Self portrait, taken at TYOL retreat

The December 3rd “Through Your Own Lens” retreat was a festival of learning for everyone, including myself.  Especially myself.  A group of smart, accomplished women came together to find common ground, look inward, and document the day in photos (more to be published on this website soon).  From what I can gather, we’re all still processing the events and discussions of the day–a good sign, I think.

My own post-retreat experience has been a series of revelations, following a period of exhaustion and confusion and an afternoon of lying on the couch watching airline-quality movies (the only thing I could find at mid-day on a Tuesday).

The exhaustion, understandably, came from running a day-long retreat.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I have to admit I felt a little disappointment that I wasn’t more ENERGIZED by a day of deeply meaningful conversations, tears, laughter, and awesome photographs.  The truth is, I was energized all day, and I earned that exhaustion, but there was a way that I honestly thought I should have continued at that level of energy for days afterward.  (Impossible bar-heights are my specialty.)

The confusion part of the aftermath was around expectations for the retreat–my own, and the expectations of the other participants and our photography coach.  Did I meet or exceed everyone’s expectations?  Did everyone get enough helpful coaching tidbits?  Did I fulfill the promises made in the description of the day?  Was anyone’s world busted wide open?

True to my pattern, the idea that I had to create some measurable value crept into my thinking.  If I didn’t, it meant that I was:

a) a lousy coach
b) a fraud
c) an icky person
d) all of the above, plus some other bad stuff

My personal lesson, which keeps coming to me in different guises (imagine that…): just being present, creating a safe space for self-exploration and creativity, and lovingly and joyfully guiding that lovely group of achingly honest, curious women through the day, was enough.  There’s a sweet irony in the fact that I was running a retreat about self-acceptance, and struggled to accept myself, my current level of expertise, and my ability to stay in the moment to allow the day to unfold.

I realize now that I don’t have to define the retreat in terms of ‘success’ or ‘failure,’ mostly because it is impossible to fail when you release attachment to outcome and participate fully in the process.  And if failure wasn’t possible, perhaps neither was success, and that’s ok, too.

I’m grateful for the lesson, again, that just being present is far more important than getting it “right.”  And as a special bonus, it’s a whole lot easier than pursuing perfection.


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