Some of the beauts I had the privilege of spending the weekend with.
Who'd have thought we'd find a church at a Christian retreat centre?! Clearly not Joe and Gordon...
Ashburnham is so removed the the madness of London and creates so much space for relaxing and soul-searching. Plus there was no signal and the WiFi didn't really work so we literally had no distractions from reality, which in itself was pretty liberating. It was everything I usually love about camping, with slightly more warmth (as we were inside) and properly cooked food (rather than my specialty of cold beans from a can). This also lead to us having to provide our own forms of entertainment that didn't involve the internet.
These consisted of but were not limited to...
- The most epic game of Chinese Snap that has ever been played. I kid you not, it was so epic that we all had to lie on the floor on our stomachs, shoulder to shoulder and lunge towards the pile of cards in the middle as they were at least an arms width away. And with all those people playing, guess what? I was STILL losing. *Not recommended for those with sharp finger nails or claustrophobia*
- Learning how to pinch a banana open. Sounds trivial but is actually one of my proudest achievements. Apparently it's how the monkey's do it AND you don't end up with a mushy end-of-banana.
- And this, which for some reason was hilarious at the time. I think it might be a 'had to be there' moment but it'll make a few people giggle so I'll post it anyway.
Oh and I also learned that the key to making new friends is making an abundance of cookies and cakes to share.
Silliness aside, the weekend was a bit of a self discovery one for me. I mean, the past year and a bit has been that, but for some reason this weekend in particular really got some things straight for me. Whatever ever you believe - call it the Holy Spirit, call it simply gaining perspective - the overriding message on my heart the entire time was, 'no more hiding'. Which funnily enough ties into the Identity Thief series Josie and I have been writing recently. For me, the experiment taught me a lot about how I shouldn't be so obsessed with hiding my body from the world and this weekend I got to reflect on the aspects of myself, aside from my appearance, that I was insecure about or felt I should conceal.
Because really, why shouldn't your attitude to your personality be the same as to your body? You are who you are, warts and all, and no matter what people may lead you to believe nobody is all shiny and perfect. The only reason we are ashamed and compare ourselves to other people is because, like us, they are hiding all the stuff that makes them seem less perfect. There is no shame in being who you are, whether that be alcoholic, anorexic, believer, atheist, depressed, insecure and whatever else you can think of. Sometimes it can be really hard in today's 'liberal' society to be yourself, when there are so many expectations for everyone to be a certain way and act a certain way and dress a certain way. But why should we hide the negative aspects or those that others may deem negative, when it may be an inherent part of our being? Whether your secret makes who you are or hinders who you want to be, hiding it stops any use you may gain from it or help you may need to overcome it.
So I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't hide certain parts of my being any longer. And surprisingly, as soon as I opened up about things to people... absolutely nothing changed. Or at least not in the way I expected them to. Things that I had been terrified to admit because I assumed I would be looked down upon or treated like a crazy person for, were accepted and I felt an overwhelming peace and relief. It even seemed to have a kind of domino effect, in that because I'd opened up about things, others did too and I discovered that I am not so different to everyone else. 'It's not the emotions that you have, but the secrecy that will kill you', is a message that one of our student leaders felt that God had said to him, which holds so much truth because keeping something bottled up for so long causes you to create catastrophes in your head out of things that really aren't so bad.
Of course, you don't have to shout about your deepest darkest secrets to every Tom, Dick and Harry that will listen, but when you share things with those you trust, the hold they previously had on your soul just melts away. I realise I'm kinda reiterating the old, 'A problem shared is a problem halved' saying, but it really is true. I feel so much more free now I know I don't have to hide part of myself from those I love. For those who aren't so keen on the Bible, 'honesty is the best policy', or as it says in John 8:32, 'The truth will set you free'.