Letting it Go, A Re-Post


Today on Facebook, one of my high school buddies referred to Kairos, which was supposed to be a life-changing retreat us Catholic school girls attended our junior year. It made me think of the below.


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. And release. Whatever we are, we are.


(Photo from here.)


P.S. THIS was a life-changing spiritual retreat.


7 Responses to “Letting it Go, A Re-Post”

  1. Laurie Ann says:

    We did our retreat in the beginning of our senior year, and I swear the only way they got us to have any kind of epiphanies was by sleep deprivation. They woke us at dawn and kept us up until 2am. We were delirious, not moved by the spirit. I, too, hate forced participation, or as my friend calls it Mandatory Fun.

    This was also the retreat in which I called one of the nuns Grendal’s Mother, and she heard me because of a hole in the wall of the dorm room that led right into her room. Yay!

  2. I’m 43 and I still haven’t had a life-changing spiritual moment.

    And I can’t decide if I desperately want one or if I’ve gone so long without an awakening that I’m better off not at this point.

    You’d tell me if you knew the answer to that, right?

    That’s probably the wrong question to ask. Crap.

  3. Indigo says:

    That last line said it all – whatever we are, we are. I don’t believe in responding on command or expectations either.

    I’m more of a introvert person in general. When the mood strikes I tend to be able draw on deep rooted emotions that somehow move other people. If I’m totally honest, I don’t always get it, but you can count on whatever I do express being authentic and real. (Hugs)Indigo

  4. You sound so much like me. I don’t do well with the engineered spiritual experiences. They feel so false. Same with all the 9/11 memorializing and whatnot. It’s not genuine or authentic, it’s dredging up a facade of emotion for what purpose?
    I cry when I’m sad, laugh when I’m happy, but resent it when people try to MAKE me do those things for God or any other reason.

  5. Me says:

    I didn’t cry at my dad’s funeral. I think I had done all my crying by the time he died. However, put on a really good Hallmark commercial and I’m a whole bucket of mess.

  6. heidi says:

    I can so relate! I needed to read this today. Thank you.

  7. Fran says:

    I pretty much had the identical experience Deb! In fact, the whole fake BS bothered me so much that I came back and told Sister Ann all about it. And she let me go to TEC. Which was cool and far more real.

    I have a very funny Kairos story I will tell you the next time I’m in SD. Hopefully soon!

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