If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll be aware that this year has seen a lot of changes for me on many different levels. It’s been a year of working to get clearer on my path in life, working towards honouring my own needs over others’ expectations, and working on expressing myself creatively. Events of the last few months have been tough – I left my job in July because I had reached the end of my tether and the stress would have seen me rapidly heading into deep depression if I’d stayed; I’m living at home with my parents and relations have become increasingly strained as we’ve tried to negotiate being adults together under the same roof, and all of us trying in our own ways to cope with various frustrations. I’ve been trying to re-find myself after years of being many things for other people, and trying to re-assert my true voice and needs, un-learning old patterns, and beginning to build the foundations for a happier and more creative life for myself.
Some of this work has been done with the support of Michelle McCartan, an intuitive and heart-centred coach based in Devon. Michelle has supported me via a series of Skype sessions to set the groundwork, to really delve deeper into my identity and filter out the parts that have been imposed on me by expectation or feelings of ‘should’, and to learn again how to really listen to myself, my inner voice, intuition, and to trust what that voice, and my body, are telling me about my truth.
A few weeks ago in September I had the huge privilege of finally meeting Michelle in person when I stayed with her for a Homecoming Retreat – four days of focused time, space, and work to really get clear on where I’m going next. It was even more of an honour knowing that I was the first person to stay in the newly-renovated retreat apartment attached to Michelle’s beautiful family home. The space is absolutely beautiful, immediately restful and calming, comfortable and homely, spacious and uncluttered, filled with light, and with stunning views over the adjacent paddock with its majestic tree which features frequently in Michelle’s own photos.
I arrived on a rainy Monday afternoon to a warm welcome, Michelle straight away putting me at ease and inviting me to let the space feel like mine for the duration of my stay. I had also pre-booked a luxurious hour-long massage with a therapist that Michelle recommends and uses herself, and this was a wonderful way to really relax into my retreat time. During the week I also took some time to explore the local area, which I had last visited 20 years ago, to sit outside in the garden enjoying the September sunshine, to walk in the local community woodland, and plenty of time to just relax.
The central work of the retreat took place over three two-hour long coaching sessions with Michelle, which felt a little bit like cosy chats with a friend, relaxed as we were on the sofa in the apartment (though the option was there to use Michelle’s study, the library, or sit in the garden if I wanted), but I could definitely feel the physical tiredness of tough mental and emotional work at the end of each day. My goal for the retreat was to get clearer on definite plans for setting up my own creative business, the steps I would need to take, and importantly, how I would keep my own self-care needs at the centre of my new lifestyle.
Having been in contact with Michelle ahead of the retreat, she was aware of the struggles in my home environment, and discussing that, and possible solutions, actually became the first area we tackled. Through gently guiding but deeply insightful questions, it soon became clear that my current physical space and circumstances are not going to be conducive to the work I want to do – I already feel stuck and constrained, lacking the freedom to really live how I want to, and in a way that will allow me to grow my new business. Envisioning over the next couple of days how things would be and would feel different in a space of my own lead to a plan for finding a place of my own to rent so that I can move out from my parents’ house and make this first step. A couple of weeks down the line – I’m working through the first few stages of this plan, but honestly, still feeling a lot of that stuckness, and definitely some fear around talking to my parents about my plans. They are of a particular generation and mindset and seem to find it hard to understand and appreciate that other ways than theirs are possible, and that sometimes risks have to be taken because the pay-off will make things better. I know I need to make it happen because otherwise I will stay unable to move forward, and will likely end up sliding backwards into those old habits, and bowing to the pressure to conform to what they see as normal and best. I know they love me and ultimately want me to be happy, but it’s really hard when I don’t know how to help them see that my happiness lies down a different path.
