As a woman who is practicing calling myself a writer, everything is a metaphor. Here’s a quick example.
On a recent family trip to New York City, my 18 year old son left his double-amputated, battered, tan stuffed dog (who’d been unceremoniously named Woofie 17 years prior) in the hotel bed. We pictured Woofie being wrapped up in the white sheets and tossed into the unwieldy brown housekeeping cart, and then we envisioned him falling down the laundry chute to the basement to be transported in the diesel truck far away to another borough. It was like some overly terrifying first act of a Pixar movie that we knew would end with a joyful reunion. Brainwashed as we’d been on these types of happy ending animated films, we optimistically waited for the front desk to text us that a lovely woman had discovered lonely Woofie trapped inside a duvet and that Woofie would be reunited with it’s boy owner (in the movie, they’d probably have the boy be 4 and not 18).
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, with the nausea that would accompany the loss of an actual puppy, we flew away from LaGuardia, looking down on the city from the sky, leaving Woofie behind. My son’s sudden breakup with Woofie (a sleep crutch I much preferred to weed or pharmaceuticals) came 6 weeks before he was departing for college. I don’t actually believe he needed to relinquish his attachment to Woofie in order to gain independence (maybe because I sleep with an old pillow whose yeasty feather smell functions as calming aromatherapy). However, his loss and then acceptance was indeed one big metaphor for growing up and leaving the house on his own.
I categorize my habit of twisting mundane events like the loss of Woofie into symbolism as an essential part of my developing creative mind after a two decade career in a non-creative field. However, another way for me to frame this activity is that it’s a corollary to my last few years of seeking a deeper understanding of myself… of my growing inner spirituality. Finding meaning in my experiences and processing them has become more common for me. So it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to me that as fall gets underway, I regret that I am not attending the upcoming Rise Gatherings Retreat.
Last fall, I drove up to Rise Gatherings Weekend Getaway alone. I flew to Newark on Thursday afternoon. The flight was 2 hours delayed resulting in my heading out of the airport in my rental car into east coast style, aggressive, early evening rush hour traffic. I drove into a wicked rainstorm – having to navigate (flipping back and forth between Waze and the printed camp directions) in the dark all on my own. The next day, we all gathered at the lakefront in the sun - each of us shedding some layers of our clothes as we warmed up. I looked up at Rachel and Tami as their smiles beamed down at us like theater spotlights. They welcomed all of us who had made it there – not just to that lakefront, but all who had literally made it to this Weekend Getaway after a very long lockdown. All of us who’d been traumatized, cooped up, working, caring for families and selves, teaching kids, mourning, and more. As they turned on the music and began demonstrating the steps of the Rise dance, I could feel the heat of my tears pushing their way out. Behind my sunglasses, I wept. We were strangers, friends and relatives dancing together – releasing what we’d endured during the worst of the pandemic, celebrating our arrival, and readying ourselves for the weekend experience.
Each part of that weekend held meaning for me – from surviving that stressful drive, to the welcome dance tears, to learning how to relieve the tension in my body, to exercising in the sun, to being introduced a new storytelling medium, to being guided on how to structure my new creative pursuits, to reframing my body image to self-love. Each moment was full of meaning and renewal. Metaphors and spiritual growth.
Seasonal renewal, especially in the fall, had already been ingrained in me as a girl growing up in a Jewish family. Each fall are several Jewish holidays that encourage us to celebrate another year of living, to look inward at who we’ve been over the year, to process our acts out in the world and to change and grow. That explanation of the rituals is an oversimplification, however for me, attending the Rise Gatherings Weekend Getaway, and specifically in the fall, makes sense and provides a similar representative seasonal high holiday. Rise Gatherings provides the time and space to pause, to celebrate life, to look inward, to be inspired.
I see now I made a mistake by not providing myself this weekend of renewal. But my realization that I will miss it, that I need it annually for my peace and well-being, has helped me to understand that the weekend’s events represent an annual spiritual process that is essential. May you have that same experience, and may I see you next year!