Monday, September 17, 2007

Retreat and Surrender

This weekend past was a Women's Retreat for our congregation. This meant that we would be gone on an overnight trip up past Heber, at a fairly posh campground owned by the LDS church. Did this same thing last year. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Last year.

Last year, however, I opted out of the ropes challenge course that was scheduled for the Saturday morning part of the retreat, and went on a leisurely hike with a friend. We were hardly the only ones who chose not to go, and I didn't feel badly about my decision. There was not a ton of pressure to do the challenge course; it was just one of several activities scheduled for the day. Cut to this year, and we got booted from the campground early, as they were opening the grounds for an open house... something they had failed to mention to the women in our congregation who had booked the camp. The ropes course turned out to be the only activity, and everyone was expected to go, and at least hang out.

Until ya got there, and then the course instructors took over, and the option to not participate became practically a doctrinal issue.

I jest, but only a little.

I was so not up for what followed, but then, I had not been up for what preceded either. That morning before breakfast, there was a bit of a stir, because one of the women in the cabin I was staying in(there were about fifteen per cabin), had gotten up and moved out of the cabin around four in the morning, declaring to her friend that a few hours of sleep would be better than none and she just couldn't take all the snoring anymore. I didn't think too much of it, even though I know that I do snore, as I was clear across the rather large room from her, and every time I had awoken that night, I could hear one or two other women snoring softly. Sister Gottagetsomesleep made sure to announce, to the entire seated breakfasting group, that I was the one who's snoring had caused her to move to another cabin. When other cabin mates objected and qualified, she took particular care to point out that it absolutely was me. I was mortified, but I tossed my head and let it slide on by.

I know her. She is a deeply unhappy and bitter woman, but I don't think she meant to hurt me in any particular way. Perhaps I am too good at my joking and capable woman facade, and she felt like I could take a few hard digs. Maybe some days I could just shrug this kind of thing off, but that day, it hurt.

Cut to the ropes course:
The first thing to happen when we get there is a brief speech in front of what was known as the High Course. This included explaining about the belaying ropes, carribiners, harness rigs and other devices that would keep us safe; so long as we were a particular weight or under. And I am not. But it was OK, they explained... us fatties would still be able to do most of the other activities. That's not what they said, but please understand, that's how my sore heart translated the rest of what was said. Not that I was much interested in the humiliation of dragging myself up the small rocks pegged into the side of one huge tree trunk, sliding across a high wire, or rappelling down another equally intimidating tree. But to know that I would not be allowed even if I desired. Hurt.

The fun did not stop there, but my facade of spunky fat girl did not slip once, not even when I forced myself to do the "trust fall" thing, so as to not be the only one who didn't, and to set a good example for the nervous sixteen year old girl who was with us.

"See? Even the fat old lady can do it... they didn't drop her, they won't drop you!"

I made it till I got home and got in the shower; the heat and the water dissolving my will, and my resolve, and my defences. Poor Dadguy could only sit and hold the mewling wife that he had so bravely sent off the night before, in hopes of getting a refreshed and uplifted spouse back. Even still, to my horror, I cannot see the monitor to read my words as I type this. Each new activity that day was shame upon humiliation. The activity of writing it all down is almost as brutal. Why I am posting this is entirely beyond my ken, except I don't feel like keeping this garbage to myself anymore. Y'all, I am doing Weight Watchers, but this is the story that is shared when the teller is millions of sizes smaller than when these kinds of things happened. I am maybe five pounds down from two week ago, and staring at the very real possibility that I don't have what it takes to get it off or keep it off.

But I am also angry at the thoughtlessness that went in to this activity. There is one overnight retreat a year, and we are gone from our homes and responsibilities for less than 24 hours... this is the best thing they could come up with? I was definitely NOT the only woman who opted out of doing the High Course (or were opted out because of weight... I didn't ask), and not the only one who struggled with some of the other physical challenges posed by the "Group Activities."

I will not be doing this again next year even if I am the fitness freaking queen of the world. I think I will be kinder to myself, and just hang out with people who will be kinder to me, and do things that are actually uplifting and that I enjoy. Although I will be sorry to miss the fellowship and the getting to know you portions of the retreat, I just don't have the heart for this anymore.


froglette79 said...

Not Fair. Nope, not fair. They should pick a slow group hike if they want to do something physical.

I am sorry that it went so badly. You're one lucky duck to have a good place to come home to. :)

elizasmom said...

Oh, bon, that sounds AWFUL. I send you cyberhugs and big ups to Dadguy for being so supportive! This sounds like it was so, so poorly handled from start to finish.

I have been a part of spiritual events that involve physical exertion, so I know that it can be done in a way that challenges everyone at their level without making half the group feel like crud. This was not your failing, it was theirs, 100 percent!

The Grumpy Sleeper was not the organizers' fault, but a quiet word to her from the organizers about how unChristian her comments were would not have been out of place.

I don't know what the culture in this group will allow, but a letter explaining why you have no intention of attending next year might not be amiss.

As for Weight Watchers, woman, you've lost 5 pounds already?! That doesn't sound like someone who doesn't have what it takes!

shoeaddict said...

Mean people suck. I know how bad it hurts to be the "bigger" girl, to be the fun, sassy, one that can "take it".

I don't understand how this exercise is very Christian-like when it excludes people of a certain weight or if they are older or have disabilities. How is that bringing women together?

Annie Jones said...

Ouch. What a weekend for you. But now you are home and back in the blogosphere where everyone loves you!

Shelli said...

