Thursday, June 15, 2017

Just Do It: Saying "Yes" and Breaking out of the Comfort Zone


What do you get when ten women writers who live on different rocks, are total strangers, and have vastly different life stories become roommates in a villa in the middle of Old San Juan? An estrogen-charged "Real World" but with more mature characters who use big words, that's what!

Okay, just kidding. What you get is magic. Pure. Friggin'. Magic.




And to think I almost didn't go.

Let me back up...

When I got the message inviting me to the first annual Women Who Live on Rocks Writing Retreat, my gut reaction was "No". For one, I had never actually written for the site, which I was pretty sure made me some sort of interloper. Then there's the simple fact that I write so infrequently these days I hardly feel I can call myself a "writer" (sad face)....but the worst was the general insecurity: What if I'm the worst writer there? What if I bring nothing to the table? What if I suck? What if they don't like my blog? What if they don't like me? Self-doubt began to creep in and I told myself that I had no real place in what I viewed as a club of writers who most certainly were more "writer-ly" than I.

Despite these initial reactions soaking in an abundance of self-doubt, my response was not a "no", but a "Cool! Let me check with my husband..."

My interest, you see, was piqued.

Because here's the thing: I love to write. I want to write more. To satisfy the urge that compels me to write and share is 100% vital to my happiness ... I want to put "writer" on the little box in the customs form when I land somewhere new (okay, I already do that sometimes and it feels good).

I wanted to learn more, I wanted to be inspired and - truth be told - I wanted a little vacation from my life. Yes, you read that correctly. Vacation. From. My. Life.


***

It's been over five years since I have gotten away on my own without kids. FIVE YEARS. That's a lot of time to be in a daily grind with hardly any "self-love" breaks minus a night here or there and some mani/pedis. While I love spending time with our girls, the thought of five full days of not having to get up with them, cook for them, referee them, yell at them (yes, I yell from time to time. Okay, daily.) and, in general, be completely depleted by the day's end by them was really, really appealing.  The fact that I could leave Scott in charge made it that much more of a no brainer.

After much hemming and hawing and a lot of procrastination - I finally said yes. It was scary and nerve wracking and uncertain, but I said "I'm in!" When I put my portion of the deposit down on what would be our shared villa, I secretly held on to the notion that I could back out at any time. One foot in, one foot out. It's a signature non-committal move of mine that I resort to a lot. Pathetic, but true.

***

As the time drew nearer it became very clear I would be abandoning my post at pretty much the worst time. Our business was going through a major shift change with old employees leaving and new ones coming on, Scott was up to his eyeballs in bureaucracy and the daily running of our company, and stress was high. I began to get cold feet again. How will my family manage without me? Will the girls be okay? Will our business get neglected while I'm away because Scott has to focus on the kids? Is it ridiculously selfish for me to up and leave at a time like this? What if there's a boat emergency and Scott has to go at a moment's notice? Will the kids survive without me? More than a few times I almost backed out with legitimate reasons to do so.

And yet I didn't.

I packed my bags, took a deep breath and boarded the plane to Old San Juan for what would turn out to be one of the best weekends of my life (And that's saying a lot because I hold down the "fun" button hard.)

***

I was the third of our group to land and immediately met with Chrissann (the genius organizer and purveyor of all things awesome, seriously, this girl is a powerhouse of amazing) and Jen (who would become my bunkmate as well as an insta-best friend - I LOVE YOU JEN!) We drank an abundance prosecco while we waited for our villa to be ready and before we knew it, we were giggling and laughing like old girlfriends. Like we'd known each other forever. Like we were three besties reunited for a girl's weekend. It was that effortless and easy.

And that's when I knew I was in for an amazing time with amazing people.

One by one the women arrived, and each time it was like meeting kindred spirit. There was no drama, no awkwardness...it was all love. I realize it sounds corny and my words are for sure not doing the whole thing justice, but it was amazing. Despite vast differences in almost every conceivable way, the tie that bound us was our love of writing. We "got" each other. Not only were we all writers, but we all lived on "rocks" and we all were there to learn and be supportive. There was no ugly competitiveness, jealousy, or judgement ... just open hearts and minds. Turns out, when you put a group of women together who are smart, strong, and share a passion... magic happens.

And, okay, we all like to drink. A lot. That helped too. What can I say? We are island girls and most of us imbibe on the daily. Truth be told, nothing breaks down barriers like tequila.

