I woke up at 6:00!
I don't know why I could not sleep, but that was it. I was up. I called home and spoke to my kids. (yay!) MD was so cute, he says "you are never up when we get up, unless we have a tiyul or we need you." (it was kind of nice that he noticed that I do get up when they need me)
The first session of the day was a lecture about nutrition. The speaker was interesting, but she did not really reveal anything new. The bottom line is if you want to eat healthfully, you need to spend a lot of time preparing your food (not to mention shopping, so that you always have fresh vegetables). About half way through, my lack of sleep caught up with me and I kept nodding off.
For the next session, the group again split into two, each led by one of Beit Natan's oncological social workers. Again, both groups did the same activity. After a brief introduction, we did some guided imagery. I found it difficult to stay focused and drifted off in my own mind several times. Afterwards, we were to choose a card that represented what we had seen/felt. I chose an image of a door opening onto a bright and sunny field, with mountains in the distance, and a bright blue sky with white clouds. Then we were instructed to place the card on a sheet of paper and continue the image. I turned the card into another door, opening onto the same scene. Then I turned that into another door, opening onto the same scene. The final image was of three doors and three fields. Then we did another guided imagery, continuing where the previous one left off. Through each door, I saw each of my children dancing and playing outside, in their own world. They were separate, yet linked together. And I was with them individually and all together, at the same time. I had a feeling of being inside and outside, present with them, and, at the same time, a presence around them. It was a very powerful image for me. I felt happy, and complete.
During the afternoon, we again had the opportunity to rest, go for a walk, or participate in a laughter workshop, led by A, one of the participants, who also leads laughter workshops. I really wanted to participate, but I was so tired. I went to lie down and set an alarm to wake me up in time. When the alarm went off, I was still too tired, so I set it for another hour and just slept. I really needed the rest.
For the next session, we divided into three workshops: drumming, singing, and Israeli folk-dancing. I signed up for the drumming workshop, because that is an area that interests me, and it is also the area where I have the most potential to learn something (I am talented both at singing and folk-dancing, but I have no natural ability to drum!). At first, I really felt incompetent! It was difficult for me to follow and I certainly could not improvise. In the end, I was able to follow (most of the time). It was a lot of fun!
Afterwards, there was a lecture by a Rav who many find inspiring. He spoke well, but his message did not really speak to me. I found it difficult to concentrate. I kept deliberating if I could "escape," but I did not want to be rude and I was sitting in the front row. I stuck it out. Towards the end he shared some anecdotes that were interesting and entertaining.
That evening, all the different groups performed some of what they learned/experienced. It was very special.....and so much fun! I do not know how to capture in words the creative energy. The performances were rough, but wonderful. Everyone just had fun.
Afterwards, no one wanted it to end. We just kept singing and dancing. It was amazing. All these super-frum, religious women dancing so freely, and singing religious/spiritual songs. It was liberating. There was a real spirit of camaraderie and caring.
The evening drew to a close, and still no one seemed eager for it to end. N invited women to hear more stories and a large group pulled up chairs and sat in a close circle. At first I though I would listen, but I had other issues that were on my mind.
I approached the social worked who leads our support group, and we found a quiet corner to sit and talk. We spoke for a while, and though I did not feel that I had resolved anything, I did feel like I clarified some of my thoughts. I looked forward to discussing the issues more during our next support group meeting.
On my way back to my room, I stopped to talk with R, from my support group. We ended up speaking for a while. It was quite late when I finally fell into bed. Needless to say, I did not have any trouble sleeping the following morning.
The last day was short, but intense. Like last year, we ended with a "mesibat amenim" (a Blessing Party) -- traditionally, a group of 20 women gather together and each, individually, say a bracha (blessing) over each one of the five food groups (maga aish מגע אש -- mezonot (baked goods), gefen (wine/grape juice), eitz (fruit that grow on trees), adama (fruits that grow in the ground), and shehakol (everything else). After each bracha, all the women answer "amen," totaling 100 brachot and 100 times saying amen. We were a lot more than 20 women, so we said the brachot a few women at a time. Saying the brachot, and answering amen, 1oo times is supposed to be a segulah -- a way of strengthening the power of our requests of God.
Afterwards, we each took a few moments to share with the group what this retreat meant to us.
It was surprisingly difficult for me to summarize what I felt. I was overwhelmed with gratitude towards Beit Natan for providing me with such a wonderful opportunity. I also felt incredibly close to the women in the group, and was so happy for the time we spent together.
And then it was over.
But not quite.
I thought I would sleep on the bus ride back. Hah! The bus was abuzz with conversations and, before I knew it, we were heading up the hills towards Jerusalem.
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,