Cold Sand and Warm Hearts

This past weekend I attended a beach retreat for Sharon Elizabeth Photography.  Everyone loaded up and headed to Kill Devil Hills on Saturday morning, and we spent the remainder of that day eating (the refrigerator was PACKED and we were a group of seven women staying in the house for about 24 hours), taking personality tests and sharing the results, taking pictures of our beautiful selves, dancing, and playing games.  Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Oh, how wrong you would be.

Fact time:  I’m going to be talking about Sharon.  She runs Sharon Elizabeth Photography.  So…she is technically my boss, but I think she would cringe at that wording.  

Here are two things I know about Sharon to be absolutely true:  she loves hugging you so tight that it almost-sorta hurts, and she doesn’t believe in shallow conversations.  She is so incredibly open about that.  So, when you are around her, there is something different in the air…it feels more peaceful, more accepting.  It doesn’t have the rigidity of judgment.  You feel permission to talk about things that you might not normally talk about.  And that is exactly what happened.

Many of the things discussed this weekend are not mine to share.  Here is what I can say – I am proud of the women on this team for talking about hard things, answering tough questions, and for putting themselves in uncomfortable situations for the sake of growth and understanding.  As I was driving home on Sunday, I felt such a stronger connection to the six ladies I had shared my weekend with.  I felt like I knew better how to support them, had more capacity to extend grace to them because I know what their struggles are, and understood better their strengths so that I can reach out when I need help.  Women are sometimes the toughest critics of other women – it is true.  And no one is immune to the self-criticism that we unleash on ourselves.  So to sit in a room with six other women and feel the freedom to be honest with others and ourselves is really beautiful.

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Yes…this picture is silly.  But that is the point.  We felt comfortable enough with one another to be ridiculous and not overthink it.

One of the activities that we did was to write three things down that we wanted to let go of.  Writing them down didn’t mean that they magically dissolved from our lives – but it did make us address those things that weigh heavy on us.  Mine were:

  1. I want to let go of my anxiety over our upcoming ultrasounds – it distracts from me celebrating my pregnancy the way that baby and I deserve.
  2. I want to let go of motherhood expectations – I want space for grace.
  3. I want to let go of North Carolina – Virginia is my home now, whether I give it a fair shot or not.  I’m not sure I have given Smithfield a fair chance yet.  I still find myself home sick for Carolina, but also acknowledge that my child will have his roots in Virginia.

The best part about this list is that I started working on number three at the retreat…and I didn’t know it.  These women are helping me feel more connected to my new home, to this place where I am growing my family and will raise my child.  They are validating that I have a village within these state lines.  Carolina will always have such a special place in my heart.  And I’m not sure anything will be better than an empty quad at UNC during the summer.  But Virginia is slowly starting to feel like it has a place for me.

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Thank You to Amanda Hedgepeth Photography for taking these wonderful pictures of us!

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