If you haven’t read the previous post in this coupling, don’t worry, although of course you can if you like over at High Summer. As I mentioned there, I want to warn you that this is going to be a biggy, so with that, I’ve broken with tradition. This time, I’m telling you all about my summer, but in two parts. As you know, I usually write about my month, where I’ve been, who I’ve seen, and what I’ve been up to, all in one big lump, but I’ve decided to break it down a little, as this experience I think deserves a posting all of its own, so without further ado, I welcome you to Part Two… of my Amazing Summer.
You may remember that back in March I attended one of Matthew Hussey’s Get The Guy Women’s Weekends. I wrote about it at the time in Learning to Fly and told you all how life changing it was. I’m not exaggerating – that weekend for me was absolutely life changing.
At the end of that post I told you that I would be lucky enough to be joining Matthew and his team in Florida for his immersive 5 day Retreat – a full programme designed to help build a blueprint for each individual so that they can live their best lives, work through issues maybe holding them back, look at how to structure plans and goals for the future so that they become attainable, learn and gain confidence in everything we do, and so much more… a complete look at our lives. And that’s where Part Two of My Amazing Summer has taken place.
I’m going to quickly mention now that I’m not going to share the names or photos of anyone else on this Retreat, other than the Trainers and Matthew. Not because I’m not allowed, or because I don’t want to, but because I want to respect their privacy and their experience. We all attended The Retreat for very different, although surprisingly similar reasons, just as we all had our own experiences on The Retreat. This is mine.
Arriving at the hotel I checked into my room – to be shared with one of the other Retreat ladies – and unpacked. I was very nervous about the days ahead, and sat on the end of the bed for a while wondering if I’d done the right thing by coming along. It was such a massive step, knowing that I was going to have to appraise my life, look at how I approach things, talk about my fears and worries, all with and in front of a group of women I’d never met before. Total strangers… my nightmare. I felt my breath quicken and my body temperature rising as I sat alone, panic taking hold, very tempted to re-pack and get the next flight back to California. I didn’t. Instead I took a deep breath and went to the bar to get a bite of supper.
Crunching on a crouton from the Chicken Caesar Salad, and sipping on a Sam Adams, two ladies sat down at the table next to me. I sneakily listened in to what they were saying for a few minutes before realising that they were also part of The Retreat group, so with another deep breath, I turned and introduced myself. We joined together for dinner and had a lovely chat, all discussing how nervous but hopeful we were for the week ahead.
On the Saturday, six of us came together to explore Clearwater Beach, and to find the local mall to do a bit of shopping… before returning to the hotel in the evening for our Retreat Welcome Drinks – an opportunity for us all to officially meet one another and the Trainers we would be spending the next five days and nights with. It was here we were given our timetable of events.
By 7am each day we would be doing group exercise with a Trainer, Michelle, then we would meet on the beach for Gratitude. Breakfast would follow, before Content started at 10am through till lunch. We would then have either a group session with our Trainers or one-to-one’s before returning for more Content from 3pm through to 7ish. More time with our Trainers would follow, before breaking for the evening. Over 12 hrs a day for the next five days would be spent on us. No outside distractions. Just us. This wasn’t going to be a holiday.
Day One’s Content started with Matthew asking us why we were here, in Florida, on The Retreat. Tentatively I put my hand up. I explained that I had problems talking in public, real core confidence issues, and that I wanted to learn how to overcome them.
Now, Matthew has the most amazing way of getting the heart of the matter within seconds, and a bullsh*t detector that is second to none! So of course he pushed… He asked me questions that were uncomfortable. Tried to get me to answer why I had those issues. I gave a glib reply. All the while, my breath was caught in my throat. My heart was racing. I was getting hot. My vision was closing in so it felt like the room was getting dark… Another panic attack brewing. I didn’t have a good answer at that moment. Matthew left an instruction for me floating in the air as I was given a round of applause for talking first, and he moved on to the next person. That instruction stayed with me all week.
Throughout the next few days we covered amazing content, and took more notes than I though possible. We questioned our pasts, we nodded in moments of realisation, we laughed at the things we’d done before, helped each other understand things to do in the future. We did powerful visualizations. We danced like mad women to get our energy levels up. We also drank lots and lots of water!
Day Four was my toughest day. It’s the day my past came back to haunt me. The day I broke down. During an exercise where Matt took one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met to the front of the room, he did an exercise with her that will stay with me forever. The exercise was one using our internal voices. Worrier, Leader, Fighter, Lover, Joker. Watching this beautiful woman face her struggles, her reason for being with us in Florida, voicing her inner thoughts without shame, without fear, without hesitation, broke me. My darkest days came to the forefront of my mind and I couldn’t see how, if that had been me at the front of the room, I would have been able to move between voices so eloquently, so powerfully, and so assuredly. I have no doubt that it was probably one of the hardest things that person has also been through – but she was so courageous, so determined in her convictions, and at the same time, so open, I could only watch in awe.
