When a Workaholic Goes on Retreat

Sometimes you just need to get away.  Well, OK, I’m projecting here.  Maybe you don’t.  But sometimes I just need to get away.  I love my husband, I love my kids, I love my life, but sometimes I need to go someplace where I have no obligations to anyone but myself and just be me.

And work my butt off with no distractions, because let’s face it, trying to write while also being a homeschooling stay-at-home-mom to a three and a five year old is tough.

So I ran away Wednesday night.

With planning, of course.  Tom arranged to come home from work early that day and then work from home for the rest of the week so I could head down to Hingham, MA where I’d booked a five-star cell at a monastery through Sunday.

And I’ve got to tell you, as monasteries go, this one really is five-star.

‘Cell’ is definitely an overstatement.  This is not the bare, stone room with a single narrow window, narrow cot, and heavy door Whoopi Goldberg’s Sister Mary Clarence was given in Sister Act.  This is a modest bedroom in the guesthouse with a regular twin sized bed, a decent desk, a rocking chair under a reading lamp, some built-in bookshelves, a dresser, a good-sized closet, and an attached private bathroom.

And central air conditioning.  It was 94 degrees yesterday, and is supposed to be 97 today.  We’re two miles from the ocean, and Saturday is supposed to be thunder showers all day.  In other words, this isn’t exactly dry heat.  So the guesthouse is air conditioned, the chapel is air conditioned, and the refectory is air conditioned.  I’m glad these Benedictines haven’t let their commitment to a simple, austere life get in the way of their commitment to hospitality.  I’ve been to one of those before–not someplace I’d like to go again.

Oh yes, they also have WiFi.  That’s been more of a mixed blessing than the air conditioning.  On the one hand I love that I don’t have to wait until I get home to post to my blog, and I can research whatever I need in the course of my writing with ease.  On the other hand I’m owned by a Candy Crush addiction, and now it’s right there in my room, mocking me, tempting me, and winning.

But despite the Candy Crush distraction, I am getting a lot done.  I lost whatever productivity I might have had Wednesday night after grinding through Boston rush hour traffic (straight through the city at 6 PM—yeah, that was well planned!) and arriving at Glastonbury Abbey forty minutes later than they were expecting me.  Fortunately another retreatant spotted me skulking around the door to the closed bookstore, brought me to the last prayer service of the day (which was just about to start) and introduced me to a monk who was able to get me settled when prayers were over.  Then I unpacked and realized I’d forgotten my toothbrush and toothpaste, so had to get in my car and go in search of replacements.  (Plus ibuprophen and something resembling supper, since I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch.)  After bringing my cheese, crackers, and fruit back to the guesthouse and eating them alone in the dark paneled dining room, I went back to my room and wasted time playing Candy Crush and reading until after midnight.  So not terribly productive on Wednesday.

And not terribly bright, either.  One of the reasons I came to a monastery is because I like the rhythm of the day around the prayer schedule.  And Glastonbury Abbey starts with Vigils at 6:30 AM.  So after a restless five and a half hours in a strange bed in a strange room, this insomniac got up, got dressed, and walked the quarter mile to the chapel.  After that I walked back to the guesthouse, enjoyed a quick bowl of cereal and my first cup of coffee, then walked back to the chapel for Lauds at 7:45.  By 8:15 we were done, and I walked back to the guesthouse.  So by 8:30 I’d had breakfast, gone to church twice, and walked a mile.  Most mornings I’m lucky to be dragging my sorry butt out of bed by 8:30!

I poured my second cup of coffee and went up to my room.  I wrote for over three hours (pausing only for cup of coffee number three) then walked back to the chapel for noontime Mass.  After that was lunch in the refectory with the monks and other retreatants, then back to the guesthouse for more writing.  I wrote for another three hours, then back to the chapel for Vespers at 5:15.  I’d intended to do some reading for the bible study I’m working on, but for some strange reason I kept nodding off in Vespers so I decided I’d better do something slightly more active while I waited for supper to begin at 6:30.  I called my husband and chatted with him for a while before going in to eat.  After supper I did do some reading for my bible study, then went to Compline at 7:45, the last prayer of the day.  When I came back to my room I intended to shower, read for a bit, then go to bed early, but instead I ended up back at my laptop, writing for another hour or so after my shower.  Then I read (for fun, not research), and went to bed after midnight again.

I know I can’t keep up this pace.  As Tom pointed out when I told him about my day, I’m supposed to be on retreat to relax.  Yeah, I did manage to write six devotions yesterday (lately I’ve been lucky to write six in a week), plus some work on my memoir, plus some work on my bible study, plus a blog post, but now my brain is leaking out my ears and my tendonitis is torturing my wrists.  I want to keep up the devotions, but I’ll also mix it up with more reading.  I have to do significant reading for my bible study, and I brought a book I plan to review on Quiet Publications, but of course I need to read it before I can review it.  Hopefully mixing in more reading will give my brain a bit of a break, not to mention my poor wrists.  Of course, that means the memoir and the novel will get sidelined again.  Oh well.

I’m also going to allow more sleeping.  When I finally did go to bed last night, I intentionally did not set my alarm.  I woke up a little before nine this morning and missed Vigils and Lauds.  I know the monks won’t mind, but I’m a little regretful.  They are beautiful services, and they really help set my mood for the day.  But a good night’s sleep goes a long way towards that, too.

I’d planned to write more about the monks here and the abbey itself, but this post is already getting too long.  Stay tuned for part two!



When a Workaholic Goes on Retreat — 2 Comments

  1. Sounds like you had quite the time on retreat! Relaxing or not you’re getting a lot of work done and if I remember right from the outset that was your goal for getting away. Good for you! Hope you were able to accomplish as much as possible while away!

    • The retreat was great. I didn’t get as much accomplished as I’d hoped, but I did get quite a bit done. It turns out I needed a rest, too. When I crashed and took a nap Saturday afternoon I felt guilty about it at first, until I asked myself, If I can’t take a nap when I’m on retreat, when the hell can I?!