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Women, Chocolate, and Kleenex. Why Retreats Scare Me.

It’s Monday. I’m already worrying about Friday.

A couple months ago I thought it would be a great thing if a couple friends and I signed up for the women’s retreat. We’re all fairly new to our church—wouldn’t this be a good way to get plugged-in and meet a lot more people? I encouraged. I prodded. And now, as much as I’d like to, I can’t back out of my own idea.

A few of us are long time friends, a few are new-ish. I’ve never spent time alone in a hotel room with any of them that’s for sure (or seen them in their p.j.’s, for that matter), and I’m nervous.

How do you approach, you know, the stuff?

What if I snore? What if one of them snores? Or what if one of them snores and asks me if she kept me up all night with her snoring? I can’t lie for pity sake…I’m on a spiritual women’s retreat where lying is not on the agenda.

I can’t even think about three or four people sharing one bathroom. That frightens me. Literally.

The next question is, “How do I show up for breakfast the first morning?” Do I act like I’m okay in my own skin and not spend much time in front of the mirror? You know the minute I don’t, there will be an entire table of ladies who spent way more time on looking good and I’ll feel completely undone. Being female is not an easy task. If only some house rules were established, I’d be fine. Let’s start with these: a) No makeup allowed; b) Showers are optional; and b) No games allowed where you have to guess which farm animal is taped to your back or any other silly ice breaker. Guidelines or boundaries would surely up the enrollment to these things.

Then there’s the whole vulnerability issue. This is the part I think I hate the most. I’m an emotional person, but on my own terms, and I like to keep it together in front of people. But something happens when a bunch of women get together. No one can talk without crying, everyone feels inclined to share their deepest secret, a lot of singing in small rooms is encouraged, chocolate is consumed at all hours of the day…dear God, what’s wrong with me to think like this?!

Pressure. Insecurities. Fear of the unknown. You name it, women experience it.

But why do we have such a difficult time with ourselves? Maybe I’m speaking to no one but myself here. [Insert: tell me to go read my old blog called The Bag-man Cometh. Or Seeth.] That begs the question: When was the last women’s retreat you went on? Maybe you, like me, have just avoided them altogether so you never have to experience this emotional train wreck. Next time maybe I should ask for the private room rate and bypass this angst?

I think it gets down to us getting so wrapped up in motherhood, being a wife, being single, cleaning the house, making dinner, working long hours and never getting sick that we must maintain our super powers and not allow anyone to see us sweat. Or cry. Or downright sob. Or hurt. Or laugh. Or giggle uncontrollably into the wee hours of the morning. Or forget about everything we love that drains us and for one weekend focus on ourselves. Our stinky, frizzy morning haired, snorish, tired, hungry yet lovely and unique selves that is longing for refuge. Even if for just a weekend.

I have a few days before it’s Friday and we all load up and drive the 1.5 hours to our destination. We are thinking about all five of us driving together, but like one friend told me, if she brings her own car, it would be the perfect escape route should we need to make a quick exit. She has a point.

I’m already telling myself to relax, look forward to the weekend, to bravely step into these unknown pastures (although I may step on a cow patty or two), and get real. With myself, with others and most of all, with God.

Excuse me for now. I need to go buy some Kleenex and chocolate. Something tells me I’m going to need them.


  1. Exactly. You have it exactly, that emotional bubble I feel like I have to keep myself in. Thank you for a wonderful look at it. 🙂

    • Thanks, Emily for taking a read today! You bring up a good point in that we shouldn’t feel bad for doing whatever it takes to make ourselves feel good and presentable. Let’s not even get started on the hair issue!! 🙂

  2. P.S. You have great hair! Also, don’t let anyone make you feel bad for doing or not doing a morning routine. I don’t feel ready for my day until I shower and put my mineral make-up on–part of it is I have fair skin and NEED my sunblock, which is in my make-up. Everyone has reasons for what they do.

  3. One true experience, first though, I agree with EVERY comment you made 🙂 and why do we do this to ourselves when we all feel the same way??? I went to a women’s conference, out of town, with 3 other women I didn’t know that well – one hotel room – major anxiety. I thought I had it all together until one of the speakers hit the burdens of my heart right in the center. Well, I fall totally apart, sobbing in this conference center with about 10,000 women present. One of the ladies I was with just grabbed me and held on tight. I found out later that she has NEVER done that even with close friends, but she did it for me. All this to say that sometimes, I think, God makes us fall apart to help others go places they might not otherwise go. I pray your retreat is wonderful!

    • Thanks for your story, Donna. I love what you said, “God makes us fall apart to help others go places they might not otherwie go.” That is pure gospel right there! I know that each of my friends and I are going to find great purpose in being at this retreat. The good news is that there are only going to be 150 women present. Wait a minute…I think that’s good? At least in a crowd of 10,000 I could hide! I’ll keep you posted!

  4. Beautiful! And as one who doesn’t care if I’m seen without make-up, we all have our insecurities… I hate to cry. And I’m much too emotional! However, right now, I would love to be able to get away like that! Enjoy for me!!!!

    • Beth, I would love to spend a retreat with you. Maybe when those babies are a bit older? Next year for sure! Kiss that sweet boy for me!

  5. I Love, Love, Love your blog. My family has always made fun of me for avoiding ladies retreats like to plague. I grew up more tomboy then Barbie, and although I love handing out with my girlfriends and sisters, I have never gotten into the unicorn and fairy world of most church ladies retreats. Reading your blog was like reminiscing conversations I have had in the past trying to defend my absence from yet another all-girl outing. Oh, and the car routine… I one of my most used backup plans

    • Diane, I’m smiling as I read your comments! I’m convinced we must be sisters once removed!! I must say, post-retreat, that this one was better than most I’ve attended, but if they’d just build one of those retreat centers with single room accommodations, I’d never miss another one. I’ll send you the info next year when it comes around to signing up…and maybe we can room together! 🙂

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