This Sunday I'm leaving for Gatlinburg, TN on a couple's retreat. While it isn't the first time I've visited the majestic behemoths known as the Smokey Mountains, it is the first time I've gone with fifteen other couples. On my previous trips, I've always returned with great story plots and ideas (well, on my second trip I returned with something a little more and she's just coming out of her terrible-two's!), but this year, I'm hoping to emerge with something different.
When people use the term, "Stepping outside the box", I envision this cardboard box with "Handle with Care" stenciled in bright red letters on the side. Busting out of that box is supposed to be this great accomplishment, but, for me, it's always been a haven. I know the box intimately. It's secure and I'm never the odd man out--or just plain odd--because there's only me inside. But, now the time has come for me to not only "step out", but to blow that box to smithereens! I'm placing myself in an intimate setting where I'll have to open up to people, voluntarily leaving my heart, feelings and pride vulnerable. And, I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm scared to death!
By now, you're probably asking, why do it? The answer: Because it's time. The haven of that box where I've been handled with care is protective only for a little while. If I stay too long it can become a barrier to experiencing new things and new people. I think back on my writing. For years everything I wrote stayed hidden under my mattress--no, really, under the mattress--because I was too afraid to let anyone read the characters I created that revealed pieces of me. But, the day I smoothed those hand-written pages out and let someone read them was frightening, but also liberating. Or, when I decided to join Southern Magic. Entering that room in the basement of the library, where I knew not a soul, was an explosion of yet another box. Terrified? Oh, yes! But, was it time? Most definitely. And, now, I have a camaraderie with some of the most beautiful, talented, creative women I've ever met. So, I don't know what awaits me up on the mountain, but I'm excited in that this-movie-is-going-to-scare-the-mess-out-of-me-but-I'm-still-peeking-through-my-fingers sort of way.
While I can't guarantee that I won't stub my toe while climbing out of that box--and utter all kinds of agitated adjectives--I can promise that when the blue streak clears, I'll be back in Birmingham a better and stronger person for it.