Putting on Your Oxygen Mask

We all know the familiar refrain: “In the event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first.”  As parents, or caregivers of any kind, we’re often reminded of this adage and encouraged to take time for ourselves; to pay attention to our own needs, so that we can have energy for the long haul.

If you’re reading this and nodding along in agreement, pat yourself on the back!  But when was the last time you really, really, took some time for yourself?  I thought I had been doing a pretty good job of grabbing for that mask.  I had graduated from trips to the store on Saturdays (without kids!) to overnights and even occasional hurried weekends away with friends, or my sister, or my husband (again, no kids!).

But never have I taken such an extreme hit of direct oxygen as I did recently at When Words Count Retreat in Rochester, VT.  Four days.  Three nights.  Nothing to do but write, eat, sleep, and enjoy the company of other writers.  For real.  No hitch.

I'm Writing. Please do not disturb.

I’m Writing. Please do not disturb.  A.k.a.: I’m dreaming.  Pinch me.

There were several wonderful things about this place that deserve to be gushed about.  Each morning I woke to the smell of someone else cooking breakfast.  Each noon, a gentle bell would call to tell me lunch had been prepared.  Each evening, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres preceded gourmet sit-down meals which I enjoyed with my fellow writers (almost all were children’s authors – thank you, providence!) as well as the gracious and welcoming hosts of the retreat, Steve Eisner and Jon Reisfeld.  After dinner we shared our work, fireside, during hash sessions in the Gertrude Stein salon.

My use of the word ‘gourmet’ is not hyperbole.

The loose structure of the days allowed for generous, decadent chunks of time to write.  And to be alone.  Alone.  My thoughts.  My sleep.  My walks down the lane.  My views of the triumphant Green Mountains, struggling to grasp spring.  Me! Me, me, me, me, MINE ALL MINE!  I was a self-centered toddler, and I didn’t have to share a single thing.  It was amazing and liberating. I was grateful and thankful.


I don’t take lightly all the work that was being done back at home so I could experience this bliss. In fact, I’m kind of proud of the fact that it took three grown people, (plus a neighbor with a house key) to cover for me in my absence.  And I’m grateful for the warm home life I’ve returned to.  It’s just so much easier to appreciate all I have now that I’m breathing deeply and clearly again.  As life sneaks back in and starts to tap away at the heavenly shell that WWC Retreat coated me in, I’ll be so glad that I took the oxygen when I could get it.

Now, what have YOU done for YOU lately??

For more information on the When Words Count Retreat experience, click the highlighted link above.  If you are a writer, run, do not walk, to your calendar and start dreaming about and planning a trip here!

9 thoughts on “Putting on Your Oxygen Mask

  1. Kathy, I am so happy for you! Go ahead and lay your worries down. The place is fantastic. (I knew no one going in and was a bit nervous, but walked away with four new friends – and 12,000 new words!)

  2. As I am heading up to WWC Retreat for the first time a month from now, I am very encouraged by your words here.

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