The Real World
Friday afternoon, I drove to Arrowhead Ranch, a camp and retreat center in Lake Arrowhead, for a retreat with a group of about 40 men from my Thursday Night Men’s Meetings. That is my official … if not totally genuine … reason for not posting since last Wednesday. The truth is, nothing inspired me to write. Yes, Jack London said, You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club, but since writing is my avocation not my vocation (avocation sounds so much more grown-up than hobby, doesn’t it?), sometimes I choose to just wait. Or retreat, in this case. But here I am, back again. Did you miss me?
I have been attending these retreats biennially for eleven years. Some years ago, the San Lorenzo Retreat Center we all loved closed its doors, making nomads of us. We have been at four different sites since and some of the group have not been happy at each of them, each retreat ending with a discussion of whether we want to stay or try onther location. I have liked them all because it is the men that make the retreat but not everyone agrees. We have been alternating sites for two years now and neither seems to satisfy enough of us to make it a permanent home. Personally, I love being in the mountains, so I would be happy to settle there but it appears the best I can hope for is to keep alternating.
For me, the retreats are an opportunity to step away from The Real World and focus on spirituality and self-improvement. Every retreat is different because a different leader is chosen for each one, and he determines the topics for the meetings and the meeting format. With forty to fifty guys, everyone is not always happy with the leader’s choices, but we all do our best to play nice. Mostly, we do and when we don’t, we all learn by getting past the controversy. This year’s retreat focused on looking back at our lives at the ages of 17, 47 and 57 (the reason for those particular ages lie in an essay written by Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous). It was not my cup of tea, not because I don’t like to look back but because in the last 25 years, I’ve done all the examination of the past I care to do. Still, it was obvious that the topics moved others deeply, so I went along for the ride with as little grousing as possible (at least out loud). For me, was more of a social retreat than a spiritual one like those in the past but that’s OK. Fellowship in a beautiful place is good for the soul, too.
The older I get, the less I like to be away from my wife, Muri, so it is our tradition to go out for dinner together on Sunday night when I get home. It is a nice way to ease back into The Real World … and the entire weekend helps me remember how good my Real World is.