Are you willing to invest the time and energy to become and remain a genuine version of yourself? asks Kemetia Foley

It happened like a scene out of a movie. My husband and I were visiting Barnes and Noble bookstore, a regular date night for us, when this paperback book literally fell off the shelf onto my feet. The book was titled: You Should Leave Now: Going on Retreat to Find Your Way Back to Yourself (Broadleaf Books, 2021), by Brie Doyle. What was funny was the first line of the title, You Should Leave Now, was in a huge font, so that’s all my husband saw when I brought the book to the register. I saw his startled expression and revealed that the book focused on retreats, not necessarily on leaving your spouse or partner.

Let’s Revisit the Definition of Self-Care

It is so common to see headlines about the value and importance of self-care. Self-care, of course, can be so many things and is usually subjective. Things like going to get one’s nails done, getting a massage, or getting a night out on the town with good friends seem to frequent the top of the self-care list. Yet this book – and trust me, I saw it as a sign from God that this book literally fell on me – delves far more into the most important self-care questions we can ask ourselves. Who are you? And are you willing to invest the time and energy to keep digging through the societal norms and vocational titles to become and remain a genuine version of yourself?

The question that slayed me in this book is: What is it that you want to do? Is it what you want? And it didn’t take long for those opportunities to be showing up on my doorstep.

Not five weeks later, I was scheduled for a girls’ trip. A weekend away to Cape Cod in November. Not exactly a scenic time to be at the beach. There were eight or nine of us going to this big beach house. None of the excursions into town were required. None of the meals were required. Yet there was this unspoken pressure to join in. But I returned to the question of the book. What do I want to do? Can I honour that I don’t really want to go anywhere, with anyone? Could I honour that I really want to curl up in a blanket on the couch with a cuppa and colour, or maybe read?

After a successful weekend of doing what was true to what I wanted to do, I wanted to become comfortable engaging in this practice outside of a small gathering of friends. Would this work in the outside world?

The author’s focus is on taking retreats to do this and also on some more meditative practices. But who has the money for taking retreats each time they are feeling lost? I began a search for something that would work for me, my timing, my budget. Then, also by no coincidence if you ask me, my good friend and author Ayanna Castro (Work Your Package) posted on Facebook about getting away from her family, the demands of motherhood, and the consistent needs of others.

Silent Retreat, Me?

I located a silent retreat. I know! Kemetia on a silent retreat. All my friends had the same reaction. It was an hour-long bus ride away in Boston. It was at a monastery. I could pay in instalments. I was game! Darn. Sold out for this year. Signed up for the next one, which was eight months away. I had no idea how much this would change me.

Now, at the silent retreat, there were optional religious services to attend. Yet the first thing that hit me was the pride in doing something JUST FOR ME! And, of course, knowing there would be absolutely no demands on me or my time. I could do whatever I wanted. [Well, except talk to others, of course. It’s a silent retreat, duh.] I journaled 17 pages. 17!

Here’s where self-care showed up at this retreat:


Yes, blissful quiet. Quiet that I used to only find if I came into the office early, got my coffee, and had time to think.

Time to think

Think back. Think forward. Replays of how I wish I had done things differently. How I wish I had honoured my gut instinct. How I wish I had spoken up instead of shriveling away. Time to evaluate what was working in my life, and what wasn’t. What was I afraid of? What anxieties were hanging out uninvited?

Clarity of purpose

What does my work look like? Is it all I am? Or do I have other things I long to do but put work first?


Sleep. The glorious gift of sleeping as much or as long as I wanted. I had no idea I could sleep this much when I wasn’t ill. I mean, I felt lazy if I ever slept this much. I learned to honour that need for sleep so I wouldn’t wear down and get sick.

Be still

So absolutely foreign to me. What?? Be still. You’ve got to be kidding! Do you have any idea how much I have on my to-do list?    

(I don’t know where I got this quote, so apologies in advance.)

What first appeared as monotony now is revealed as peace.


Do You See Yourself At All?

I know I stayed busy pursuing who I thought I should be. Allow me to clarify: if you KNOW who you are and that person is ambitious and in pursuit of more, more power to you.

I return to the question. Who are you? Self-care is finding the real you. Not the mom, not the administrative professional, not the volunteer. Self-care is asking ourselves the questions: Do I really want to do this? Deep in my gut? Or am I doing it for other people or to meet expectations I’ve never heard spoken to me? Self-care is listening to our bodies, to our hearts, to not being in denial of who we are and what we truly want to be.

Kemetia MK Foley is a storyteller, stand-up comic, writer, and trainer. She is fierce, funny, and phenomenal – energetically delivering outstanding professional development courses since 2007. Kemetia has presented more than 200 training sessions and has ... (Read More)

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