You will not believe where I am writing you from.
There’s a ceiling fan whirring, I’m lying on an antique mahogany sleigh bed, and outside my window I can see blue sky, deep green, and tall palm trees.
It seems unfathomable, but I am in Hawaii.
The Big Island, in fact, and I’m here for six glorious days of writing, resting, and refortification.
This morning, I did 90 minutes of yoga on a porch (it’s called a lanai, apparently) as the toads croaked, birds chirped, and a giant wall of rain thundered through during the savasana.
That was before I even had my first cup of tea.
It’s kind of an out-of-body experience.
Just days ago, I was in Alberta, where snow has been on the ground since November and nothing will sprout or grow a green leaf until almost June. While I thoroughly enjoyed having a white Christmas, being here is like going from a black-and-white movie to technicolor.
I can feel my soul perking up, my spiritual cells plumping up with all the moisture in the air, the blooms spilling all over the place, the waterfall out the back rushing and thundering through my mind until it feels lively and playful again.
But here’s the thing. I seriously considered not coming.
Not because anything went wrong; just because I felt like I didn’t need it any more.
You see, it had already served its purpose before I even got on the plane.
Let me explain.
47 months ago, (ok maybe 9), I heard about this amazing writing retreat. At the time we were locked in an icy winter, and our family was sloshing through a difficult season. We were in the throes of making our documentary (and it was NOT going well), Nick was in immense pain after his surgery, and it was an intense and rocky season.
I was caring for our kids, trying to care for Nick, learning to produce a documentary AS I was doing it, and of course keeping up with my own beloved work and clients and commitments. It was a hard time, and what made it harder was that it seemed to stretch on forever. When I thought about the coming months, they felt like a long slog of endless tasks, hard things, and bleakness. Plus laundry. Dear heaven above, the laundry.
I wanted to do it all. I knew I could do it. But I also knew that I needed more sustenance than I was getting. I needed something to fortify me.
And what I needed was something to look forward to.
Enter this trip!
It felt scandalous. What mother of five gets to go to Hawaii by herself for six days? It felt decadent. The house, food, everything was taken care of; all I had to do was show up. It felt like a splurge– and it wasn’t a great time for a splurge.
But it also brought a little flicker of hopeful anticipation back into my eyes in a time when things felt very, very gray. And I knew that that flicker was the KEY to me getting through everything that needed to be done in the next few months. It was this little spark that made everything just a little bit brighter.
So I plunked down my deposit, signed up for the payment plan, and let me tell you– I have been feeding off of the joy of this upcoming trip for months. When I cried because things with the documentary felt so scary and hard, I dried my eyes afterward and thought, Well, no matter how it turns out, even if it’s a disaster, after it’s all over, I get to go to Hawaii. When all was fraught and hard and sad and confusing as we dealt with immense disappointment over how hard Nick’s recovery was from surgery, and the weight of it made my bones feel perforated, I’d breathe, I just have to make it to January, then I can sleep for a week in Hawaii. When I’d make lunches and clean up the kitchen at night, when I’d drive my minivan through the dark from errand to errand, when we’d race to get dinner on the table so we could snarf down our food to get kids to dance lessons, every time life felt thankless and glamorless and entirely lacking in charm or delight, I’d remind myself that Hawaii was coming.
I cannot overestimate how much this trip— just the prospect of it— has sustained me this year.
It gave me more stamina, more resilience, and more fortitude, every time I thought of it.
So much so that by the time the seasons changed this past fall and we finally turned a corner, everything was so much easier that I didn’t even think of the trip with desperation any more— just a gentle anticipation.
And a couple nights before it was time to go, I said to Nick, “I don’t even think I need to actually go. I think I got everything I needed out of just knowing it was there for me. The anticipation, the safety net of it, was worth every penny already.”
He assured me I was off my rocker and I would damn well be going, and here I am, and it’s faaabulous of course, but here’s my point: what happens the rest of this week is just the cherry on top. This trip had already given me what I needed, before I even set foot on a plane.
Now of course I do have BIG things I want to accomplish this week, writing-wise, and I want to go home really STRONG and vibrant, and I am doing SO MUCH YOGA so that I return ready to make things happen. But I think you get my point.
So now it’s your turn, dearheart. I want you to give yourself something to look forward to. What can you plant down the road to help you get through where you are right now? What is something so lovely, so nourishing, so specifically delightful, that just knowing it’s COMING will make you stronger?
It doesn’t have to be as big as a writing retreat in Hawaii. (Though if you are in a particularly difficult season, as I was last year, it probably does need to be fairly decadent to do the trick.) It doesn’t have to be expensive: for most of us, guilt-free TIME is the biggest luxury. Days on my own to just read books is one of the greatest gifts I can give myself. Your anticipated thing might be an experience, or it might be some longed-coveted item— a piece of art, a symbolic bit of jewelry, a dream outfit. Don’t underestimate how delightful it can be to pay for those things over time, creating a kind of countdown to when you get them. (Infinitely better than paying them off afterward, plus painful credit card interest.) It could be a trip with friends, a weekend to paint, literally ANYthing that brings you joy.
Place it off in the distance, soon enough that it feels real but far off enough that you can maximize your anticipation. Book it. Put it on your calendar. Block it off as unavailable. Tell your partner. Set up an auto-transfer. Pay for it in advance. Send the group text. Whatever you need to do to make it happen, do that thing.
It’s amazing how much something to look forward to can motivate us and sustain us.
What would do that for you?
Here’s my hope for you, dearheart. That by the time you come to the thing itself, it will have already made you stronger and braver and so much happier that you tell yourself you don’t even really need it any more!
…BUT YOU ABSOLUTELY GO AND DO IT ANYWAY.