The second part of my work in these few days was around my business ideas and plans, but here again, Michelle was able to help me pause and take a step backwards to look at the bigger picture, although I had gone with a fairly definite idea that I was keen to make happen. At the time it seemed incredibly counter-intuitive to ask for all of my ideas – any possible businesses that I could or would like to build – and what it was about them that appealed. But in reality, this probably lead to the biggest breakthrough with the realisation that larger concepts of connection, creativity, and meaning are the important elements for me and for what I want to bring to the world. It also became apparent that if I followed the route I had planned, it would probably turn out just as restricting as any ‘normal’ job, leaving me tired, under pressure, and lacking the time or energy to fit in the things I want to do that nourish my body and soul. It may be a bit of a cliché these days, but imagining and writing down what my ideal day (week, month…) would be like definitely helped provide a framework for how I would like my business to fit in with my life, and not just have to fit my life in after work. As soon as this framework started to take shape, the ideas began to flow in earnest, things that felt exciting (an actual, physical sensation of tummy butterflies, heart bursting, needing to literally move forward), possible, with potential for comfortable growth over time, my mind heading down all kinds of tangents of website, blog, social media, e-courses, workshops… It became quite hard to tame the enthusiasm at times, to not get carried away and just want to throw myself in immediately. But yet again, Michelle was there with her calm wisdom, offering guidance towards a step by step plan, working out what could be done when, what needs to happen first before the next element can be added, how I can remind myself to check in with my heart/body/intuition/inner voice to make sure that what I’m doing feels right for me. I’ll talk in more detail about my ideas and plans in a future post, but my goodness I’m excited.
I suppose you could make a retreat like this whatever you wanted, and trust me, the temptation was definitely there to basically do nothing all week, to rest, relax, read, sleep, sit and enjoy the view. And as restorative as that would have no doubt been, it wouldn’t have been any different than going on holiday alone for a few days, and I wouldn’t have made any progress with getting unstuck. Giving my retreat a focus and an aim meant that, yes, it was hard work, intense, emotional at times, and meant me spending time in the afternoons and evenings thinking and writing and planning when I might have liked to just chill out. But what I came away with was so worth it. Greater knowledge and acceptance of who I truly am, belief and trust in listening to myself when making decisions, confidence (still to be tested!) to speak up for what I know to be right for me, a sense of momentum carrying me more surely towards where I’m meant to be, concrete plans for how to get there in a way that honours my own needs, understanding of what is important to me, what lights me up about creating and connecting with other people, a deep knowing that it’s OK to be ‘into’ lots of different things and to want to include them all in my life, a need to help people, to find solutions, to guide them towards exploring their own creativity, in whatever way that manifests best in their life. A vision of a brighter, happier, more creative life.
I definitely couldn’t have got to this point on my own though, or certainly not in so short a time, and for that I have to thank Michelle, from the bottom of my heart, for her support, guidance, wisdom, serenity, and for sharing her time and space – and her beautiful heart and soul - with me. I would whole-heartedly recommend a retreat, or coaching, with Michelle if you are in any way stuck in some area of your life, feel lost or like you’re going round in circles, have the seed of an idea but need some help to start it growing. Michelle will listen and understand, and will help you unlock your own answers – and I guess this is the key thing, you need to be willing and committed to put in the work yourself, to dig deep even when it gets uncomfortable, to listen to yourself and to be the one that makes the changes in your life.
I think the moment that really encapsulates my retreat was waking up on the Thursday morning, after a couple of days of deep hard work, feeling like things were starting to come together, and then pulling up the blinds to reveal the most magical view out the window. It was a perfect autumn morning, a low mist hanging on the grass, a clear sky, and the sun rising behind the tree casting bright beams of light onto the space where I sat. And I sat by that open window for over an hour, though it seemed like a few minutes and forever all at once, watching the light change, the mist shine, the dew sparkle on cobwebs like diamonds, breathing in that fresh, cool morning air and being warmed by the sun. Everything felt right. My body felt relaxed, my mind quiet, my heart light, and as I watched the tree I wished to be a little bit like her – standing there through the decades, proud, confident, weathering every storm, beautiful, providing shelter, slowing changing and growing with the seasons, but always just being exactly what she is meant to be.
For more details about Michelle’s work, or to plan your own homecoming retreat, please contact her through her website here.