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Beating a (leisurely)retreat
Recently I spent a week at a retreat in Granada. No WiFi, email, TV, radio or internet. Mobiles forbidden except in own room. Aaah… sanity.
I should start by saying I’m not ‘that’ sort of person. (What sort of person? You know, scented candles, bulgar wheat patties and Tai Chi.) That precise stance is something I questioned while out there.
I have prejudices. Everyone I know has. Often we group together socially and mix with people who have the same prejudices. We feel comfortable like that. Our opinions go unquestioned.
I asked myself why, when chatting to the taxi driver I didn’t mind him showing me images of his horse and its foal when I am bored and baffled by photos of dogs/cats and children (other people’s). The Spanish have no time for dogs or cats. I returned with a hope of understanding this prejudice better.
But there was something else which made me mournful about coming back.
There was a bareness about many of the people there. Bare of the need to assert their position in a company, the value of the house(s), their glorious children and popularity.
For the first time in many years I spoke to people about their hurts and crises. (I think we were all there to ponder our crises.) I saw how some people battle through horrors and you’d never know. How some people take a long time to approach and trust others (me); how others will attract friendship and others repel. How it’s a feeling that draws me to another person, not parentage, geographical proximity or having children the same age.
I don’t think the people who go to retreats are ‘that’ sort of people. They’re not self-absorbed and self-interested, far less so than people I meet day to day. I do think they’re people who are prepared to be frank. And that’s worth going for.
It’s what’s missing. It’s what tiring in this way of living. The pretending and puffing up with talk of kitchen extensions and daughters’ wedding expenses; the misery of house buying, selling, cleaners, technology, upgrading every aspect of our lives, downgrading the important ones.
I salute the people who talked to me and shared their tragedies. I felt privileged they were courageous and through their courage I was able to reveal my own tangle of horrors to them.
The sadness is that this aspect to me and my life (and yours no doubt) is behind a coat of armour most the time. I’m aware I wouldn’t reveal myself properly to people I know around here.
We’re weak and cowardly, hiding behind our ceaseless texting (missing some truly magnificent moments), our small talk and bravado.
Why? So we don’t feel alone? So we fool ourselves into thinking we’re OK? Few of us are really OK.
I think all that replaces the feelings that are hard to feel. Like feeding a child a sweet when they fall over: let them feel the hurt and they’ll get past it.
Bucks life is unbalanced. Chasing the wrong things (and let’s face it, we all agree on that); eating, drinking, running or talking too much.
I am impressed by people (having lost much interest in most) and relieved to know those people are around, (in Cambridge, Sussex, in Hampshire, in Peterborough Bucks…) even if not in my immediate circle.
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