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Roomy Writing by Victoria Smisek

A request from Dulcie for blog posts popped into my email at the same time that I was writing up my 10th Roomy Writing piece. Allow me to elaborate, allow me actually – to celebrate!

In January this year, I treated myself to a WOW retreat on Holbox Island in Mexico and yes, wow, what a treat it was! I was so impressed by the way that Dulcie and Nancy easefully and skillfully ran their retreat; with compassion, sensitivity, vulnerability and insight. They held our group of 8 women in perfect balance during those 5 days. They navigated us as 8 individuals and a group of 1 through the process of accessing our hearts and encouraging us to write from them. The impact for me was profound.

But wait, if you’re reading this then I’m probably preaching to the converted. If you’ve been on a WOW retreat, then you probably know all of that (or at least have your own experience) already. But what you won’t know is this:

On that retreat I was to share a room with a total stranger. I knew this of course at the time of booking and I was ‘up for it’. I’ve shared rooms with total strangers before on retreats but only silent ones (retreats that is.) One’s where you and your roomy don’t utter a word to each other for the entire duration. No ‘making friends’, no small talk, no need for social niceties…so much simpler I had found. A felt connection might take place, a verbal exchange of some kind perhaps in the brief time in between silence ending and participants all going their separate ways, never to meet again most likely.

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But this would be different. This would involve the more socially familiar construct of daily communication and, although I told myself it was all part of the process and I was open to the idea, I secretly hoped, as we travelled in the mini bus from the airport, that the ‘odd number’ of us could work in my favour and I might be singled out and deemed special enough to be granted the luxury of my own room….

I was not special enough as it turned out and all I can say is how glad I am of that fact! I was paired up to share with Deanna, who I felt immediately comfortable with on first introductions. Perhaps because we were the only 2 non-Americans, perhaps because we were of a similar age, perhaps because we had both just come from doing yoga and meditation retreats elsewhere but suffice to say there was enough common ground for us to get on nicely.

But as the week progressed it became clear that it was more than just common ground. By the second night we were giggling in our beds so uncontrollably it was difficult to turn the light out and get any sleep! This continued for the rest of the 5 days; we laughed, we shared stories, we opened up, we spoke in detail of our experiences of the retreat each day and processed our feelings - often raw and emotionally charged – together, we cried. We moved around each other in our shared bedroom, dressing room and bathroom like ballroom partners who had danced together for years. You could say, we just clicked.

But here’s the really cool part: on the last morning of the retreat we hatched the idea of keeping up the practice of writing a piece on a given prompt for 45 minutes, sending it to each other and giving each other feedback on what had moved us – just in the same way that we had done for the past 5 days. Deanna and I vowed to take turns each week to suggest a prompt, for us both to write on it and then type it up to email to each other. This would happen generally on Sundays. The following Sunday we would send each other our feedback and the next prompt. This ritual would be repeated every week.

Well, we know how these things go right? We know the untethered enthusiasm at the end of a successful retreat, the attachment to holding onto what’s been created, not wanting things to change, a resistance to letting go. Many a sincere heartfelt promise has been made under such conditions. And invariably of course, as we return to our normal lives, the attachment fades, the enthusiasm wains and those intentions fizzle out.

But no! As I mentioned at the beginning, Deanna and I have just exchanged our 10th piece of ‘Roomy Writing’. This means it has been 20 weeks since the plan was hatched, and we shook hands over the huevos and guacamole at the breakfast table. So far, we have written on the following prompts:

– Having the Courage to be Disliked
– Connections
– Keeping Score
– The Inner Critic
– Living Outside your Comfort Zone
– I Remember
– Release the Brakes
– A Second Chance
– The Places that Shaped Us

 We continue to write from the heart. You can imagine how much we are learning about each other, how much the friendship is deepening. We’ve even become a bit ‘braver’ with our feedback; daring to be a little more constructive if we feel something would have had greater impact if written differently somehow. We speak about how much we both value the process and the opportunity to – as Dulcie would say – write on. How much we value the opportunity to share our writing and ‘put it out there’ and…who knows where that might lead us.