Am I ever truly relaxed? With my life such as it is, the answer is pretty much no, but I did give a good try at it (and came as close as I’ll ever get) at my synagogue’s Women’s Retreat this weekend.
When I was in high school, I was a crazy active member of NFTY. I was off at weekend retreats for or five times a year, I went to the annual national convention, I even spearheaded hosting a sub-regional event at my Temple. I loved that stuff. It certainly didn’t hurt, either, that our region’s retreats were held at a camp in Malibu, on cliffs overlooking the ocean. My favorite of these retreats was the annual women’s retreat. Every co-ed retreat was full of high school drama, angst and flirting. At the women’s retreat, though, the hormones died down, a lot of the pretense subsided, the cliques loosened, and I found myself hanging out with a ton of really awesome women whose social circles I usually couldn’t crack.
The melodrama of the high school social hierarchy is long gone (well, it had a short resurgence in law school, but that’s gone too!), but I was still thrilled when I received a mailing that Temple Sinai was hosting its first ever (and hopefully annual) women’s retreat.
We started the weekend off with Shabbat candles and song. And after dinner we had a pajama party in one of the suites. We had wine, cookies and popcorn and chatted til well past midnight. I loved having the opportunity to get to know other women at my temple, many of whom I see time and time again, but haven’t gotten to know them because I’m busy minding my kid or too shy to strike up a conversation.
The retreat was held at the Embassy Suites out by the airport, which is a very unique venue. All the rooms there are suites, they all face into a lush green courtyard with a waterfall, and the hotel provides tons of hospitable amenities like complimentary cocktail hour and free breakfast (even an omelette bar!)
It’s not surprising that this hotel was very popular and we shared it with a number of other groups. This meant that at times things were not as quiet as we’d like on a retreat focusing on rejuvenation and that there were a couple of logistical hiccups. Those downsides were tiny, and such things are unavoidable in any event in any venue. I thought that the Embassy Suites provided a great price and a great venue for our event. It might be nice to have an event like this in a hotel with a full-service spa, but that would inflate the price. I liked that the value of the Embassy Suites meant that the retreat was more widely accessible to participants because of the price.
There were a couple of hours of unstructured time, and I took this rare opportunity to sit in front of the fire and read my book. Ah, to read uninterrupted. I love it.
The retreat programming had great variety. There were programs for people who were more interested in a spiritual experience, and programs more directed toward discussion. We also had an opportunity to get up and moving with exercise and yoga classes. My favorite part of the programming was a writing circle, where I composed a piece of writing and stepped out of my comfort zone by reading it aloud and discussing it with the group. Reading my words aloud is such a strange and different experience for me, and it was so comforting that this group was so trustworthy and open to hearing my words.
It was relaxing to have a day to focus on myself, and not worrying about child and family care, but I was happy to have Baby Beez join us for Havdalah!
I’ve planned events before, and know how hard it is to put these kinds of events together, and how frustrating it can be to herd cats throughout the whole course of the event, but the women who planned this retreat did a phenomenal job (especially for this being the first ever). Now the countdown to next year begins!