And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Last night, when I went to bed, I couldn’t sleep for frustration. I hadn’t been able to figure out what I was going to write about for this week’s Moment. There are weeks when the whole world seems so dark, I struggle coming up with a Moment. But this week wasn’t dark. My every thought was toward going away on a retreat, leaving on Friday, having an entire week to write and to sleep and to stare at a lake and literally do whatever I want whenever I want, and not do it at home. At times, I felt giddy, other times, worried. It’s been an entire year since I’ve been away from home. COVID grounded me. And now…and now…I am going to step out.

This morning, I woke up with the same frustration. I began to peg through my schedule, figuring in everything that is supposed to happen between now and tomorrow at 1:00 p.m., adding in a surprise vet visit for my dog who was suddenly limping, and wondering how I was going to get it all done…when I realized.

My Moment of Happiness this week is that I am feeling anticipation. I’m excited! I’m looking forward! I’m going on a road trip in a new car and I’m going to be all by myself in a little one-room cottage that faces a lake and OHMYGOD, I’M GETTING THE HELL OUT OF DODGE!

It’s been a year. I think it would be wrong to say it was a totally awful year, as there were some really nice moments and events. But…it’s been a year.

Since I started my studio, AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, I’ve made it a point to get away, by myself, for at least two weeks every year. I typically go to the Oregon coast (I’ll be there in July!), which is pretty much as far away as I can get without leaving the country. Few more steps and I’d be riding a whale to Japan. The retreat has become so important to me, because when I’m there, I feel like I sink most deeply into who I am. I step away from my roles as wife, mother, grandmother, instructor, editor, coach, business owner, even, really, my role as woman. I become just…a writer. Me. I’ve deliberately left the studio phone as a landline so that I can’t take a cell with me – the studio stays home. For those two weeks, I sleep when I’m tired, I eat when I’m hungry, I read what I want to, and…I write. I also paint, but the painting is for pure enjoyment, not for the outside world.

In the last year, I couldn’t do that. I tried to take breaks from my home, but it just doesn’t work that way.

A few years ago, I won a week-long retreat through a contest with a Wisconsin writing organization. I was delighted, but I knew one week wouldn’t be enough. I decided to forego Oregon and combine that week with an additional one in a lakeside cottage somewhere. The won retreat was in the middle of Amish country, and I knew I would miss being by water. So I found this little cottage on Lake Onalaska, near La Crosse (one of my favorite Wisconsin towns). My week there was idyllic. And so, even though I know I’m going to Oregon in July, I decided I would take a week’s retreat back to that cottage. When I booked it, I didn’t know the vaccine was going to be spreading almost as fast as COVID did. I reasoned that, even going during the time of COVID, I am basically trading one set of four walls for another set, but this new set looks out on a lake and is, above all, quiet, tidy, lovely.

And now I’m less than 24 hours away from being there.

My adrenalin is up, not from fear, but from anticipation. Everything in me is leaning forward, ready for the starter’s pistol: Get ready…get set…GO! RELAX! WRITE! BE!

The news has basically been good lately. We’re still hearing COVID numbers, but we’re hearing the vaccine numbers too. People are cheering for themselves and for others who find themselves at the business end of a needle. You can feel the uplift. Under their masks, people are smiling. I read an article in the New York Times the other day, about the things people are saying they’re going to do first when they’re two weeks past the second injection. Number one on the list was hug grandchildren, and I immediately burst into tears.

I’ve already told Grandbaby Maya Mae that, two weeks after my second shot, I’m going to hug the stuffing out of her. And we’re going to the movies.

The second thing: have everyone over for dinner.

The third will happen two weeks after my oldest daughter gets her second shot: Going to Louisiana and seeing her for the first time since the August before COVID. Hugging the stuffing out of her too. Seeing firsthand what her new life looks like.

But first…sort of as a pre-first thing, I’m stepping back into myself. I’m leaving home and hunkering down in a beautiful spot and I’m going to do what I do best. Write. Then write some more.

Welcome back, anticipation. Welcome back, excitement.

I’ve missed you.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The view from my little lakeside cottage. Lake Onalaska in September 2019.
This is almost the entire cottage in one picture. To the left is the kitchen and bathroom. It gives me all that I need.

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