The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
What is healing but a shift in perspective? – Mark Doty
I had lots of really big plans for this writing retreat.
I was going to write several blog posts, maybe draft an outline for a book, and for certain, document THE PLAN for what I was going to do with the rest of my life. And once I had that plan polished off, like a good project manager, I was going to start executing, toute suite.
I have written here on Tybee Island, for sure. Lots of notes, ideas, and responses to prompts now fill my journal. But I did absolutely none of the lofty things I had planned from the list above.
My plan took a detour on the very first night. I met fifteen wonderful women who would be my tribe for the next week. We shared our stories, why we were here, and what we hoped to gain from the experience.
Those stories broke my heart wide open.
These are talented, successful women. Writers, artists, healers, entrepreneurs, professionals – many much more accomplished at their craft than me. But most had a story of loss and healing that has shaped them profoundly.
Divorce, serious illness, death of a spouse or parent, personal or professional betrayal, job loss.
All the stuff that happens in the course of life.
The stuff that makes us human.
The stuff that is both the source of great pain, as well as the fuel for great writing and great art.
I had come to this retreat to 1) Write, and 2) to Discern my future path. So typical for me, I had completely dismissed the important, messy Healing part in the middle.
But within this community and with this process, I began to identify and heal wounds I didn’t even know I had.
- Making peace with my father’s harsh and ugly death
- Anger and resentment for the actions, methods and betrayals of former work colleagues
- Forgiving myself for the choices I made while climbing the corporate ladder – choices that did damage to myself, my health and my family
Big healing requires a seismic shift in one’s perspective. Accomplishing such a shift takes time, love, community, and the willingness to be vulnerable.
Through skilled facilitation, honest dialogue, writing prompts and tools like the Four-Fold Way and the Quaker Clearness Committee, momentous shifts in perspective have occurred not only for me, but I think for others as well.
We had each afternoon free, primarily to be used for focused writing. Some of the tribe wrote and wrote and wrote during their time. Others, like me, needed something else in addition to writing to affect the healing process.
I returned with my camera, again and again, during the retreat’s afternoon hours, to the southernmost beach point where the Atlantic Ocean meets Tybee Creek and Inlet.
At low tide in the afternoon, the expanse and width of the beach is incredible. You can walk far out into the inlet’s floor, the low winter sun shining in your eyes. Little Tybee Island, an uninhabited nature preserve, looks almost close enough to walk to across the shallow water.
The ocean’s foundation is exposed to the world at low tide. Its floor is uncovered; it’s wet and delicate and very vulnerable, just wide open for all to see its secrets. Seagulls meander across it, while they hunt and peck for food; beachcombers look for treasures to put in their pockets and take back home.
The ocean, called by the moon, has taken its energy and pulled back for a pause. The floor has lost its partner for a time. It stands there all alone and defenseless to the scavengers.
Low tide is a pause, a gap, a loss.
A point in time where even Mother Nature is vulnerable and naked.
But it can also be one of her most beautiful times.
This is what I have learned from the wonderful women who are with me on this writing retreat.
A period of healing and discernment is like low tide. The creative life energy force may have left us for a while. A turn or shift is in progress, and our hearts must be brought bare to their floor before the shift can occur.
We all have a low tide in our lives.
We all have stories that no longer serve us.
We have all been wounded in some way and want to heal.
We all want to discover our next steps and make new stories.
True healing and discernment require vulnerability. We heal best when we are vulnerable enough to share our story, take the pause to be present with our wounds, and allow others to support us as we work our way through.
Yes, the ocean at lowest ebb is all emptiness and vulnerability. But its beauty, possibility and capability of future shift cannot be denied.