In high school, I was voted least likely to fly across the country and spend 3 days with 12 artists and writers whom I've never met.
When this Oregon LoveBomb/retreat/vacation/soul-camp was first mentioned, I thought, “Wow. I can’t believe it. Sounds amazing. I’ll be there!” As my departure day drew near, my anxiety increased. By the beginning of August I was trying on different excuses and apologies for having to cancel.
First of all, almost all of these women have spent time together (real, in person time). Many of them are good friends. I didn’t know anyone. Second, these are photographers and artists and heart n’ soul writers. Those people scare me a little. Third, I’d be sharing beds, bathrooms, and possibly secrets with people. I don’t like sharing beds. It might surprise you, but I’m not as low-maintenance and laid back as you might imagine. I need sleep and healthy food. I'm a little lactose intolerant and I don't drink. I cuss too much and clutter makes me crazy.
I eventually pushed through the exhaustion, fear, and anxiety, and landed in Oregon on Sunday morning. It was so strange to physically see and feel people from the blog world. Everyone looked exactly the same and totally different. On several occasions I had to stop myself from saying, "You look just like someone I know from the Internet."
My prayer before I left was, “Please let me be open-minded and open-hearted during this experience.” I think I was. I listened and shared. There were moments when being open-minded/hearted was easy and moments when I really struggled against the desire to be guarded and closed.
As you can imagine, there were lots of cameras and lots of laptops. Every time you turned around someone was taking your picture or uploading your picture or showing you your picture. For some reason, even with all of the picture taking, I couldn’t put on a stitch of make-up or even brush my hair. I just washed my face and pulled my hair back with a headband. I wanted to be a bit more glamorous for the paparazzi, but it was like my hands were made out of lead. I’d stand in front of the mirror with a brush or some make-up and I just couldn’t do it.
Karen, who has an absolute gift for capturing the real essence of people, took two portrait pictures of me during the course of the weekend. When she showed them to me, I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. They made me incredibly uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure why, but I couldn’t really even look at them.
On Tuesday, Andrea led us through a coaching exercise about core values. Not corporate-mission-statement type values, but real “live or die” values. I was partnered with the irrepressible Jen Lee.
Normally, I would be a little tentative about an exercise like this. I've done this kind of work for so long, I rarely stumble upon any groundbreaking information. This time was different. There is something so incredibly generous and honest about Andrea. I trusted her completely. After an hour of writing and talking and honing, I came up with my list of five values. As others spoke of their experiences and what they learned, I felt a little disappointed about my list. There wasn’t anything really new.
I left Oregon knowing that I had made new friends. I knew I had learned and shared. I also knew that I had stayed true to my open-heart/mind commitment.
I did NOT know what this would mean today.
I never cried in Oregon. I cried today.
I pulled up the two pictures that Karen shot and I pulled out my list from Andrea’s exercise.
In one heartbeat it came to me.
My list of five broad values collapsed into two piercing mandates and Karen's pictures told the story. I must live authentically and soulfully. These are my values and these are what Karen captured in my photos.
I went to Oregon vowing to be open-hearted and open-minded, but something much bigger happened.
I let myself be seen.