I’ll never forget the moment when I decided to choose myself.
I recall it was late March. I had grown weary of the long winter in Chicago and had just finished The Gift By the Sea with my book group. In the book, author, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, describes the need for solitude so we are able to do all that we do in our waking moments. I related to her. I relish solitude. The only thing is I never take time for it.
It’s been eleven years since my first child was born. I realized I’d never gone away to be by myself for a period of time. Yes, I’ve gone on vacations with my husband and even girlfriends, but I wasn’t counting that.
In fact, the most recent experience with solitude I could recall was the night in the hospital after my third and last child. My five and three-year-old girls were not handling their brother’s entry into the world well. My husband decided at the last minute that he needed to help my mother get the two girls to sleep that night, so I was unexpectedly alone at the hospital. Much to my surprise I was giddy.
The nurses were caring for my son, and while I was just hours out of labor and experiencing all the beautiful things the body does post-labor, I didn’t care. I was by myself. I brought out the Reese Cup that I’d put in my bag to celebrate my eight hour labor. Like a queen overlooking her kingdom from my hospital bed in my white gown, I cherished both the chocolate and the solitude.
The next morning my husband called to tell me he was coming to pick me up. “But it’s only 9:00 am and I’m allowed to stay until 12:00. Don’t pick me up until then,” I said. I wanted every minute. (In hindsight, I should have seen this as a sign.)
So now 5 ½ years later, I knew I was ready for some extended solitude. My husband as always was supportive.
But where shall I go and what will I do?
Well as we know “ask and ye shall receive… seek and you shall find.” The following day I saw an advertisement for a weekend retreat with Oprah.
Even though the event was months away, I knew what I was to do. I bought a ticket and decided I’d figure out the details later. All that mattered was… I was going!
I recall noticing at the time that there were VIP tickets. I’d never considered upgrading anything before. It intrigued me enough to look twice. I tossed out the idea to my husband to see what he thought. Asking a “minimalist” a question like this was like asking someone in Antarctica if they’d like a freezer. “Why?” he asked. I knew the response before I asked the question. The better question was “Why did I ask?” I quickly dismissed the idea.
A week later I heard a ‘whisper.’ “Why don’t you upgrade your seat?” In that moment, I chose me.
I made the call and got my upgraded ticket. I knew that if I let that voice inside tell me I shouldn’t, it would affect how I thought about myself. I would always wonder what could have been.
After Oprah’s keynote that first night, I along with others were escorted into the VIP lounge for drinks and food. Oprah had changed into a beautiful iridescent dress that made her look like an angel from afar.
I am not a star gazer or celebrity stalker. I don’t read People Magazine, and I’ve never stood in line to have a book signed by an author. I don’t know what that says about me. I’ve just never been moved to do so. I felt differently about Oprah.
As I walked up to her she grabbed my hand. She complimented my necklace. I said “thank you for being you.” We discussed that my daughter would be on her upcoming Life Class with Dr. Shefali Tsabary. We talked briefly about the actual taping of the show a few weeks earlier. We both agreed how great Dr. Shefali Tsabary is. In our few moments together, I could see how Oprah worked to listen and make every person feel like they mattered. She was everything I thought and then some.
I got teary eyed several times during the three-day experience, but not for the reasons you might think.
The VIP experience was less about getting a seat in a certain area or getting my picture taken with Oprah (though both were five-star experiences.) I was moved because I had heard the ‘whisper’ to choose me, and I listened and honored it.
I chose me to get away. I chose me to do what I love. I chose me to feed my mind, body, and soul. I chose me as a VIP. I didn’t wait for someone else or luck to decide.
Life has taught me that the real way to success, happiness, and joy is to honor our spirit and obey our calling. Our life is in our own hands. We are the masters of our fate. We are the heroes of our lives.
That requires that we choose ourselves and engage in the struggles, difficulties and uncertainties that come with getting from where we are to where we are called to be.
My weekend alone was testament that when we heed the call and choose ourselves as the hero of our own journey, what’s on the other side is beautiful. My meeting with Oprah was a symbol to me that I must keep listening and obey the whisper.