Recently I wrote about my experience of growing my tribe at a women’s retreat that I attended . The retreat was held at a summer camp facility and as a kid I never went to camp. Since infancy, I’ve suffered from severe asthma and allergies. As a result, Nature is not my buddy. Most of my childhood (and adulthood) was spent indoors. I was the kid who had to stay in the classroom during recess and did not get to go on nature based activities like camping, canoe trips, etc. So part of this retreat experience was trying something that “normal” kids got to do—go to camp.
A couple of weeks before the retreat, I got a nasty cold. Although as an adult my symptoms are well controlled with medicine, colds and flu can still create some serious problems for me. So I had to start using my nebulizer (a machine that creates a mist of medication to help me breathe). As the weekend approached I realized that I was going to need to take my nebulizer with me.
Over the years I have had a love/hate relationship with my nebulizer. It keeps me out of the hospital and allows me to breathe better. And it is also a very tangible reminder that “I’m different. My body doesn’t work the way it is supposed to…” I even considered not going since I was going to have to bring it with me. As I was packing to leave, I told my husband how disappointed I was about taking it with me. He acknowledged that it was a bummer and told me to take it and go have fun.
So a couple of hours into the experience, there I am in my yurt (which thankfully had electricity or this would have occurred in some common area like the dining area) using my nebulizer. My inner critic started up “Here you are ‘the weirdo’ who needs to use a machine to breathe. Why can’t you be normal like them…” Then I noticed something. Instead of paying attention to my inner critic I was paying attention to women around me. And they were all busy settling in, making their bunks, putting away their things and they weren’t really paying attention to me.
I realized that these women weren’t judging me. The only one judging me was me. At some point I think I even apologized for the noise the nebulizer made and I was told “Well, it seems much more important that you be able to breathe.” My inner critic had no snarky response to that.
And then of course, I unintentionally ate something that I was allergic to. (Not anaphylactic allergic thank goodness, but I had my Epipen with me in case that did happen.) I spent a miserable couple of hours as my body clearly and intentionally tried removed the offending substance from my system. My inner critic tried to have a field day with this new development. “You can’t even just eat food like everyone else. You can’t do anything without getting sick.” But my yurt-mates made sure that I had water, hot tea, crackers and even applesauce, so I could take care of myself. One of my yurt-mates was a doctor and even made sure I was stable before leaving early to head back home.
As I was driving home after the weekend, I realized that my inner critic had lost her bite. She could say what she wanted to say AND I didn’t believe her anymore! I had a good weekend despite the health challenges. And the only person who thought it was a problem was me! Everyone else was gracious, considerate and helpful. So I reminded myself “Don’t believe everything you think!”
I’ve also decided that when I go to the next retreat, I’m going to complete the ropes course. I might as well, since I no longer believe that voice inside that says “You can’t.”