Originally posted October 2014
Autumn demonstrates that it is time to shed old layers in preparation for a new beginning, may be even risk taking. Just watch the falling leaves for inspiration. Last October I boarded a plane for a retreat. In Mexico. Alone. I didn’t know anyone going except my coach who was co-leading the retreat, but we’d never met in person. I took a red eye from San Francisco, had a three-hour lay over and arrived in Cancun groggy and without my luggage. There were choices at every juncture. I’m not sure what made me sign up for the trip in the first place; this was completely out of character for me. A risk. Going alone to a foreign country? That was not me, yet I made the choice and jumped.
Arriving without my luggage could have been a trigger that set me back. I could have taken it as a “sign” that this was a bad idea, that things weren’t going to go well. Instead I took a deep breath and just trusted. I’d put a swimsuit in my carry-on bag (what more could a girl need in Mexico?). While it wasn’t obvious to me at the time, that was a choice. I chose how to react and how I wanted to move forward.
I had been informed that a woman named Ellen would greet me when I arrived at the resort. But, instead there was a message that Ellen was having lunch with another retreat participant. I could either join them or she would come by my room after. I was nervous. The safe thing to do would be to stay in my room and wait 45 minutes for her to come to me. But, I remember very clearly asking myself “who do you want to be here?” and in that moment I stepped into my badass and walked out the door to join two women for lunch that I had never met before. That one choice probably represented the biggest turning point in the trip. I was shedding layers. I came to that retreat to be open, to connect and create sisterhood. I chose to embrace the situation, to put myself out there. Sitting in my hotel room would not do. Not anymore.
I have spent a lifetime telling myself the story that I have a hard time opening up and making connections. I’m socially awkward, connecting takes a lot out of me and I need time alone to recharge. We all have experiences during childhood that shape our adult thoughts and reactions. What I was telling myself likely stemmed from experiences with bullying, being judged and having my trust violated. But here is the interesting thing, I had also experienced good friendships. My bestie since third grade (shout out to Robin if you are reading this) always had my back even when I wasn’t a good friend. But, the negative experiences trumped the good and the stories continued. Until the retreat.
The women I met in Mexico came with big, wide-open hearts just like me. There were nerves at the first cocktail party and it probably didn’t help that I had to wear an old dress that I use as a swimsuit cover up (note to self: a girl does need more than just a swimsuit in Mexico). But, despite my nerves and wardrobe challenges I didn’t hide and neither did they. By the time dinner was over we were connecting and belly laughing. That was the start of a life-changing, four-day journey. My guard was down and my heart was open.
It is hard to describe going the process of going from a private, protected person to heart splayed out vulnerability. That was a series of choices and it paid off richly. It shaped my experience in the group and changed how I approach my relationships at home. On the last night of the retreat, one of the co-leaders called BS on my challenges connecting with others. She told me that she saw me, really saw me opening up to and inviting connection. I am grateful to her for shining the light on the story for me.
Lessons from Mexico:
We all have a choice in how we react and respond.
Old stories shape our experiences, but we can choose to ditch them and create new perspectives.
Shedding layers and opening up to others can create really meaningful connections.
Where are you holding back? What do you need to shed? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear.