Retreating Before Moving Forward

“Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves.”  Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The New Year has come and gone. I set my resolutions but felt the need for something more. I remembered a dream where I was following the elephants in a parade and shoveling up their droppings, which I dumped into a cart pulled by a horse. The parade had passed me by, and I just had to deal with the remains. When I had this dream, I realized I wasn’t happy at my job, and I decided to quit.

It is time to reflect on one’s life when one feels frustrated like this. I want to lead my life, not just watch it go by. I decided to take a mini-retreat. 

woman for retreat post

An important part of a retreat is setting an intention. I wanted my retreat to take me out of my ordinary life for a few hours so I could reflect on how I want the upcoming year to be.

I began my retreat by praying for guidance, and I listened to a couple of talks on the New Year, which I found on the Internet. I also read the scripture passages for the day. Interestingly, the first one spoke about the need for Sabbath, and the gospel reading talked about the need for faith and action.  “Rise! Pick up your mat! And walk.”

For the logistics of the retreat, I dressed in comfortable clothes and found a cozy blanket to use throughout the day to help myself feel relaxed. A meditative activity like drawing is always good—I pulled out colored chalk and a big sheet of white paper and drew for a while. I also gave myself changes of scenery by splitting my time between my bedroom and our dining room and by going for a walk.

For me, the most critical part of a retreat is journaling. I began by journaling about 2014.

  • I did pretty well in some ways. I lost the weight I’d wanted to lose for a long time. I took up running and found a group of people to run with. And I’ve been cooking and eating healthier foods.
  • I enjoyed both quality time and quantity time with my family. We along with our young-adult children took two fun vacations, which both included weddings.
  • I enjoyed my work as Church Librarian. I got a poem published and read it at an Open Mic evening. My husband and I enjoyed our volunteer work in Worldwide Marriage Encounter.
  • However, I got very little writing done in 2014.
  • And it was an expensive year for my family. We had to replace our roof and siding, and we bought a new car.
  • I spent too much time in shadow comforts. Jennifer Louden defines shadow comforts as “any choices that masquerade as self-care but in fact drain your energy, numb you out, or fuel the story that you can’t be trusted to be good to yourself.” In my case, that meant checking Facebook and emails several times a day, which led to Internet surfing. At the end of the day, what had I gained? Not much.
  • I’ve been frustrated lately with being “Ms. Responsible.” There is nothing wrong with being responsible except that I was getting stressed fighting fires for other people. And that was partly my own fault. I have taught people that I respond quickly and jump in to fix things. I suspect some of these issues would have resolved themselves if I weren’t so responsive.

The purpose of looking at one’s past like this is not to beat oneself up but to observe. We can’t change anything if we don’t think about what we want to change.

Next, I journaled about what I want to do in 2015. I want to be more focused and get more writing done. I want to help manage our money better by purchasing less (e.g. stop wasting food.) I want to get caught up with my work as church librarian. I want to keep running and walking and stay fit and below my goal weight. I’d like to earn some money. I want to finally write a book—a mystery novel.

Here is my action plan to achieve my goals.

  • I don’t want to give up Facebook and emails entirely. There are concrete things I get from Facebook (for example, I’m in a group that holds me accountable for getting exercise. And other groups give me inspiration to keep fit and keep my weight down. But I will cut back on my use of Facebook starting immediately– allowing myself to dip in just twice a day for 10 minutes each. I will only check emails two times a day.
  • Most of my computer time will be spent writing. I’ve started using an app that will “catch” how much time I spend Internet surfing, writing, etc.
  • Continue to go to weekly Weight Watchers meetings even though I’ve met my goal. I want to maintain my healthy weight and lifestyle.
  • Keep running and walking with my running group whenever possible. That commitment gets me out the door and moving.

Finally, I decided to set an intention for the year. You’ve probably heard about deciding on “one word” about how you want to be or one word to focus on for the year. I tossed about several words and decided my word to focus on in 2015 is “Integrity.” Sue Paige of Pathways Seminars says, “Integrity is a simple concept yet difficult for many of us to do. Integrity is where your actions meet your words. So simple.”

That is how I want to be in 2015. What about you?

What are your shadow comforts? (Examples: excessive use of computer, smart phones, TV, drinking, escape reading, etc.)

What do you want in 2015?


About Susan Ekins

Freelance writer and blogger at Women Making Strides. Interested in personal leadership and empowerment. Wanting inspiration and to inspire. Leader in church ministries. Blog: Facebook page:
This entry was posted in Holidays, journaling, retreat and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Retreating Before Moving Forward

  1. Wow! Great thoughts for starting the new year, Sue.


  2. nanciec13 says:

    wow–we could be sisters! I’ve similar goals. Find myself surfing and wasting time and then am drained when I am “ready” for the creative stuff… Thanks for your honest sharing.


  3. Estela Hammond says:

    Sue, I like your writing and thoughts for the New Year. Some of it sounds like my own schedule.


  4. Gerlinde says:

    My New Year is going to be different since I lost my mom and don’t have to go to Germany on a regular basis to take care of her. I going to miss my life there .


  5. Sue Shanahan says:

    I really liked this post, Susan. My word for the year is self-love. I guess it’s technically words. I think the more I love myself the more everything else in my life will fall into place.


  6. I am so glad you ended up writing this post Susan. Thank you for sharing and being so open with us about your process and ‘findings’. I hope you’ll update us throughout the year with how you go.


  7. Katie Ekins says:

    Hi Mom, I really like this post. I need to cut back on internet surfing too – that is one of my “shadow comforts”. Usually I do it when I’m avoiding doing something I should be doing!

    My word for the year is “building” because I am building up my graphic design skills, portfolio, and body of work! It will be a year of action for me.


  8. rmharrington says:

    Thanks for sharing, Susan.

    We should all take time to recoup — even us males. I don’t seek so deeply as your story suggest, but I did recently make a change in my way of thinking. In one of the recent comic strips, a grandson asked his paw why it took him so long to put on his jacket. The old man’s response, “I don’t have enough time to hurry, son,” trip my buttons and since then I have begun to learn how to enjoy each and every moment in the Lord.

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts. You are indeed a talented author.


  9. I’ve been feeling the need for a personal, spiritual retreat myself. Thanks for the encouragement as I read your experience. 🙂


  10. irishcarter says:

    HI Susan

    I love this post. I have been over here a couple times trying to comment but lost my wordpress password. I finally did a reset sooooo……I’m back! LOL I think it is so healthy to take the time to refresh ourselves/do a little retreat/reconnect and reflect on the things that are important to us. I have 2 weeks blocked in July for a retreat for myself. One week personal and one week business strategizing. I will be unplugged from my websites over those two weeks. Working on my personal and professional goal planning and REST!

    You are so inspiring. I hope all your plans for the year are reached. Keep following your heart my dear. You are amazing. Wishing you the very best.



  11. Pingback: Discipline for Reaching Goals | Women Making Strides

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s