***

We laughed so hard our bellies hurt, we cried on each other's shoulders from time to time, we supported one another unconditionally, and we shared and over-shared as people are wont to do when they feel secure. I walked away from that weekend with a full heart and total peace in my soul. To feel 100% safe to be yourself, say what you want to say, and be who you are is a wonderful - and sometimes illusive - thing. To be able to do this with nine strangers? That's a friggin' miracle, folks.

I wouldn't have believed it was possible if I didn't say yes. I wouldn't have known the joy that is finding your sister-tribe if I hadn't said yes. And I certainly wouldn't have walked away with nine new life-long friends if I didn't say yes.

I learned that I am worthy.
I learned that I have something to offer.
I learned the power that a tribe of positive, energetic writers can possess.
I learned that women really, really need other women.
I learned that girl's trips are going to be a 'thing' I make more time for.
I learned that funny, smart women are totally my jam.
(well, I always knew that...but this drove it home)
I learned that cucumber infused tequila with soda water is pretty much the elixir of all things amazing.

I learned all this and so much more.

I said yes, and like a small wave in a pond, the ripple effects of that single "yes" will follow me and be felt on the shores of my soul forever.

Sometimes saying yes is hard and awkward and tough. Sometimes it takes sacrifice. But from now on - despite the fact that it can be hard for me to break from my zone - I'm going to say "yes" a little bit more. Who knows where that next one might lead me.

***

To read an awesome play by play of our amazing weekend, here's the recap of the 1st Island Writer Retreat. And to further illustrate the amazing time, here's a few pics from our weekend. I only used my "good camera" in the daytime so our nighttime shenanigans (of which there were many, we were out until after midnight every night) are not represented here. Probably for the better...
This is them first meeting in person. You cannot fake this.

This is Jen. She is pretty much the best thing ever. I want her near me ALWAYS. She's moving to Mexico, so I'm going to Mexico soon. ;)

Ready for this? THESE TWO ARE NOT RELATED!! Amazing right. Can you feel the love or is it just me?

Chatting in our lovely 3 story villa Chrissann organized for us.

Our faces had perma-smiles the whole weekend. I kid you not. When you find your tribe, it's bliss!

Yeah, we also laughed A LOT. It actually helped burn off all the food we ate because we ATE SO MUCH FOOD.

See? We did work. Every day we had roundtable discussions that were so inspiring and productive.

We were unleashed inside the Mall of San Juan where we drank lots of bubbles and bought lots of goodies.

Chrissann organized VIP treatment wherever we went, it was so incredible. And delicious.

At Lush Cosmetics in the Mall of San Juan. 

Because mud masks are fun.

Blue mask = Blue steel. Obvi.

Our posse.

Beautiful women

Our trip with VIP Adventure Tours in San Juan was unforgettable! We pet manatees!!

LOVED walking the streets of Old San Juan. I felt like I was in Spain.

So much food. Pirilo Pizzaria Rustica in Old San Juan did NOT disappoint. 

More round table sessions. Loved these times with these girls. So much support and encouragement.

...and this is where you could usually find us. Bellied up, to some bar, having the time of our lives. Love you girls!

To read more of about the retreat and to follow my amazing writer sisters, check these links:

Chrissann Nickle, Virgin Gorda: Women Who Live on Rocks
Jennifer Legra, Dominican Republic: Drinking the Whole Bottle
Riselle Celestina, St. Maarten: The Traveling Island Girl
Mariah Moyle, The Bahamas: Out Island Life
Claudia Hanna, Cyprus: Live Like a Goddess
Liz Wegerer, Bonaire: The Adventures of Island GirlIsland Girl Writing
Lizzy Yana, St. Thomas, VI: Island Lizzy
Jennifer Morrow, Puerto Rico: Jen There Done That
Sherri DeWolf, Key West: Deeply CreativeIsland Jane

4 comments:

Sailing LunaSea said...

This makes my ❤︎ happy.

Roy said...

Such a great story, I hope I can write as well as you do one day. Your so right you just have to get out of your comfort zone. I have a saying I use that I probably heard somewhere else, "If you always do what you've alwasy done, you'll alwasy get what you always got"
Hopefully my blog is as good as yours one day. driftingsailor.com

Jen @ Drinking the Whole Bottle said...

I'm starting to read everyone's post since I am finally finishing mine. And I just want to tell you that I FREAKING LOVE YOU and that YOU are the best thing ever and that I'd like you near me always also.

Jen @ Drinking the Whole Bottle said...

and now I'm re reading again and can't believe you actually thought, "What if they don't like me?" Like seriously?! We liked you so much we went in search of you... love love love to love you.

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