Gone to live with the bears

Sarah's post about having special time one-on-one with her kids this summer came to my mind today because, over the next couple of days, I am having a special kind of special time. The solo kind. I'm writing this from an empty house, just me. It's winter break here and Maddy is away at Model UN Nationals this week and the boys have taken themselves on a backpacking adventure for a few days.

And they're off...

And they're off...

I'm kind of a walking contradiction about it. I miss them. And I love it. 

As much as I love time with my family crew, I completely believe in the restorative power of a good solo retreat. I think it's in my genes. My great grandmother raised nine daughters over several decades in the 1920-50s and, as you can imagine, her life was full of laughter and noise and laundry and teaching. Every once in a while (about yearly, I think) she would declare "I'm going to live with the bears!" and she would pack up and leave her daughters in good care with a relative (or with each other as they grew older) and check in at the swanky Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City for a week. 

She took a whole suitcase full of magazines with her (yes, I really am her great granddaughter in so many ways). From her journal: it was "my therapy. I could get a room for five dollars, and I read and slept and shopped and renewed myself for the next year...I'd sleep late, then out for a hearty breakfast, then didn't need to eat until dinner." Only a few select friends were invited to visit or lunch or shop with her and no one else was allowed to contact her. At the end of her stay, she would return to the house, rejuvenated and restored and ready to go on mothering. She sent the message, loud enough so I still hear it a couple of generations later, that it's okay to take care of yourself, no matter who you are or what you do.

I know this about myself: I need to go live with the bears now and then. (I know it's time when I start envying prisoners in solitary confinement for their "away time.") This new iteration is even better: everyone else goes and lives with the bears and I get to stay in my own bed, amidst my own bookshelves. There may be a movie or two, long soaks in the tub, and some good stretches of writing time in my future. Thank you, Grandma B. I get it.

Have you ever taken a solo retreat? What would you do with a few days all to yourself? Does it feel too indulgent and guilt inducing? (If so, I'll happily write you a permission note!)