by Lisa Stowe
On the first morning of retreat in Guatemala, Steph asked us to complement our introductions by sharing our hashtag for the retreat. When my turn came around, my hashtag was easy: “#singleforaweek”.
Everyone goes on retreats for different reasons – to relax, to reboot, to deepen their practice. In addition to these amazing benefits, retreats offer me an extended period of alone time. For a week, I don’t have to worry about getting breakfast ready, cleaning up toys, and changing diapers. Instead my food is deliciously prepared for me and Pampers are nowhere in sight.
Over that week in Guatemala, my crash course in singledom raised many emotions, varying from “wow this is great!” to “wow I miss my hubby and kids!” Thanks to the ample sunshine and even more plentiful yoga, the “wow this is great!” feeling tended to dominate. I love my husband and children dearly; at the same time, like everybody else, I sometimes think about the what-ifs. What if I had a schedule where I could do this much yoga all the time? What if my life was not run on a treadmill, juggling kids, work, and my desire to cultivate my own interests?
The what-ifing was amplified by being over 2000 miles away from home in an idyllic setting, but happens in Brooklyn all the time. What if I was a free-lancer and could take the 9:15 class every day? What if I could go to class every night, not needing to trade-off childcare with my husband?
What I realized over the course of the week as I deepened relationships with old friends and sparked some new ones was that while I what-if away my constraints, my friends what-if away theirs. The free-lancers long for professional stability. The ones without kids sometimes think about what it would be like if they had one. My responsibilities sometimes feel constricting to me; to my friends they sound aspirational, just as their flexible schedules sound aspirational to me.
We all seek to achieve balance our lives and in so doing, can question the decisions we have made. And while we each have our own unique set of constraints, the desire to achieve a balance is universal. The circumstances may look different, but the process is the same. Going on retreat can cultivate this process, giving us the emotional and physical space to reflect on our “constraints” and helping us to recognize the blessings held within.
On our last night in Villa Sumaya, we all celebrated our time together, readying ourselves to re-enter the real world of home, work, and family. As I packed up my backpack, “wow I miss my hubby and kids!” was starting to project louder than “wow this is great!” Instead of dissecting the anatomy of my spine, I was scrolling through photos of the kids I had on my phone, imagining their beaming smiles when I was there to wake them up in the morning. I was looking forward to quiet evenings in with my husband, renting a movie from on demand and eating take-out on the kids’ IKEA table.
We didn’t share our hashtags that last night, opting for dance music in our yoga studio instead. But I know what mine would have been – the perfect complement to my initial #singleforaweek: #happilybackwithmyfamily.
Lisa Stowe is a yogi, economist and mom who is as graceful with her arm balances as she is analyzing financial markets and juggling two young children. THE BALANCE SHEET will offer her perspective on integrating and benefiting from a consistent yoga practice amidst the hectic reality of family, work, and home.