The first 24 hours at the beach always seems to have the same pattern for me. As is true with any form of retreat, the beginning inevitably involves a lot of letting go before I can truly, fully, “be here.”
For me, that normally means that in order to be fully present to this place, to this moment, I must stop counting. Counting time, calories (or points), hours of sleep, amount of writing I want to accomplish, days left at the beach, and especially, I must stop counting hours.
Last night, for example, I went to sleep before Michael (something that NEVER happens at home), and I got up after Michael (only unusual because of the previous fact!)—And I gave myself permission to not feel guilty at all. My body needed extra sleep, and I gave it just that.
When my beach retreat is shared with Michael, it takes a little while for us to find a rhythm together. It requires a blend of extra awareness about the Other and his needs, and extra space to find a common pace that allows us to be together. We eat when we are hungry. We sleep when we’re tired. We give each other time to write. Sometimes we walk together, sometimes alone.
As is true of any experience, it all becomes a metaphor for my life—for our life together.
Clearly, with many more pulls and tugs back home that take each of us in a myriad of professional and personal directions, we have to work harder at finding the rhythm.
But the truths remain the same:
#1, I can’t give what I don’t have. Before I can be truly present to Michael (or to anything or anyone in my life, for that matter) I have to be present to my needs and myself. I have to give myself permission to take the time, space and attention that I need—even when it seems “too much”!
And #2, if I am to walk together the pilgrimage of daily life with my husband of (almost) 32 years in a life-giving way, my attention to him must be deliberate, a blend of attentiveness and time. There is no substitute for time.
This morning's walk included this line as a mantra, from Sunday's liturgy at St. Thomas More in Austin. Do you know this song by Marty Haugen?
"For you oh Lord, my soul in stillness waits. Truly, my hope is in you."