• Sarah Ratermann Beahan

Create a Life

I have been besieged with a desire to hibernate of late. Perhaps it’s the rather abrupt dip in temperatures up here in east central Minnesota, perhaps it’s just the ebb of this time of year. Daylight is rapidly slipping away; the leaves are changing (Already? How? I ask this every year).

In the last ten years I’ve been fortunate enough to give myself the gift of retreat several times. I’ve escaped to cottages in Western Ireland and one room cabins on Lake Superior alone. I’ve camped on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific on the misty Olympic Peninsula with Brian, my husband. I’ve retreated with strangers on organized writing retreats all over the world.

The thing that most often precipitated these journeys from everyday life (which are akin to vacations but not quite the same), was a desire for an abrupt shift in perspective and routine. The goal was often to jumpstart something new, and to practice some self-care in the meantime.

Some folks are returning to their pre-pandemic lives—traveling, gathering with family and friends in for celebrations, dining out. I have felt a strong resistance to this. Perhaps it’s a concern for my safety, but the truth is I think my reluctance to return to business as usual is rooted in a deep knowing that this so-called normal feels wrong.

Of course, we can never truly go backwards, there is only forwards, as my friend Deana reminded me a few weekends ago. Truthfully, normal never felt right. The pandemic has slowed us down, pushed us to think differently about EVERYTHING, and I think this slowness is a blessing. This innovation is medicinal.

And, like everything else about 2020, there continues to be a vast divide in our experienced realities. I talk to one friend who has quarantined for days and days in order to safely visit her aging parents, and others visit with family and friends as though it’s just another Labor Day weekend BBQ. Sometimes it hurts my brain to try to hold it all.

And so, I crave a retreat.

And I ask myself this question, the same question I have asked repeatedly over the last year or so: how do you create a life from which you don’t need to retreat?

I’ve gotten close. I’ve learned the power of saying no, of playfulness and letting time slip away unheeded. I’ve learned to live and breathe my work because it is something I love and is, mostly, joyous. I’m still working on disconnecting from the screens more often. Progress is the goal not perfection, right?

Since our weekend retreat was cancelled in April, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to how to help others facilitate this same thing: a lifestyle of retreat. A sustainable practice that helps shift our habits over the long term instead of for one intensive day/weekend/week. A retreat that allows you to sit in the driver’s seat and choose your own journey.

I think we’re onto something here. We (my co-conspirator, my mum, Gwennie and I) have concocted a literally box full of creative, soothing, self-care goodies that we’re calling the Choose Your Own Adventure virtual retreat. You can learn more about it here. I hope you’ll consider joining us.

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