This Week I Have Been Mostly… Running A Women’s Retreat

Decided to start a new blog as it’s January, called ‘This Week I Have Been Mostly’ – let’s see how long this lasts! I’m trying to think of it as a good way to remind myself of what I’ve achieved, and the lovely things that happen, since I have a short memory. To update everyone who doesn’t know, my recent life goes like this:

2013: Traumatic car accident injures my (now ex) partner, long recovery, break up, my brain falls apart

2014: Living by the rules of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project enables me to leave the house once again. I basically dirtbiked, and new-experienced my way out of anxiety, something I never thought I’d experience because I’m such a tough mother*cker

2015: Hard graft. More to come. Continued to remember THP rules, including doing the things that make you feel good more often, hence I started to arrange karaoke nights in London in the autumn, headed to the states to live with friends for the last part of the year

And now we’re here. This is all to say that the karaoke nights went well, and friends thanked me for organizing them, and I thought I wanted to do karaoke and ended up just bloody booking a room and saying to people ‘come if you feel’, so if I want to go on a women’s retreat, I’ll have to just bloody create one. So I did.

It wasn’t that hard, truth be told. I sent everyone a survey on SurveyMonkey, asking what they wanted from their weekend, sent an email round when I found an airbnb place that fit our requirements, and 8 people promptly signed up. The problem was that there were 20 people who seemed enthusiastic initially so I booked a place for 12. Perhaps a rookie mistake? I had split the price of the accom into 12 and asked for that as a deposit. More on that later.

A few months went by, and I tinkered around with ideas in my spare time. My main work then was to produce a zine I wanted to include in the welcome pack, to set the tone. This was called I Hope You Like Feminist Rants which, like most things I do, is tongue-in-cheek. It’s about women’s voices, and allowing them to write how they would talk. More on that in about two weeks.

I spent some time emailing for sponsors, because I wanted women from all economic backgrounds to be able to afford the retreat. This went so well, and I’m so grateful to our sponsors Dame Products, two ingenious women who produce a clitoral vibrator called Eva which stays on during sex without straps or other fiddly things!, and French Letter Condoms, who sell Fair Trade, Organic, Natural & Ethical Condoms, Lubes & Adult Toys. Also a shout out to TOTM tampons, non-bleached, ethically produced tampons which I bought for only £3.11 and popped in (pun intended) the welcome packs.

I left the arrangements until a week before the retreat. That sounds slapdash, but I think it’s the best way to do things, because otherwise you faff around forever and you’ve taken a month to organize something that should have taken three days. I chose the activities, designed a timetable cover, and wrote a statement about what I hoped the weekend would be. I designed a menu, worked out how much food would be, and spent an exhausting afternoon at Tesco pushing around a trolley three times my weight with food stacked high on it, and buying a lot of alcohol.

I remember I took a break between the buying food and alcohol and realized I didn’t have my I.D. I’m 28, but I get ID’d regularly, so I wondered if they would let me buy alcohol. I imagined myself saying ‘but I’m nearly 30!!’ and then I same back from my daydream to the moment and thought you don’t look nearly 30 when you’re dressed in a psychedelic t-shirt with a kitten’s face on it, you grumble like a toddler when you’re tired, and instead of dinner you’ve just opened the Jamaican ginger cake and eaten 2/3s of it sat in the car, with your feet on the dashboard. ‘I’m glad,’ I thought. ‘My granddad says the artist must remain forever childlike.’

It was fun to pack the car and drive down. I had a lot of equipment. Here is where I get nonspecific, because… it’s actually somewhat of a secret affair. I like privacy. You have to have it. We just cannot keep splurging every single thing on the internet and thinking that is a fair representation of a human being. What about holding things back for those you really love and trust? What about holding something back, for you? If I think therefore I am, and I share all my thoughts online, are you me? What continues to make exclusively me me?

Let’s say this: it was truly, truly magical. I’ve done things I’ve never done, wholeheartedly and freely, I’ve expressed thoughts I feared to express, I felt vulnerable and open and trusting, things which all women, men, and humans should feel every now and then.

When I left, surprisingly, it was really hard. I drove off, and shortly after, I pulled in to sort out a podcast on my iphone. I found myself a bit upset, thinking about things. One of my friends had mentioned something about how she used to feel that no one knew the real her, but now she is living a much more authentic life. I often think I am, but I realized on the drive back, that although I am an honest person, I’ve not quite “recovered” my authentic life since 2013 and the accident that changed the course of several lives.

In fact even before that in ways, I was veering slightly off course. When you get your first success, then there are people interested in you, and they have ideas about what you should be doing, and some are great, and some just aren’t quite you. It’s the same with when you fall in love for the first time. The person wants you, but they want you to want what they want. Sometimes they want you the way that they want you, and perhaps not for your honest self.

It upsets me that I’m still in remission from that difficult time. I don’t want to feel that something like that still has an affect on me and I wish I had already left it behind. But I guess acknowledging that is the only way to put it to bed.