by Alice Wilson

Welcome to the Bright Star retreat. We hope your stay with us leaves you refreshed and rejuvenated.

Please use this journal to complete the exercises that your Revelation Guide gives you. You may also use this space to record any personal reflections.

There is a bright star in all of us. It’s time for you to find yours.

****

02/08/18

Exercise one

Write a poem with a simple rhyming scheme. This can be about anything. Try not to judge whether or not the poem is good. Just write it.

Our RG told us to take inspiration from a poet we love so I’ve chosen Tim Burton, especially The Boy With Nails In His Eyes. He is frumpy and corpulent and therefore relatable.

 

The boy with nails in his eyes

Tried to go speed dating

But in the end he just found out

Even more ways people hate him

 

The boy with nails in his eyes

Hung up his Christmas stocking

But when he awoke on Christmas day

He found that he’d got nothing

 

The boy with nails in his eyes

Tried drinking to forget

But his memories wouldn’t leave him

And the drinking made him fret

 

***

Exercise two

This is an exercise in getting to know your inner self. Write down your immediate response to the below statements. There is no right or wrong answer.

As I create and listen, I will be led.

There is no benevolent force. It is vanity and hubris to believe that there is. It is delusional and verging on pathetic to believe that you will be led anywhere by a higher power.

My creativity leads to forgiveness and self-forgiveness.

What a load of shit. You can tell an American wrote this.

***

03/08/18

Exercise three

Getting to know yourself. Complete the sentence below with whatever first comes into your mind.

If it wasn’t so selfish I’d….

Go to Asia, for a month or maybe three. I’d warm my bones, slowly bake a comforting brown heat into my body and my skin. I could walk around getting to know a new place; a reminder to myself that I can always start again. Can go somewhere unfamiliar and make it a home. I can learn a language and street names, and how to get to the shops from here and where the best flowers are sold. I can make a life from scratch.

***

04/08/18

I was doing my devotional work this morning, scrubbing the kitchen floor. I started thinking about my marriage and remembering back in the day when there was still a chance I might get pregnant. I remembered Graham saying that he would get a vasectomy after years of me taking the pill and being fat and sad and appetite-less.

Then he said that actually, he wouldn’t, when it came down to it. His body, his choice, after all. Then I remembered about going to the doctors, was it six times in the end, to ask for a tubal ligation? Once every six months for three years. I always went to those appointments alone. He was happy to leave the entire responsibility of our fertility to me.

The flowers and the cards on birthdays were nice. And he cooked a lot of dinners. Graham was good at giving gifts too. It really was nice. Those gestures were good and thoughtful and kind. But they were also fun; they were things he could enjoy doing and then feel good about himself afterwards for what a good boy he had been. Those gestures were not the hard and difficult and uncomfortable things that are no fun but are absolutely essential.

As I was scrubbing that tiled floor in the atrium this morning, I wondered how many times he had scrubbed our kitchen floor. How many times had he scrubbed the toilet bowl.

How many times we had sex did he wonder after if he might have gotten pregnant and would need another abortion.

Anyway then it was yoga and I spent the next forty-five minutes becoming increasingly aware of my frantic camel toe. I must find out how to remedy this. A sock?

***

04/08/18

I am remembering the story of the crane wife. She plucks out all of her feathers to try and be naked like a woman so that the man would love her. He wouldn’t love her, but then she could not escape; she couldn’t fly away because she had plucked all of her feathers out.

***

05/08/18

Exercise five

An exercise in nostalgia. List five favorite childhood foods:

  • Weetabix with too much sugar. Predominantly sugar. Barely a weetabix.
  • Sugar puffs. I think because I fancied the monster.
  • Knitted by nanas.
  • Cocopops.
  • Cheese Straws.

List five things you liked about yourself as a child:

  • Always covered in bugs, making potions. Eldritch.
  • I tried to jump into a photo once.
  • I deliberately wet myself when I was about nine years old because I wondered what it would feel like. (very warm, and then very cold).
  • I didn’t constantly tell myself I was disappointing and lazy.

 

***

06/08/18

Tried the sock and I think it worked, so if nothing else, this is a life hack I have gained from the retreat. Expensive. Could probably have Googled.

Walked in the orchard today, thinking about how to access the difference between my official feelings and my actual feelings and if I ever even had the ability to tell the difference between the two.

***

07/08/18

Graham got more and more handsome with the years and I grew somehow simultaneously gaunt and fat. His new partner is 51 — younger than me but not by much. Now looking at photos of J-Lo, who is also 51, makes me want to cut my own head off because I am a bad feminist as well as an ex-wife.

