Leaving Home

In a few days, I’m going on a trip. Alone.

Two days and nights of solitude at the incredible Highlights Foundation (yes, the children’s magazine has a dreamy getaway for writers of all genres). Me, my laptop, and a stack of books.

Some of the lodging at Highlights. Oh bliss.

Some of the lodging at Highlights. Oh, bliss.

It doesn’t feel real. I’m in denial that it’s happening at all because – brace yourselves – I’ve never been away from my kids. Ever. Not for ONE night since my daughter was born seven years ago.

After giving birth to my son, I came home the same day. (Hey, I was high on hormones, what can I say?)

There’s plenty I could write about why it’s taken me so long to leave my kids, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point is, it’s happening now. I’m anxious and giddy in equal parts. I know my family will be fine (right, dad, right?!), and I think we’ll all be better for this small yet significant break, but I can’t help feel the weight of it.

My goal is to, finally, finish this novel draft. Maybe even work on a short story that has been brewing. I just hope I can live up to my own expectations. What if, upon arrival, with the days stretched before me, long and unencumbered, I freeze? What if I screw up this golden opportunity?

Of course, this is self-doubt creeping in, stealthy and sly as always. I’ve been doing this long enough to recognize the signs. Years of experience has given me the tools to shut it down. When I get stuck, I’ll get out of my little cabin and go for a walk or jog on the gorgeous woodsy grounds.

highlights grounds

I’ll grab a cup of coffee in the lodge and gain some strength from shared smiles and kind words.

One of my favorite writers, Dani Shapiro (please consider reading Still Writing if you haven’t already) recently posted some gorgeous photographs on Instagram of her recent writing retreat, along with these simple goals:

Writing

Reading

Walking

Thinking 

Connecting

That’s exactly what I’ll be doing the moment I leave June 22, the day after Father’s Day, summer solstice, and the eighth anniversary of my mother’s death.

This trip is a gift, a literal one, for my upcoming 40th birthday. My husband will take his own later this summer. We got the idea from some friends who celebrated their milestone this way. A few months ago when we decided to make our plans, I immediately knew what I wanted to do.

My husband was surprised. “Don’t you want to go to a spa? Get massages? Relax and unwind?”

“Nope,” I said without hesitation. “I want to write. That’s all.”

I’m lucky that way. I’ve always known what I wanted to do with my life, what I wanted to be. For years I wasted my time, or maybe I just didn’t have enough life experience, maybe it wasn’t the right time.

But it is now. I’m ready.

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37 thoughts on “Leaving Home

  1. Dana- I’m truly so happy for you- and inspired. I also have never been away from my daughter, and I was recently thinking of taking a trip to a writer’s conference next year. So many thoughts came up…I’ll have to see how yours goes! Love the idea of gifting each other time away doing your thing. xxoo

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    • Thank you so much for your kind well wishes. I can imagine the milestone of leaving your girl for the night. But maybe next year a writing conference or retreat will happen. They really are a wonderful way to reconnect to your passion and be in such understanding company.

      I’m nervous still about going, I’m feeling simultaneously thrilled and sick to my stomach! But off I go despite or in spite of my fear.

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  2. also- it was almost eery how as soon as I posted my own blog post- I saw yours pop up in my email. We were sitting finishing them up at the same time.

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  3. How wonderful. I went to the Highlights Foundation a few years ago and I count my time there as some of my favorite ever. The space is perfect, I got to know wonderful people and the food was absolutely incredible. Gorgeous home cooked meals placed in front of you three times a day. I am still trying to replicate the oatmeal with apricot compote. Have an amazing time. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

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    • Stacey, how cool that you were there! I can’t even believe it exists, it’s so incredibly dreamy. Maybe one day we’ll be there at the same time!

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  4. Congratulations, Dana! It is good for your kids to see you have something important in addition to them. Plus they will be so happy to see you when you come home….

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    • Thank you Laura! I agree, the kids will benefit from seeing me leave to do something entirely for myself. My son might be mad at me, though, he holds little grudges when I leave for several hours! But he always gets over it 🙂

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  5. Happy Birthday (early). My eldest daughter turns 29 today — I still remember the first time I went away on my own after she was born. It was exciting, intimidating, scary and freeing!

    enjoy the time — no matter what you make of it!

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    • Thank you Louise! Happy birthday to your daughter. I love how you remember the first time you went away after she was born! I have a feeling I will too 🙂

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  6. Highlights magazine! That was my life dream to get published there. Not that I ever tried..
    This is wonderful. A retreat! My first time away from both kids was a blog conference, so it just makes sense.

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    • Thanks Tamara! You can still make your dream come true 🙂 I loved Highlights, too. They have great writing workshops as well as Unworkshops. It’s not too far from you…

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  7. This is on my bucket list too Dana, so excited for you, you will find creative flow just by doing this. It will be a great time for your kids too. When you return they will have become a little more independent and this in itself is a wonderful gift to them. Can’t wait to read how it felt to do this and wish you much joy and writing.

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  8. Dana, this looks like a slice of heaven on earth! I hope you enjoy every moment. Years ago I went on a 2-day retreat upstate, right on the Hudson. It was an incredibly productive time.
    Please send a full report when you get home.

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    • Yes, slice of heaven truly! I am hoping for a productive time, though I just had a mini fantasy of taking a big nap 🙂 Will definitely report back!

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  9. What a wonderful way to spend time recharging, reading and writing. Sending you productive vibes! Can’t wait to hear about it, Dana. Happy Happy 40th! xo

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    • Thank you so much Rudri. You were in my thoughts yesterday on Father’s Day. Once I’m back in town I look forward to reading your post about your dad.

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  10. Sounds divine. Time alone is essential for not only writers, but I think wives and mothers too. It took me a long time to give myself this gift but I’m glad I did. Its the perfect birthday present.

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    • I totally agree, Laurie! Everyone deserves and needs time away. And yes, the best birthday gift! I’m glad we both had the same awesome idea 🙂

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  11. Pingback: Highlights Return Trip (with a Podcast Playlist) | writing at the table

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