she has a concert on Monday — I decided she had to go to the doctor. (No strep; nothing contagious, in fact. Rest and fluids. Concert may still work out.) She wanted a driver to get to the doctor, and I was happy (happy enough) to give up my morning plans (it’s always nice to be needed, or so I tell myself). But this kid is 21 years old! She doesn’t need me to cancel my retreat! She has a father! She will be fine! (And I’m not that kind of doctor, as my students might be tempted to tell me.)
So this is what I’m thinking now. All of my stuff — gifts. So glad I have these three girls. So glad I have a husband and mother and writing career, too. So glad we have health insurance. So glad my mom has a great ARPN who visits her at her home and runs tests and catches things like UTI’s. So glad I get to take a teeny tiny break from my writing career.
So glad I get to go on this two-night retreat.
All gifts. Nothing to be stressed about.