Exercise nine

Recovering a sense of fun. Write down five things it would be fun to try once:

  • Zorbing
  • Eat a worm
  • Shave my head
  • Get a pie in the face
  • Egg and spoon race with a shovel and an ostrich egg

 

***

09/08/18

The food here is vegan which I find annoying which I think makes me a terrible person. I made a friend yesterday, her name is Linda. She swears a lot which makes me feel relaxed. I told her about Graham; she said he sounded like a bit of a prick which made me laugh and feel vindicated. It’s a heady combination. I like Linda.

***

10/08/18

Exercise twelve

Complete the sentences below with whatever comes to mind. Try not to edit yourself.

I could probably forgive..

Graham. He wasn’t a bad husband, but he was an only child. Most people who have kids probably shouldn’t which is why we are all such wrecks. If you are going to ruin someone’s life by being their parent, at least give them a sibling to go through it with. You can tell from a mile away Graham is an only. Easily offended, terrible at sharing, desperate for attention but can’t handle it when he gets it. Poor old Graham.

***

11/08/18

Linda and I ate our vegan lunch together today and entertained ourselves by picking a person in the canteen and making up an entire life story for them. Linda chose a squat, ruddy man with the face of a scotch egg and decided that he was an amateur boules player who exclusively wears rubber socks. I laughed so much that I got hay fever. It’s the excitement; it goes straight to the sinuses. I haven’t felt this light in years.

***

12/08/18

Exercise fourteen

The theme of our reflections today is that progress is not perfection. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write about where you could make progress if you released the idea of perfection.

I loathe these platitudes. I am 57 years old, I am aware that perfection is the enemy of progress. Julia, our Revelation Guide, would tell me that I am just resisting the process. Using ritualized thought patterns to pull away from intensity. Looking back now, I suppose that’s what I did with Graham. Just stewed about how he didn’t pick up after himself or ever suggest couples therapy for us or ever go to the doctors when he was so obviously ill, instead of feeling something. What did I even feel? Despair. Boredom mostly. I felt gray and squashed.

Honestly, I think I wanted him to be my enemy. If he was a Bad Guy just like all the other Bad Guys then my suspicions that men will always do me wrong in the end and cannot be trusted, would come to fruition, and even if I was miserable I could at least be Right.

Damn.

***

13/08/18

Linda and I got a massage together in the spa today. I had forgotten how much I love massage. I might be imagining it, but it almost felt like there were some sort of *moments* between Linda and me today. I am probably imagining it. I was probably just high on massage endorphins. But we were looking at each other in a different way today. Really looking. Maybe I’m just horny.

That feels anticlimactic and narratively unsound which probably means it’s true. Hm. There are only three more days left of the retreat. I wonder if I will have time to find out if we really were looking. I’ve never looked at a woman in my life. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the retreat meant when they said, “There is a bright star in all of us. It’s time for you to find yours.”

***

14/08/18

We wove baskets today. The willows really stink of decomposing leaves and general pond slime. I made a lumpen basket which would be ideally suited to carrying things that are bigger than a large apple since there are so many holes in the bottom where I couldn’t weave tightly enough.

Linda came over to sit with me as I was peeling a reluctant satsuma at lunch today and our legs were touching the whole time. I feel like a schoolgirl. I can’t really believe this is happening. Everyone else went back in for the afternoon yoga session and Linda and I sat outside together telling each other about dreams that we had when we were children which we still remember to this day, and what it feels like to turn 50 and march towards 60, and why artichoke hearts are the best vegetable. It felt so good to just be an animal in the sun next to another animal in the sun. It felt like we were kissing. Maybe we were.

***

16/08/18

Linda and I have bought tickets to Bangkok. We leave in three weeks.

***

Thank you for visiting the Bright Star retreat. We hope your stay with us left you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

We are passionate about improving our offering and value highly any feedback you can leave. Please use this form to share your thoughts on the program, your Revelation Guide, and any other comments you may have.

There is a bright star in all of us, we hope you have found yours. 

I enjoyed a vivid and peculiar two-week stay at the Bright Star retreat. Julia, our Revelation Guide, publicly shamed me for my coping mechanisms in just the right way to get me to actually consider changing. I made an unusable basket and learned an important sock-related life hack. I also made a best friend who I think I will be friends with for a very long time. I also learned something about forgiveness and remembered how to feel light after very many years of having forgotten. Overall, highly recommended. Five stars for Bright Star.

Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash