Notes from a Radical Self-Care Weekend

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This past weekend, I was blessed to spend three nights at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the beautiful Berkshire mountains with one of my closest friends. There is so much to love about this place. The view of the mountains and lake. Dancing to live drums on Saturday (my very favorite thing). Yoga and more yoga. Time for hiking in the woods, sitting at the lake, journaling, and reading. The fourth floor sunroom, the labyrinth. The little things, like filling my water bottle with the herbal iced teas that are available 24/7 and the blankets in the bin on the big front patio, in case you forgot to grab your sweater or want to spread out on the lawn. Oh, and the beautiful, amazing food.

It’s a big place that draws 40,000 people per year. At this point, after half a dozen trips, I feel very much at home there, and at the same time, completely anonymous. It’s a strange yet comforting combination.

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I had come with several other beloved friends on previous trips, but this was my longtime friend’s first time there. We’ve wanted to plan a Kripalu trip together for the last couple years, and we finally did it to celebrate our 20-year friendversary. We travel together like an old married couple—at ease talking or not talking, doing some activities together and going off on our own. She is the sweetest, most caring and loyal of souls and while our friendship has grown and evolved over the years, it’s one of the handful of things I’ve been able to count on remaining pretty much the same—a steady constant in a world that’s always changing, for better or worse. I’m especially grateful for the freedom we have to totally relax, knowing we accept each other completely. I can only hope I’ve brought half as much to her life as she has brought to mine.

I love that this is her place now, too.

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There was a time when I would have viewed yearly trips to a place like this as a radical luxury. Even now, on occasion I have to shush a little voice that says, “Who do you think you are, taking off for a whole weekend, just for yourself? Selfish!!” Besides trying to be kinder to myself, it has finally sunk in that caring for myself is caring for my family. You know the metaphors—put your own oxygen mask on first, you can’t give from an empty cup, and so on.

Our culture is not set up to be supportive or nurturing to families raising kids. For too many women, we are talking about the systemic cruelty of basic necessities being denied, like being forced to go back to work still bleeding from giving birth—something I see all too often in my work. That’s a whole other set of political issues and a whole other post. But even for those of us who are not living in survival mode, we raise our kids in relative isolation, punctuated by specially arranged social get-togethers. We don’t tend to spend many of the mundane moments of our lives outside of our jobs with anyone other than our nuclear families, and shared work between families only happens via occasional special favors, not as an integrated matter of course. In short, there’s nothing resembling a village in sight for most of us.

Self-care ironically becomes part of the necessary work we do to avoid burnout. Along with the many ways to do that without leaving home, after my first trip to Kripalu, I decided one weekend of renewal per year is not too much to give to myself. I committed to doing it, and saying no to unworthiness and mama guilt.

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That first trip was five years ago, when my kids were 5 and not yet 2. Sometime during the previous year, I had begun a slow, steady decline into depression. Because it was gradual, I kept habituating to the new normal and didn’t recognize it, even though I had been there a few times before. One day, in the dead of winter, it dawned on me that I was actually depressed, not just more irritable than usual. The tip-off was a surprise sob fest in the car triggered by a Taylor Swift song, of all things.

I did two things: found a therapist and booked a weekend alone at Kripalu. I arrived with a sense of desperation, hoping I would experience some sort of seismic internal shift and get some quick relief. That didn’t happen, exactly, although I believe the dance experiences in particular shook loose some stuck energy and got it moving again. Mostly, the time alone and away from my usual daily responsibilities, journaling, reading and doing lots of yoga brought me in touch with how far down I’d slipped and gave me some idea of my next steps. Slowly, I started to feel better.

Subsequent trips didn’t carry the same weighty expectations, and each time I’ve gone,  there has been less a sense of barely keeping some black cloud at bay, and more a sense of maintaining my current state of relative happiness and wellness. And yet, both before and after I quit drinking, I went with some sense of escape from normal life, with a “fixing” attitude toward myself, however subtle.

IMG_8291This time, as I was walking up to the front door, I smiled, noticing that I wasn’t coming to save my ass or attempt any major repairs. I was simply coming to spend a weekend with a dear friend and practice some self-care in more than the little snippets of time here and there I can grab at home. Instead of being such a big deal, this trip felt integrated into the rest of my life, and I showed up as my usual self, a flawed yet whole human being.

As I have each time, I came home with renewed commitment to my mindfulness/wellness practices. My journal pages have some fresh and remembered insights from speakers and readings, and even a few of my own.

I got myself a tune-up, but this time there was nothing to fix.

*Side note on the financial accessibility of a Kripalu retreat experience: While a Kripalu trip may be out of reach for people with no funds, transportation, or childcare, it is accessible for more people than might be assumed. There are several types of accommodations at different price points, all of which include meals. Kripalu also gives $500,000 a year in partial scholarships for many programs. Apply for it if you need it, and consider donating to it if you’re able to go on your own resources. You can find more info here and here.

© copyright Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama!, 2017. All rights reserved. 

 

6 Ways Bullet Journaling Makes Me Less Busy and More Productive

If we asked how many people feel perfectly happy with their organizational habits and systems, what percentage would say “yes?” Less than half, I’m thinking.

I haven’t written about my Kon Mari decluttering project in a while, probably because I haven’t worked on it since I did my kitchen this summer. That whole process is supposed to take six months. Since Marie Kondo’s book doesn’t acknowledge the existence of children and how life with them— and their stuff—might impact a massive whole-house purge, I added another six months for each kid. Even with that, I just passed my projected finish time. That’s OK, I know I’ll get it done. I watched the documentary “Minimalism” over the holidays and I’m re-motivated. Plus, I have a new system to keep me accountable and focused moving forward—bullet journaling!  Continue reading

Notes from the Beachbody Bandwagon, Part 2: The 21-Day Fix Workouts

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About 10 weeks ago, as a person who “doesn’t believe in diets,” I started the Beachbody 21-Day Fix weight loss program. In my last post,, I talked mostly about the eating plan and why this program feels doable and sustainable for my life. I’m learning how to eat properly (meaning, in reasonable portions) for the first time, and I really was “eating healthy” by most standards. You can read that post here.

They say nutrition is 80% of getting to and staying at a healthy weight. Today, I’ll focus on the other 20%—the workouts. Continue reading

Notes from the Beachbody Bandwagon, Part 1: The food

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Two months ago, I finally accepted that my 30+ extra pounds were not going to come off via mindful eating and positive body affirmations. Since then, I’ve lost 7 pounds and 8 inches, and I feel great. Besides feeling good, long-term results and maintenance are the real tests, and it’s way too early to know about that. At the risk of eating my words later, I’m writing about it now because I’m excited to have found a nutrition and exercise plan that feels like a sustainable lifestyle change more than a diet. I’ve been doing Beachbody’s 21-Day Fix.

At age 45 with a 20-year career in health care, it’s crazy that I’m only now learning appropriate food portions. It’s kind of embarrassing, really, but I’m glad I finally am. It’s motivating and empowering. Continue reading

Do Unfinished Projects Keep Us Comfortably Stuck?

This, my 46th year on the planet, is the year of finishing what I’ve started.

During a trip to Kripalu this past winter, I was introduced to oracle card decks, which are like Tarot cards, only they’re used in a more free-form way. I fell in love with this practice and brought it home with me. “Pulling a card” has become part of my morning prayer/meditation/journaling practice. (I even got my husband on board—we often will each pull a card together in the morning.) Usually, I use it as a general message for the day, and sometimes in response to a specific question I’m asking.

Yes, it’s kinda woo-woo, even for me.

I love my card decks because they give me a little nudge toward the intuitive, creative right brain every morning. By default, I tend toward the left side, so I can always use a little less logic and a little more magic in my life.

Speaking of magic, though, I don’t believe the cards supernaturally arrange themselves to hand me the perfect message. (Although I have a friend who believes this, and some spooky shit has happened, like my husband and I both pulling the same card for days in a row, which has made me wonder for a second.)

What I do believe is that there are beautiful gifts of insight when you find meaning in whatever card(s) you happen to pull. You can also use them as journaling prompts if you want to reap the benefits of journaling but are often at a loss for what to write about or where to begin.

So what does all this have to do with finishing projects? On my 45th birthday last week, I pulled three cards from my Earth Magic deck. The question was simply, “What do I need to know now?” Here’s what I got:

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It was pretty easy to find meaning in the the Childhood (innocence) and Mountain (strength) cards. Full Moon (completion), not so much. Continue reading

Top 11 Sexual Health Resources: Myth-Busting, Entertaining Information on Sexuality for Women

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Ladies! Raise your hand if you’re totally satisfied with your sex life.

I can’t see you, but I know that’s way too few hands going up.

Now, raise your hand if you see yourself as a beautiful sexual being who is fully deserving of an amazing sex life. If you’re not there yet, are you willing to take steps toward that becoming reality for you?

One thing I’ve learned since I started practicing as a midwife—far too many women are unhappy with their sex lives. Continue reading

My Struggle With Alcohol: Why I Said Goodbye

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Photo credit: George Doyle

Writing publicly about this part of my life was a big decision. I thought about it for the better part of a year. Even after all that deliberating, in the end it was a leap of faith, just like starting this blog a year ago. My hope is that my story finds the right people at the right time and helps them. Thank you to the Huffington Post for publishing it.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/camille-williams/my-struggle-with-alcohol-why-i-said-goodbye_b_9548494.html

© Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2016