My retreat was wonderful.
As I drove to Church from work on Friday, I had time to think about what I wanted from this retreat. I prayed about it and I opened myself up to some free flowing thought about why I was doing this.
The thing I really got from it last year, and it surprised me, was the connection to other women in my congregation.
This year, I went in with a hope for what I would come away with. My hope was that I would have the opportunity to share with others how much I love them and that I would come away feeling loved.
That absolutely happened. It happened through shared laughter. It happened through a session where we shared compliments and things we admire about each other in our small group. It happened through a late night conversation with a good friend. It even happened with a friend that I've not had the chance to get to know well- even though she "stalks" the blog (Hi, Lori!!).
And the unexpected piece I came away with was a focus on doubts.
One of the sessions talked about the baggage we carry. What was interesting to me was that the baggage I was carrying at that moment related to my past. Had you asked me that question 3 months ago, my past wasn't my baggage. But in the last few months, there have been some big reminders of the brokenness I still carry from the things I survived.
Taking time to stop and think about the baggage I carry demonstrated to me that something I'm pretty good at is focusing on the present moment and feeling positive about the future. I was pleased with that. In many ways, I'm in a really good place in life. I love who I am. I live authentically and confidently. I am blessed with a beautiful family, my marriage is fun and loving and supportive, I have a good job with good benefits, I have a loving church family.
In the sermon yesterday, our pastor pointed out that God IS love. Not that God defines it for us or shows it to us or teaches us about it. But God is the definition of love. And I think I live that.
We had an exercise that was very moving in our little group where we shared compliments with each other. The challenge was that the people at your table weren't necessarily people you were close to so you might have to stretch a little bit. Within our little group of 4, 2 of us had been part of the church for a long time, 1 had been involved several years ago but then left and is now back, and another is somewhat new but her family is very involved. There were definitely different levels of sharing that happened- but there were tears that went with our words. The woman I know the least well at the table had stayed for a bit the night before (some of us spent the night and had a movie night after the sessions ended Friday) and we had chatted a little. From just the few exchanges she and I have had on Sunday mornings and that night before, she gave me a compliment that I will hold in my heart. She really validated that I live what I believe. She said that she felt so comfortable talking and sharing with me because I was a non-threatening presence that came to her without judgement.
But back to that baggage and those doubts.
My doubts are all linked to these memory problems that have been rearing their ugly head the past few months. It isn't that I doubt my memories. The things that I remember are things that I know are true. The baggage I carry is that there are so many holes in my memory that I can feel my confidence dip when I think of all the things I don't remember. It isn't just my childhood- it's current events as well. Things I want to remember, things I want to recall, things I want to hold close just aren't always there.
I had an epiphany last night. Perhaps the missing memories and my approach to people are linked. Because my brain doesn't hold information the way others can, I don't hold on to knowledge of the things people have done or the things I've heard about people doing. In many ways, when you come to me, I'm a clean slate for you. If my brain "worked," I wonder if I would hold on to hurt feelings longer. I wonder if I would keep a list of "wrong-doing" in my brain. But because I don't hold on to these hurts and wrongs and slights... I'm more open to receiving people as they are, where they are. I know it isn't the entire reason that I am the way I am... but it struck me last night. See, someone had shared a piece of information with me about someone else. In my head, I was thinking, "I'm really not sure I want to know this." Then my immediate next thought was, "Well, I'll forget about it within the next 6 months anyway."
That's when it hit me- maybe my lack of strong memory recall is really an inability to hold onto a list of wrongs and that is actually something very right.