One of the things I was determined to do when I moved back to Newcastle was get out of my comfort zone more. I loved living in Brighton, but got so comfy in my little Kemptown Village neighbourhood I became a little insular. When you freelance, it’s easy to use money or work as an excuse not to do stuff – something I am very guilty of. And living in a neightbourhood that has all the necessary amenities right on your doorstep (a grocers’, Co-Op, coffee shops, post office, bookshop and beach were all less than 5 minutes walk, and most of my Brighton friends lived a couple of streets away), convenience often wins out over adventure. Why go anywhere, when I had what I needed right here?
So while I grumble about the lack of handy coffee shops – or, indeed, any shops – where I live now, it does at least force me to go further afield on a regular basis. But what good is that if I still stay stuck in my head?
So when my friend L mentioned a retreat she had gone on, and said the person who hosted it was having a ‘new moon’ party, I signed up with no idea what to expect, only a conviction that I wanted to try something different.
I admit, I was dubious. While a massive sucker for self-help books, I fluctuate between thinking anything new agey is bollocks, or that I should be more open-minded. I have also, as I got older and spent more time alone, become a bit more physically prickly, and this all sounded very touchy feely to me. Nobody really hugs me, since my mum died – yes, thank you, I am aware of how very sad that sounds – and I’ve definitely become more physically withdrawn in recent years. (When I went to review The Art of Cuddling at Alphabetti, which ended with a mass audience group hug, I stayed in my seat, claiming critical distance and that my spiky jewellery might snag on someone’s clothes and we’d be there all night, but really because I didn’t want to get that close a bunch of bloody strangers).
(I only realised after this New Moon party that wearing my Alexander McQueen spiked knuckleduster and my sharp fangs ring might not have been a wise thing when there is hugging and hand-holding to be done, but I also wondered if at one level I did it deliberately – a physical excuse to keep people at bay? Maybe I didn’t go in as open-minded as I thought I was.)
Anyway, come the night, scepticism had turned into a desire for active avoidance. The Metros to Tynemouth, where the event was being held, were off, and I had managed to knack up my back in truly ignoble style (um, standing up from the loo – yay for getting old!), so after an exhausting week I was ready to do nothing more challenging than lie on the sofa and binge watch Ghost Whisperer. Luckily, while I am always happy to bail on stuff I am going to alone – even if I have bought tickets, which explains a lot about my finances – with L going I felt I couldn’t drop out, so, rather nervously, I steeled myself to go and get the damn thing done.
Spoiler alert: I’m glad I did. The party was hosted by Alice Allum of The Be Platform in her gorgeous Tyneside home (I had serious house envy), and about 16 women were in attendance. I won’t give away Alice’s secrets – check out the free resources on her website if you are interested – but the night was a mix of talking, singing and chanting (yes, chanting!), with the goal of using the new moon to set intentions for the coming month, and for life.
It was a fascinating evening. Listening to a group of women talk honestly – and without interruption – about their fears, hopes and insecurities made me realise how rare it is that any of us have space to do that in our lives. The temptation – and social training – is to jump in and offer consolation, reassurance or contradictions, and it was clear that many of us struggled not to do just that (“You’re not fat! You are great at your job! You are a wonderful person, no need to be insecure…” etc).
There’s also consolation and inspiration to be had from such sharing. Knowing the woman you think looks gorgeous is struggling with self-esteem reminds you not to judge on appearances; hearing someone unapologetically talk about how much they earn is inspiring if you are feeling bad about putting up your prices. Whatever your take on the more ‘new agey’ aspects, there’s undeniable power just putting a bunch of women in a room and letting them be themselves.
Alice was a charming host, far more down to earth than I thought she would be (she’s not above some well-placed swearing, which I do like in a woman), and the fellow guests were lovely. I was especially grateful for the solicitude of my neighbours, who took pity on my knackered back and kept me well supplied with glasses of water rather than me having to constantly get up!
I left feeling inspired and positive. If nothing else, I got to spend an evening with some great women, and did something new, which I think is a valuable thing in itself. As for the rest of it? I’ll take any bonuses I get!
[I didn’t take any pictures – wanting to be in the moment rather than trying to capture it and all that – but as one of my intentions was to be bolder in owning my talent, I shall sign off with a plug for my books instead…! So…]
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