Letting Go

When I was a junior in high school, I attended a spiritual retreat called Kairos. It was a big secret, and every year, scores of juniors went to the retreat and came back from their week a little quieter, a little calmer, a little changed. Before I went on my Kairos week, I always wondered what happened on this retreat, whose tagline was “The Best is Yet To Come.” Then in the fall of 1985, one of my close friends attended the retreat and returned to tell us that she never really got kicked out of the public school she’d attended before coming to our Catholic enclave. She’d always said she was forced to leave because she smoked pot. Turns out it wasn’t true and she’d just said it to sound cool.


I couldn’t imagine what spiritual awakening Kairos engendered in Anne that prompted this public admission of sins, but I was intrigued and a little scared. What would I be tempted to admit? That I told my mom I hated her? That my friend Dawn and I bought a cache of Harlequin-like comics at a garage sale and traded them like Pokemon cards? I didn’t know, but I searched my brain for something, because more and more people were coming back from Kairos broadcasting their faults, and I didn’t want to be left behind.


But as I watched my friends change before my eyes and even go on to “lead” subsequent Kairos retreats, I knew I wouldn’t be one of them. I never responded to situations the way I was “supposed to;” I didn’t cry at graduations, have fun on New Year’s, or lose my virginity on Prom night. I had my moments in private, always have. And for all my naked honesty, I hate to sob in public. It’s showing a face I’m not completely comfortable with, a face that I can’t control, and that scares me. It’s too real. And sure enough, the last evening of Kairos (it was a three-night affair), I returned home to a chapel filled with friends and family, and with Little River Band’s “Cool Change” blaring over the loudspeakers. My mom had proudly presented me with a little gold cross necklace and then we took our seats as the chapel waited breathlessly for us Kairos attendees to stand up one by one and tell everyone how we had changed.


I don’t even remember what I said. It seemed so engineered to me, that I couldn’t let go in the moment. I’d had some great moments at Kairos, but it’s positioning as the end all be all didn’t sit with me. It seemed false somehow. It was like we were being told to change on command, tell the people what they want to hear, no matter if you were authentically touched by the experience.


Maybe that’s BS, and I just needed to release and stop overthinking. Lately, I’ve wondered if in general, I should. I remember one Kairos afternoon when Sister Ann played Kool & the Gang’s Celebration (never mind that I loathe that song), and told us to just “dance.” We were advised to let go, let the music move through us, and groove. I still recall that feeling of absolute mortification. I didn’t want to dance like a fool in a chapel to a song I hated.


In truth, I didn’t want to be told to have a spiritual awakening. Still, I’ve often thought I’m cracked for not having the “moments” other people do. After all, it took me a full three months to appreciate being a mom after Toots was born. At my own wedding, I didn’t feel more in love or starry-eyed than I did any other day. Instead, I tend to cry quite out of the blue at the most inopportune times or take my moral inventory during a Simpson re-run.


That’s just me. I’m still profoundly moved by births, deaths, weddings, even New Year’s, but I’m processing it all on a delayed cycle. And you know what? I don’t even know what the hell I’m trying to say here…so I’ll just let it go.


p.s. Some may call the above a “typical” about-to-turn-40 post. Damn those afternoon Simpsons re-runs.


10 Responses to “Letting Go”

  1. dude, i’m 33 and i totally understand where you’re coming from! i don’t think it has anything to do with turning 40. (btw, i totally wish i could be at your party… been at your party? has it happened yet?)
    i wholeheartedly relate to not having the “moments” others do. i wasn’t immediately in love with my children the instant they were born. my wedding day was meh. and the simpsons thing? TOTALLY ME.

    goddamnit, i love you.

  2. Diane says:

    Have you ever read someone else’s words and thought, “Crap. I could’ve written that!”? (Maybe not as well, but still :)

    I hate those ‘engineered’ moments. I prefer the sitting-on-the-toilet sorts of epiphanies. OK, maybe that wasn’t the best example, but you get what I mean.

    As always, I love what you have to say… and how you say it… thanks :)

  3. Ce – le – brate – good times – come on!

    There’s a party going on ’round here, a celebration to last through all the year…

    Serving in the US Air Force has brought a lot of meaning to my life. One of the greatest experiences was attending SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training. In short, a big part of SERE is experiencing what it might be like to be a a POW (prisoner of war). Part of being a POW is being subjected to interrogation and having some nasty people “play with your mind.”

    Where is this going?

    Ever since SERE, I’ve been extremely suspicious of organizations, events, retreats, or other groups that are selling a “spiritual awakening.” Observing those things, like the experience you described, reminds me of sitting on a tiny stool in a room with bright lights being shined in my eyes as the “good cop” interrogator starts whispering in my ear, telling me how I should feel.

  4. jan says:

    I’m similar, never could be “appropriate.”

    (BTW, your navigation seems messed up, no matter what page the URL says when you hit “previous posts”, it’s only the top two posts that show.)

  5. Ferd says:

    I’m an INTJ, and I bet you are, too. I had a similar feel during our retreat in high school, though that’s so freakin’ long ago I may have lost most of the memory cells that correspond to that experience. But I do remember the feeling of not being moved, and felt very much like an outside observer.
    I think it’s because of the “I” and the “T” that I felt that way. Today, I’m really glad about it. I have accepted the fact that I am not the same as 99% of humanity. I’m special!

  6. Midlife Mama says:

    Hooo boy I hear you on this one. I don’t know if it’s a character flaw, or stubbornness or what. But I can’t get into these “retreats” that make you do stuff like that.

    Years ago, some friends of mine went to some church-related retreat, and came back just raving about what a wonderful experience it was, bladiddty blah. Well, when they told me about it, I thought, “It’ll be a cold day in hell before I go to one of those.” First off, they took away their watches, because they didn’t want them to be time-conscious, they wanted them to be spiritually-focused. The whole thing seemed contrived and ridiculous to me. It was full of a schedule without choices. 8-9am breakfast, 9am to 10am private reflection; whatever. I don’t like having a completely scheduled day; I like to have choices. I’ve always had problems with control; as in I always wanted to be the one who controlled me. I, too, cry at inappropriate moments, and can’t cry when I should. I don’t like losing control in public.

    Believe me, honey, you are NOT alone. Lots of us seems to have the same neuroses. LOL

    Hang in there; you’re not weird, it’s everyone else! :)

  7. robyn says:

    Don’t worry about having the “right” emotions or epiphanies at the “appropriate” moments. Watching “Scrubs” often spurs moments of introspection for me.

  8. SeaBird says:

    Huh, this post resonated with me, too, and I just read the comment about the INTJ – that’s what I am as well and now I’m really wondering if you are?!

  9. Da Goddess says:

    No, that’s not some typical about to turn 40 anything. That’s exactly what a lot of people feel.

    There’s nothing wrong with delayed responses and taking time to process what you learn and feel.

    It’s also why I’m so opposed to all these various self-help and self-awareness seminars and gurus that pop up on TV and in books. Trying to shove everyone into thinking and feeling the same things, experiencing life the same? No way. We’re individuals and we need to live our own lives, feel our own feelings, and live by our own timeline.

  10. Jambala says:

    It sounds like someone from Kairos did the “Landmark Education” (EST for old timers) workshops and then with a big AGENDA in mind (Christian Proselytizing) decided to inflict his own limited understanding of what was going on onto other people.

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