To the Lighthouse

lighthouse
It started with Airbnb. We looked in Maine, in New Hampshire, in Massachusetts, and in Rhode Island. We looked in Brooklyn and Manhattan and Boston. We ooohed and aaahed over gorgeous whole houses we can’t afford, and read for fine print about pets and shared spaces. Finally, we found the one: A simple little house near a cove, in a fishing village known for its art and quarries and creativity and kindness and lighthouses. Three nights away, next week, just me and my love.

Big deal, you say? Why yes, it is a big deal. Six months ago, our Valentine’s Day getaway to The Porches Inn in Williamstown, MA left us positively giddy. We had such a wonderful time at Mass MoCA the next day, and felt like a million dollars having gotten out of dodge for the first time in almost 18 months, not counting hospital visits like this one. At the time, Mani was able to bring Ensure with us, so we didn’t have to worry about what she would eat.

You know how some foods, or even songs or shows or books, will forever remind you of being sick? Whether you had a flu or a serious or chronic illness, you might never want to see another bowl of red jello or rice cereal again. Well, that’s how Ensure is for Mani, I think; it saved her life and we are forever grateful for its calories and nourishment. But a few months ago, she started reacting to it, and now it’s off the table.

As we’re able to start getting out more, little by little — the kind of little by little that in a moment will become all of a sudden, a pattern so many things in life follow — the food thing is a bit tricky right now. But is that going to stop us? Give me a hell, no. We just can’t do hotels for the time being, or day trips. What we can do is rent a place with a kitchen, bring our pots and pans and coffeemaker and air purifier, find a grocery store when we get there, and set up shop. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do next Monday night until Thursday.

We looked at the calendar a few days ago and realized that next week is the ONLY week in the coming months when I will not have multiple writing groups going on. So many exciting things are coming up — both my own groups, two of which begin in August and a third in September (One Story: Ten FacetsWorrier to Warrior, and On the Corner: Writing at the Intersections), and the fantastic two-week writing groups I’ll be co-creating and co-facilitating each month this fall with my wonderful partner over at The Inky Path.

So I had a come-to-Jesus moment (are Jews allowed to have those?) when I realized that if I’m going to keep loving this work, and I really, really want to keep loving it — I need a break. Not a 24-hour break like Shabbat, but something away from home, with just myself and my wife and maybe a book or three. I almost never unplug, and my nervous system is feeling the effects of this. The whole “Physician, heal thyself” adage is so, so true; if I don’t cherish, protect, and nurture my own creativity, how on earth can I support others on their writing journeys?

I’ve been a bit jumpy lately, enough so that I’ve actually started writing about it in my head. Flashes of moments when I was nervous or anxious or scared from many different ages and stages of life, illuminated as if by heat lightning in a summer storm and just as quickly dark again. It’s as if my body is remembering something, or perhaps sending me a message: It doesn’t have to be this way. You are safe. Everything really is ok and will continue to be ok. You swam through scary moments and made it across. There’s enough money to pay the bills, so much love I have a surplus, and I can run and sing and swim and make love and form complete sentences and eat stale cheerios as a late-night snack and life is good. It is.

And.

There is more: I am risking burnout.

There’s a bit of pride swallowing in sharing this, but that’s exactly why I am writing it here (this I realize literally as I type the words). Or if not pride, fear perhaps — if I am not superwoman, will people still want to be in my writing groups? If I am not the energizer bunny, will people still want me to be their coach?

Oh, Jena. Really?

I know the answer, I do. But it’s still vulnerable, as if I’m “admitting” something by saying I am depleted at all. It’s like I’m afraid people — you — will somehow take it personally. Again, though, I write the words down and they stare back at me with a different message, and suddenly something like a cackle kicks up. It starts low then becomes howling laughter: You think it will matter if you disappear from Facebook and the internets for a few days? HAHAHAHAHAHA.

OK, OK. I get it. I get it! It’s completely ridiculous. Nobody thinks I’m superwoman! I’m the only one carrying that shit around, and newsflash: it’s bunk.

Tomorrow, four women will show up in Amherst to Unfurl for the weekend. Pearl went around with me doing some last-minute errands. A mason jar with newly sharpened colored pencils sits on the windowsill; a giant bag of M&Ms and a stack of inspiring writing books wait by the door. I will show up tomorrow as my whole self, my real self, my honest self. Not with a fake smile, not with a false front, and not with a sugarcoated story. I will write alongside the others as the timer counts down, about what we want, about trust and deep inner wisdom. I will eat heartily and laugh and oh! I just remembered I forgot to buy tissues. Note to self: Buy tissues.

And then on Monday, Mani and I will pack our bags and drive east to the ocean, to fill our noses with salt air. I’ve forgotten a bit what it’s like, to just be me — without kids, without interacting, without engaging with the world through screens big and small.

Nothing will fall apart if I do this; in fact, things may come together in beautiful, unanticipated ways. So I am going to go away with my love, to take pictures of lighthouses — and to remember that my own light will be brighter for the “going dark.”

9 thoughts on “To the Lighthouse

  1. terrinorthwind says:

    Deep wisdom, and perhaps the greatest gift you extend to us. If you can be vulnerable and acknowledge that you need time and space to restore, then that gives me permission to acknowledge the same need that I recognize in myself. It is the hardest need to answer, and yet – our lives depend on it. Wishing you long moments of peace and soul restoration. Salt air has a magic quality about it that heals from the inside out. Peace and all good, Love, Terri

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Nadine says:

    Just what Terri said. I know it’s still hard to admit that we need a break, but really, by seeing you do it, I’m starting to think that I can allow myself to do it. And that is a gift. Thank you! And enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dana says:

    Yes to all the comments above and to your own wise words. You’re not alone in the worry about disappearing, about letting others down. But if we all admit it, this dire need to unplug, regroup, self-nurture, then we can more genuinely support one another. Enjoy your time off, you deserve every moment and more. We all do ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  4. daniel says:

    Jena—I wish you a restful and recuperative getaway from it all…..you certainly deserve it, as you have given us all so much on a daily basis. You are the reason I’m writing and participating and I want you to have all you can and need. Feeling vulnerable is fine—-it’s all we all are about at our best.
    And for you and Mani, with Mani moving forward, I wish you both a renewal of your fine getaway in North Adams—a quiet but joyous period of love and caring in your own nest.
    My best thoughts and prayers will be with you both.
    Love,
    Daniel

    Liked by 2 people

  5. wildchild47 says:

    Enjoy the next writing group – and then, yes, your special getaway.

    What you seem to forget, is that perhaps people are inspired by you, because you are REAL – honest, open and when needs be, raw. A diamond shines and holds promise and potential even if it’s uncut and not polished yet ….. so never consider being anything and anyone than who you are – just as you are, in all your glorious moments (yes, even the self-doubting ones) ….. and know that you ARE loved.

    Enjoy and rest and relish the days and moments as they will come to be – with your beautiful Mani. :D

    And remember, when you get back, don’t rush around like an overcooked noodle trying to play catch-up – breathe and ease back into what really matters; the world existed far and wide before the internet, and although it is a super amazing way to reach out, connect, engage and share, it’s perfectly fine to step back and then return, with a new and fresh perspective.

    Happy and safe travels :)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Melinda says:

    Wow, just read this! You know, my reaction to your need to retreat is exactly the opposite of what you feared some may feel. I know what it is to do too much, try to be too much to too many. I’m trying to cure myself of this, so it’s the last thing I want modeled for me! Sounds like you have many, many balls in the air. Please let one fall. Hell, let ’em all fall. Put them down. Rest! That’s what we all need to see, read, hear. really.

    Liked by 1 person

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