There were all the usual ingredients for a fantastic getaway weekend with the girls: gourmet cuisine, a scenic backdrop for an invigorating hike, shopping for matching Alex and Ani bracelets, endless peanut m&m’s, and lots of laughter. But this girl’s weekend also included 4 guide dogs, a stack of canes, and 3 therapists.
Lest you think we are describing some wacky Maury Povich episode, know that this was a weekend retreat we had been dreaming of most of our lives, long before we had heard of Brene Brown’s incredible work on shame and vulnerability.
The group of women who attended the “Daring to Own Your Story” June 2016 retreat flew in from various parts of the U.S., each arriving with a unique story and different stage of vision loss. But it was clear from the very first evening of laughter, tears, sighs, uh-huhs, and nodding heads, that we were all from the same tribe.
To clarify, we weren’t bearing our souls to complete strangers, though many of us had never met in person. We had been following several of the women’s blogs for years, and we all exchanged emails in the months leading up to the retreat. In an era when connecting via online support groups and blogs is the norm, this retreat allowed us to truly be present to those around us. It was easy to recognize our own struggles in each other’s stories. In addition to the many tools from Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly curriculum, it turns out that each woman had come with valuable tools to share.
The creator of this retreat, Becky Andrews, also has RP, and we felt an instant connection with her last fall when the ideas for this retreat began circulating. Becky opened up her home and office space where she runs a successful therapy practice, Resilient Solutions, to our group for meals and sessions. She chose 2 dynamic therapists to facilitate the retreat sessions. While they themselves do not have vision loss, their personal stories served as a reminder of the human struggle we all share, and more importantly, the ability we all possess to do the internal work that sets us free.
The weekend served as a reminder of the importance of finding your tribe, those people who “get it” There seems to be something magical that happens when you exchange stories with people from your tribe, especially among groups of people who have felt the need to cower or hide in the past. It’s almost as if a collective layer of shame is lifted off, and we can’t help but believe that the internal work we each take the time to do makes an impact and has a lasting effect on the community as a whole.
Our small tribe of women is part of a larger movement. We’ve noticed an increasing online presence of bloggers, advocates and innovative thinkers in the blind and visually impaired community, along with the larger minority group of people with disabilities. It’s in the air, and it’s exciting to watch. However, in a culture of scarcity, it’s often tempting to think that there’s not enough room for each of our voices. We may think that someone else has already said what we need to say, or maybe someone else will say it better. But this retreat reminded us that all of our stories matter. While there are sometimes soloists in the choir of life, the most beautiful music rises up when there are a variety of voices to harmonize.
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” Brene Brown,: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
Photo Description: Huddled hands of retreat attendees wearing matching bracelets with butterfly charms. The description of the Alex and Ani bracelet says, “Giving us faith in change, the butterfly is associated with unwavering grace, soulful insight, and eloquence on our journey.”