You do have what it takes to take it off and keep it off. Just look at all the other things you have conquered.

It sucks that the people who plan that and the instructors are insensitive boobs. They don't know you very well or they wouldn't have hurt you like that.

sari said...

I'm sorry. It sounds awful.

I don't understand how people think that they can be that way and it's all right.

I wouldn't go next year either, but if "they" asked, I'd tell them why!

Anonymous said...

I am completely with my daughter, Elizasmom. Only she said it so much more nicely. This was either criminally stupid or ruthlessly thoughtless. Don't do that ever again. Unless, of course, a few years down the road, you would like to turn this awful experience into something positive. You could be there for other women, to encourage them to do just what they feel comfortable with and enjoy whatever they can get out of this retreat. That would be a very kind thing to do, and maybe show the organizers a way of how things can be done much more graciously. And I admire you for confronting your feelings and writing them down. That's brave, and it also is a big step to deal with them. Lots of fuzzy hugs!

Jessica G. said...

Ditto to elizasmom (especially the parts about the letter and the five pounds).

I feel your pain in every chubby inch of me.

bon said...

Y'all are some true friends, and I tell ya... if they try and pull this activity again next year, I WILL be having a quiet chat with the organizers... because, like Shoeaddict says, I am that sassy bigger girl who can take it. And I couldn't take it. What about those who are less sassy?

I'm not saying "don't do it" to the looked like most of the women (my friends) had a real meaningful experience. I am just saying "have an alternative as well." I would have chosen the alternative.

But I will only be having that chat if they do this again. I know these women, they would feel very bad if they had any idea what this felt like for me. Was never their intention.

As for Sister Crustypants, that was totally HER. I just couldn't shake it like I usually do, so "meh" to both of us!

Amber said...

Oh Bon! That sounds horrible. I feel your pain in so many ways. Sister gottasleep was completely uncalled for. Also 5 lbs in 2 weeks is fabulous. I have started and stopped so many diets this year alone that I'm kicking myself. Stick with it.

Anonymous said...

You are loved and the rest, just stuff that comes with the territory. You are clever and certainly blessed and I do love reading your blog. RB

Becky..Absent Minded Housewife said...

Ugh Bon, that's horrible. I probably couldn't have kept my mouth shut after the "they won't drop you" comment.

An etiquette forum I visit often advises the comeback, "Wow, that's an interesting assumption!" Said with the right inflection you could have had the ropes ladies absolutely appreciating your wit and grace.

...and then you would have been asked to plan the event next year........

Jo said...

Props to you dear! I think you handled the whole thing better than I would have. I am sorry your ward was soooo focused on their mark, that they looked beyond it and missed it completely. If this activity was about bringing the sisters together, they have totally failed. How sad. I am just heartbroken for you, and there is NO way I could shake that other sister's remark off, that would have killed me/made me furious. Yikes. Hugs to you honey. You are loved.

Mama D said...

Bon, I am so glad that you made it through. I know how horribly disappointed I would have been if something I looked forward to had turned out so badly. It is really too bad that the people responsible had no idea that the activities they planned could be so exclusive. I think you are just the person to clue them in. That way this sort of thing never has to happen again. It sucks to be a spokesperson but I do believe some of us are born with the ability.

P.S. I think you are doing fabulous with the WW thing. Don't let anything discourage you. If you could survive the past year you can reach any goal you set for yourself!

Brittany said...

I think 5 pounds is AWESOME! When I did ww they said only expect to loose 1 pd a week--that was wonderful! So I think you are doing awesome!! Don't get discouraged!

I am so sorry that your week turned out so could have called us and we would have come to get you....we could have went to a movie with a big ol' bucket of popcorn and Dr. Pepper! It would have been worth the 200 points :)!

There always has to be one Onery ol' woman at every get together( I just don't get it)...Every party has a pooper that's why we invited you....Sis crustpants!

Fantastagirl said...

I am soo sorry this happened. The organizers should be aware that next year - different options need to be available. Please write the letter.

You can do the weight loss thing - look how much you have accomplished in your life. You have what it takes, you are an amazing woman - amazing, you can do anything!!! - I'm with you!

Lynanne said...

I read your post yesterday and fretted about it all evening. My heart aches for you. No one should make you feel uncomfortable!

On the snoring: How about: "I think my nasal passages where stuffed because some one kept passing gas over on your side of the room." ;)

As for not being able to particpate. Don't beat yourself down on your weight. What about others who wouldn't be able to participate for one reason or another? What if someone had back surgery? What about people, who like me are chickensh*ts? I would have been sitting out right next to you. Should I feel guilty becuase I'm a pansy? Should we look down on the person with the bad back because she can't tough through the pain?

I agree with you that they need to find an ALL-inclusive alternative.

I second (and third and fourth.. ad infinitum) the other comments that encourage you to be proud of yourself. Focus on the bigger picture - a healthy lifestyle. You are a beautiful woman no matter what the scale says!

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

Honey, you don't deserve that - not from sister stick-up-her-butt, not from anybody. That is out and out discrimination. The whole weekend was a disaster, and if the point of the course was to build your confidence they did a whole effing lot to crush it.

AT A MINIMUM I think you should write a letter to them now.

I know that you are good at saying your piece after the fact - I hate to see you get buried in the moment. I do.

Anonymous said...

Pres. Kimball admonished the members of the Church to stop having such retreats. It takes women away from their primary obligations and mostly leads to gossip, "true confessions", and hurt feelings. Have your Bishop find the letter about retreats that was sent out in the late 80's by the First Presidency. This stuff should never have taken place.