This past weekend, I attended a women’s wellness weekend at our nearby YMCA Camp. I signed up at the last minute and really didn’t have too much time to think about what to expect. I got the itinerary two days before the program, and was excited to see, in addition to the expected yoga and wellness seminars, some fun activities too! High ropes, zip lining, a “vertical playpen,” mountain biking, archery and hiking. It was a weekend of reflection, adventure and new friendships – and a cabin full of Wonder Women!
And I learned that…
We all have similar fears
When I was driving to the Camp on Friday, I felt alone – and like I was back in 3rd grade. I found myself thinking…I’m going there all by myself! Everyone else is going to be with their friends. Who am I going to eat with? Who am I going to sit with? Hang out with? If the others there are having bonding time with their girlfriends, I’m going to be left out.
For goodness sake, I’m a 45 year old woman. I’m not an 8 year old girl. But those thoughts were real.
And the truth? The majority of the other women there were by themselves too! And the funny part? I shared my fear, and they had been thinking the same thing! Solidarity in fear, ladies! We all arrived as strangers, and within a few hours, we were sisters hiking and biking and hoisting each other up climbing ropes.
Everyone has a story
At our first gathering at camp, we did the typical go around of introductions. Everyone said the usual few sentences about themselves…I’m a mom, I’m a “insert profession here,” etc. And almost everyone ended with a form of the sentence, “that’s it for me.”
But there was so much more to our stories! As the weekend progressed, hearts opened up to share stories of pain and loss, divorce, searches for meaning and reinvention. Everyone – everyone – had a story to tell. Even if you think there is not much to your story, there is. There always is. It takes a supportive, caring environment for those stories to be revealed. And we had that this weekend. Times 100.
You are stronger than you think you are
On our climbing and zip ling adventures, we had to use all our reserves of physical strength. Climbing up towers of rope and wood takes tremendous strength – both physical and emotional. And climbing up 5 feet off the ground requires the same thing too. I pushed myself to climb has high as I could go (and I have the bruises to prove it!) I was scared, but I had a group of women on the ground looking up at me, shouting my name, encouraging me as I moved upward. All of us there were of varying shapes, sizes and abilities. And that is why we cheered for each and every woman – no matter if she made it to the top or 5 feet off the ground. Each of us used strength we didn’t know we had to overcome a fear – of heights, of falling, of failing, of trying something adventurous that we didn’t know we could do.
Caring for yourself is not selfish
We all took time out of our busy lives to attend this weekend. It meant finding childcare, preparing meals for our families while we were away, spending money, logistics and so forth. But we did it to care for ourselves. To give ourselves a break. To learn. To have fun! How often do we as women focus on having fun ourselves? And the oxygen mask analogy was used several times…when the mask drops from the ceiling in the airplane, who do you help first? Yourself! You can only help others if you help yourself first. We talked about being busy – how being busy is like a badge of honor these days. “How are you?” No one says fine anymore – we all say “I’m so busy!” And we try to out-busy each other. Heaven forbid mom should have some time to herself to explore her own wellness! We ladies explored wellness and adventure this weekend, and I can guarantee that no one feels guilty about it. We are better off for it – we’ve returned to our lives energized and envigorated. What is wrong with that?
The feeling of accomplishment is worth more than the all the possessions you could ever buy
That feeling that I had when I kicked ass crossing over the swinging bridge 40 feet in the air is worth more to me than any piece of jewelry, any item of clothing, or any electronic gadget. That feeling of watching another woman conquer her extreme fear of heights and climb 10 feet up a rope ladder is priceless. And that feeling of comraderie and sisterhood is worth more than whatever you can buy. It’s a feeling of belonging, of strength, of self worth – and pride in saying “I did it!”
We are all looking for meaning
Each of us went to Camp looking for something. Whether it was strength, a feeling of wellness, answers to the problems life throws at us full force, or just a break away from the routines of everyday life, we were all there for something. Each and every one of us wants to know what is next. How can I make my life better? What will make me happy? Those answers may not be found in a 3 day weekend, but a Camp weekend like what we just experienced can put us on the track to finding them…and to finding the inner strength that we need to survive – and thrive – with all that life has to offer. We all have an inner Wonder Woman – we just have to find her.
I found her 40 feet up in the air, roped into a harness atop a wooden vertical playpen and utility pole.
I came home bruised and sore and exhausted…
…but full of pride, not only of myself, but also of the incredible, strong, amazing women I had the privilege to meet.
And all of them are Wonder Women!