Me Retreat 2014

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A view of the dining room at The Lodge at Woodloch:

(Although I wrote this over a year ago, I think it’s worth sharing again…)

I’m about to eat my snapper dinner on the first night of my annual spa “me retreat.” Just a few hours prior, I was gushing about how wonderful things are in my life. My job is interesting and seems to be going well. I have an amazing group of girlfriends who are some of the smartest, kindest, most glamorous people I know. Although I’ve only known them less than a year since relocating to Philly from Brooklyn, and they’re very different from me in a lot of ways, I’m confident that I’ll know them for life. And to top it all off I have just met the sweetest, cutest, funniest guy ever. Am I starting to sound nauseatingly happy? Well, don’t worry. I have just been brought back to reality.

The thing about a spa retreat is that you’re supposed to focus on relaxing and recharging your battery. So it is beyond me why a couple that was seated next to me during dinner was engaged in a heated argument. I mean, I can swear with the best of them but I’m not sure I relish in the sound of the f-bomb while I’m trying to enjoy my organic celery root purée. People: If you can’t get along when you’re hanging out at the spa, you are likely not compatible. I mean, when you agreed to support one another through better or worse, you had to know that a spa vacation is in the better category. What the hell are you arguing about? Did one of you forget to pack the other’s yoga pants? Well, whatever it is, I don’t want to hear it. I’m here for some FUCKING SERENITY and I will NOT let some annoying, unhappy couple ruin it for me! (OK, well, maybe they’re getting to me just a little.)

Anyway, that couple left and was quickly replaced by another. The second couple in question was doused in hyper-allergenic fragrance (no, that wasn’t a typo). The female of the duo was wearing what had to be the most sparkly, high-heeled, and totally awful looking shoes I’ve seen. Her husband looked exactly like some football player (according to him – he was so proud of this resemblance that he looked up a picture of the football hero on his phone just to prove it to me). By that time, my snarkiness was in full-on action. I felt it brewing and try as I might, I could not hold it in any longer. As the overly perfumed woman sat down next to me and introduced herself (she was actually being the better person than I, I’m painfully aware), she asked if I was “spa-ing” on my own. I replied that it has become an annual event for me to spa on my own in an effort reset myself emotionally and physically. I realized I sounded like a pretentious bitch but I could not stop myself. After all, who wears sparkly high heels and perfume to a spa? The woman continued to chat with me and she asked where I’m from. I told her that I’m a New Yorker but that I now live in Philly. (I know, Philly is growing on me but I will never claim it as my hometown. Being a New Yorker can do that to you.) The woman replied to me that she and her husband are from south Jersey. “I can tell,” I said, sounding more and more pretentious by the millisecond but not being able to stop myself. The woman said that she is originally from New York. “Let me guess,” I responded. “You’re from Queens or Long Island.” And the answer was Long Island. Being right is a mixed blessing.

As my spa trip continued, I found myself focusing on and being disrupted by spa-goers who seemed to be missing the point. Let’s see: There was the obnoxious make-out couple in the outdoor hot tub. The female component of the couple was wearing a bright pink, sequent enhanced bikini and large, gold hoop earrings. I then couldn’t help but shake my head when I went to grab lunch and saw yet another woman with dangling earrings, hair that was placed in a perfect up-do, and an obvious fake tan. She tried to act all like a spa pro, in that she showed up for lunch in her bathrobe. But she appeared anything but casual. What is wrong with people? They seem to be missing the whole point of the experience. It’s not about status. Yes, it’s pricey, but the reason people pay the price for the spa experience is to decompress – not to check in or post pictures of themselves on Facebook. Or is it?

The point of this story is that I nearly let my annoyance with others ruin my spa trip. Why was I so fixated on the status seekers? After all, their experience doesn’t have to define mine. By doing so, I was allowing myself to be just as uptight as them.

Yes, I think that sparkly heels look tacky and they probably hurt like hell. And I can’t claim to be impressed by someone who resembles a football player. Bad perfume makes my eyes and throat burn. I don’t see the point of wearing earrings to a yoga class or massage appointment. And I sure don’t endorse having a fake tan. I think that glowing, alabaster skin is far more attractive than anything that is paid for. But, not everybody shares my point of view. That shouldn’t upset me.

As I think back to my conversation with the couple from Long Island, they really seemed like decent people. In fact, the football replica invited me to join them for dinner. The woman gave me a knowing smile and told her husband that I was enjoying my “me time.” She may not understand my motivation for coming to the spa, but she certainly seemed to encourage my desire to do it my way. And furthermore, as I continued on in my spa vacation I met so many wonderfully kind and open people. One woman went out of her way to tell me that she appreciated hearing my story about channeling some weird health problems into something artistic and positive. How nice was it for her to say such a thing? Another woman who attended one of my exercise classes saw me in the hot tub and greeted me by saying, “Hi, friend!” Another woman lives in the Philadelphia area and was providing me with tidbits of advice about neighborhoods that I might like.

With all of these wonderful encounters and experiences, why was I so fixated on the few negative elements? It seems that I showed up with a chip on my shoulder, ready to be all persnickety and condescending. Here I was chastising people for not getting the spa experience, but by doing so, I was forfeiting my own.

This experience reminded me to give people a chance or at the very least, to allow them to experience life the way they want without judging them for it. After all, my friends in Philly welcomed me with open arms despite the fact that I’m fundamentally a nerdy girl who is into fringier pastimes, and they were all probably captain of their cheerleader squads in high school. But better than the fact that they took me in is the realization that I deserve it. For the first time in a long time I know that I deserve to be liked, or even loved. It’s true that my body doesn’t always treat me like we’re friends. But that doesn’t mean my mind has to follow suit. Now I just have to remember that everyone has weaknesses but they all deserve the same consideration I am learning to show myself.

So, while I’m not the nauseatingly happy person I was when I arrived, I’m certainly starting to feel more grounded. And I guess that’s truly the point of a me retreat. Not bad for a day’s work. Now, let’s see what the rest of my vacation has to offer. I’m looking forward to it. Plus, I think I spotted a gluten-free chocolate cake on the menu that I’d like to try. Even if my day sucks, at least I will have chocolate to make up for it.

Love yourself, [try to] love thy neighbor.

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