And then the tears came. Slowly at first. But as my mind raced and my heart crushed, I couldn’t stop. We were supposed to do the same exercise in pairs, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t stop crying. I just couldn’t do it. I ran to the bathroom to escape.
Returning to the room a few minutes later, I stood just inside the door, hidden still behind a wall, listening to the group as their voices spoke their fears, their worries, their power, their determination. But I couldn’t take another step forward. I sank. Despair. As the sobs took hold again, I felt arms around me. Michael, one of the trainers, had found me.
Gently, he took me outside to get some fresh air, and to change my focus. It’s one of the things we learnt. P.F.A. Physiology, Focus, Action. Once the tears had subsided a little, he made me do the exercise… there really was no escape however much I hoped for it. Of course the sobs returned, and it took a while, but eventually, he got my Leader speaking – it wasn’t very loud, but it was there. For me, that was the hardest exercise, not least because I was a blubbering wreck doing the most emotional exercise in front of a group full of people checking into the hotel… Facing your fears in front of strangers – yeah, just what I wanted…
I returned to the room and carried on with the rest of the content that afternoon, all the while my mind racing, with memories haunting, but I got through it. Thankfully I had a one-to-one planned with my Trainer Raph, that evening, so was able to sit and talk to him privately for a while. He helped massively, and suggested some additional ‘homework’ for me which he thought would help. Afterwards I joined the girls for dinner, changing focus whilst I thought about my action.
I woke up at 5am the following morning to start my homework. What I ended up doing was writing. I needed to get my thoughts onto paper, so rather than produce a list of things to work through, I wrote. I wrote what was to become a speech. I didn’t intend for that to happen, but writing in my own voice is easier for me, its how my mind works, so it’s what I did that morning to help me work things through. For two hours I sat in bed getting my thoughts out, working through my deepest issues, sobbing again as my fears landed on the paper.
I joined the morning exercise class a little late, but I made it. After Gratitude I found Raph and walked along the beach with him. I told him that I’d written something, and asked if he would be kind enough to read it. And then I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone and asked, if he and Matt felt it appropriate, if I could read it to the group. Talking in public, facing my fears, my innermost demons being shared. Raph read what I’d written and returned it to me at the start of Content. He said one word. “Beautiful”
It was after lunch that I stood up, in front of the group, in front of these strangers that had since become my friends, and admitted the true reason as to why I was on The Retreat. Trust. As I stood at the front, I took a deep breath, and read the words I’d written. I looked out at my audience. I searched for the woman who had spoken so bravely the day before and told her that she inspired me. I searched for Michael, for Raph, for Steve, and for Matt, and for all the faces of my new friends as I told my story. And I got through it. No panic attack. No tears. Some fear. But with courage. I had, for the first time ever, spoken about my most hidden self, in public.
The instruction that Matthew had left me with on Day One, was to let him know when I thought I’d be able to talk in public, when I’d be able to answer his question of why I had low core confidence, to answer why I couldn’t speak… That was the moment I answered.
After hugs from everyone, and some music to lighten the mood (a song that will for me, forever be linked to a feeling of power) we returned to the afternoon and our final session together. The coming together of five intensive days, of listening to each others stories, of learning from their struggles, being inspired by their achievements. Laughing, crying, joking, learning, we had a final visualisation which was empowering.
I felt, and still feel, so lucky to have shared five days with these incredible women, and to have learnt from everyone there, not just Matthew and the team. I don’t think I’ll ever truly be able to explain what and how much I’ve learnt and grown in just a few short days. I know I will never be able to put into words how much I want to thank everyone that I shared the week with, how much they inspire me… and how I will be forever grateful.
We celebrated our final night together with a bit of a party, a few drinks and some great tunes, before heading outside en mass for a starlit swim in the sea, where another amazing moment took place. It was something that has never happened before, and something that will never happen again. It’s such a special moment, that again, I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not to include it here in this post. But having learnt that it’s OK to trust people with things, I’m going to share this will you.
As I say, it was something that has never happened before, and will never happen again.
Bobbing around in the water, laughing and joking as one massive group, lit only by the light of the moon, the most amazing thing happened. One by one we noticed phosphorescence sparkling in the water around us all. Just as our lives were sparking with the joy we all felt being there together, having gone through the week, the experiences, the tears, the heartbreak, the breakthroughs and the endless laughter, in that moment our world reflected exactly how we felt. It’s a moment in time I’ll never forget, and I’m sure my fellow Retreat-ers wont either. The perfect end to a truly amazing week.
You may remember that I said I had received a life changing hug from Matt during the Womens Weekend, and that perhaps, just perhaps, I would be lucky enough to receive another life changing hug on The Retreat….
I got something better.
I got a hug, but this time, it was for a life changed.