Heading into the Red Rock of Sedona, Arizona, my anticipation had been swelling for months and now it was here, my writing wellness retreat that felt like one of the most important affairs I’d ever be attending in my life. That’s pretty serious business thinking back on how much pressure one can put on thy self.

As the shuttle from Phoenix approached the red rocks of Sedona, breathtaking, orange, clay-like mountains appeared before my eyes and an immediate calm overtook me; yet a nervous energy of who I was about to meet made me feel rather skittish. Will I fit in with the writers? What if they don’t like me? What if my writing doesn’t compare to anyone else in the group? What if I look like a complete failure? What if I say what if over and over and then I get stuck and those are the only two words that ever come out of my mouth again?

Despite my outgoing nature, group settings are something that make me particularly uncomfortable. On mission trips and other group gatherings, I have usually felt a bit uneasy. Managing to hold myself together, deep down I have grown to accept, they are just not my thing.

I know, I am supposed to blog about how wonderful Sedona, Arizona is; and it is. It truly is. It is close to impossible not to fall in love with the energy, the beauty and the spirituality that you feel in this powerfully sacred space. There is a healing element and a deep sense of reflection that is hard to deny experiencing when you are there. Hands down, it is a wonder of the world. And then the retreat– gourmet, healthful food, tour-guided excursions, expert coaching from published authors, a sacred, prayerful moment in a medicine wheel (you’ll have to experience that one for yourself), the welcoming half-hour massage when you walk through the door, and the many insightful speakers — all added great value to this adventure.

But, no one mentioned falling in love. I have gone back and reread the itinerary more than once and, nope, that wasn’t in there. The openness, the honesty, the support, the encouragement and genuine love that we shared as a group of ten writers and two writing coaches is the force behind these words that I am still having a hard time formulating into any meaningful articulation of emotion. Not to mention the inspiration, I couldn’t have imagined that either, but what took place on a mountain in a retreat house — oh, and that happened to be luxurious as well — was a gift of acceptance of being who I really am. I wrote openly, raw and more honest than I ever had the uterus to write with — I’ve been told that male parts are very delicate — and when I looked up from reading out loud what I wrote in this very, very scary group setting, there was love. I felt it. I saw it with my own eyes; a group of funny, brilliant, creative, fun, expressive, sensitive, wonderful human beings, each so unique and yet gentle in their own kindhearted way, embrace the true essence of what I am made of — me, my truth and I.

So, as I write this blog tonight, I do so lovingly because of a safe, nonjudgmental “group” of people that allowed me to share the bare bones authenticity of who I really am. We each had a story to tell; some light, some funny, some suspenseful, some mindboggling and some just downright made me cry, but the one thing I didn’t expect from this retreat was the gift of love that makes me write this unexpected and unexplained story that will carry me through to the next chapter of my life.

I love you Wonderful Writers with all of my heart and uterus!

~ Dana