Firebreak — Lionesses of Africa

by Kathy Mann

This weekend I went on a women’s retreat. On the first night I admitted to the ladies that I was really there to escape my children. Of course, I also went to renew myself and spend some time alone. It is the first time I have attended a retreat and I’m glad to say that there were no intolerable team exercises or war cries. The activities included art, dancing and reflection (including guided meditation).

I enjoyed the art tremendously and experienced true flow while constructing my pieces. The dancing was more difficult for me in that I am inhibited and restrained. The concept of free flow dancing makes me quite uncomfortable and my health concerns have led me to not trust that my body will comply. I participated nonetheless and found that the more I let go, the more I enjoyed myself. While I remained authentic, I was able to let my hair down and enjoy it.

Something that I did not anticipate was that I’d really enjoy the people. Usually in a group there is always one irritating person who talks too much and asks too many questions. But the group of people were genuine, supportive and nurturing. Being an introvert I do struggle with new people and these days I am less willing to put on the keep up a high-energy facade. The people seemed to accept me regardless, and I so enjoyed aspects of everyone on the retreat.

Something that I’ve often observed is how many people speak so badly about themselves, even to people they have just met. They are willing to expose so many flaws and yet they get coy when getting complimented. We often struggle to accept positive feedback with grace, and will argue and disagree. It is far more gracious to accept compliments considering the word emanates from ‘gift’. I have read that we should ask ourselves whether we would keep a friend to talk to us in the same way we talk to ourselves. That helps to remind us to be kind to ourselves, and to notice and rectify negative self-talk.

There were wonderful opportunities for solitude and reflection which I so enjoyed. Aligned with my current path of restoring myself and finding some peace, the quiet was something I really needed. I was able to let go of a major fear that has been holding me back. I feel a greater clarity of purpose going forward in my life and I’ve pumped up my happiness level, even if just for a bit.

Something that occurred to me on the weekend is that I have always resisted leadership and sticking my head above the crowd. I was flabbergasted to be selected as a prefect at school as the thought had never occurred to me that I was seen as a leader by others. The first time I rose up in the corporate ladder, it was my team members who first suggested that I should put my name forward when our manager moved on to greener pastures. It occurred to me that everyone else can see me as a leader and someone who can really shine. It’s time I transform my thinking and take my place as an eagle instead of a timid chicken.

While driving back, I encountered a large fire on both sides of the highway. In parts of our country the climate can be very dry, leading to bush fires. Often farmers intentionally burn strips called firebreaks to ensure that fires don’t spread too far and become catastrophic. With my health having been so poor in the past few years, it occurred to me that this retreat was like a firebreak, needed so that life does not engulf me.

I did think about my family a lot and I missed them. Getting home I appreciated my sweet girls, my husband, my own bed and shower. However, the feeling of not being relied upon for every conceivable eventuality was an enormous relief. I will most definitely make an annual event for myself to get away and to care for myself, even if it’s just to feel that relief again.

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