I had a myriad of reasons not to go.
Some of them were legitimate: he’s been working all week, we haven’t had much family time.
Others were not so much: I can’t be bothered, I can write from home, why do I need to drive so far [out of my comfort zone].
I’d said I was going a month ago, but if I’m honest, I probably only made the decision fully the day before. Okay yes fine, I’ll just go.
A weekend in New Norcia, a tiny town that took me almost three hours of driving to reach (Friday afternoon at peak hour was probably not the best time to get past the city!), with a bunch of other women writers, eating and sleeping in a monastery.
It was twenty four hours of adventure that I almost passed on because I was tired. Also because I was facing an existential crisis with regards to my writing. I’d thrown my hands up in the air, with the figurative pages of my book manuscript flying up with them. I’d stopped working on it months ago because of all the self-doubt and angst that writers face when their work just doesn’t feel good enough— I decided that my shitty first drafts were too shitty (Anne Lamott, thank you).
Our first night at the monastery, we walked up dark wooden stairs that were slippery with rain, and sat in a small study. The lights were dim, it was warm and we were donned in ugg boots and cosy jumpers.
Here, we were given our first assignment. Write what you’re giving yourself permission for.
Permission to write nothing, permission to write terribly, permission to have fun or take a nap or eat chocolate.
I needed permission. Not from anyone else, but from myself.
Facing another couple of hours in my car alone on my way home, I was tempted to rush.
Rush out of the moments I’d experienced, and rush out of the slowness into the fast pace of my brain’s to-do list. Rush home faster so I could tick more things off before bedtime.
So that I could go home and once again be comfortable and in control.
As I was driving through the country I started telling myself I had permission not to rush. To keep my writer-hat on and sit with my soul-bucket full, and not to hurry into responsibility and motherhood and pouring out again.
As I was giving myself these permissions, I passed the cutest little green caravan with a fruit stand.
That would make the cutest photo I thought. And kept driving.
Coffee, I’ll stop and get a takeaway coffee for the road. The bakery wasn’t far.
The line was long, so I took a seat while I waited for my order, and pulled out my journal.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the fruit stand with it’s old green caravan, and bags of fresh mandarines.
My fountain pen scribbled these words:
I give myself permission to take the long way home.
The way that backtracks to the mandarine stand, because I desperately want a photo. And a bag of freshly picked mandarines.
The long way, past the bakery to stop for a coffee and something sweet. The long way that says stop – your family are fine without you for this moment. It’s okay to fill your own soul before you pour out for others.
And look. Look how lovely it is to lean into the solitude instead of rushing straight through it.
How lovely it is to embrace adventure, to backtrack to country fruit stands, to stop here in this busy bakery and write, as you sip your long macchiato.
Why don’t we go ahead and give ourselves permission?
Right now. Give yourself permission to take what you need—space, solitude, time out, a night off cooking or cleaning. Permission to say yes to fun: a netball game, a novel, a movie, an ice-cream with the kids.
I drove home, peeling farm-fresh mandarines that filled my car with one of my favourite winter smells. I drove, with their sweet juice bursting in my mouth, savouring each segment as I smiled to myself, full and alone and unhurried.
You’ll have time to tick all the must-do’s on your list tomorrow.
For now, give yourself permission to take the long way home.