It’s been a rough several months; hell, it’s been a rough several years.

So, with the kids happily away at overnight camp and no husband or dog at home anymore to keep company or take care of, I settled on the perfect gift to myself: A week away all about me and only me.

I arrived to Rancho La Puerta on my 40th birthday wearing all black. Not only is it the color I happen to own the most clothing in, but subconsciously it represented the way I felt – completely and utterly dark. My skin was pasty, my eyes had dark circles underneath them that were resistant to each of the 11 under eye creams I’ve recently purchased and I could tell you 99 things to be angry about at any given time. In short? I was an absolute mess, and desperate to put myself back together again.

Once I arrived at the ranch, all of the noise from everyday life disappeared. There were no cell phones ringing, no e-mails to respond to, no alarms going off, no fluorescent lights lightly buzzing, no radio, no TV, no news, no Twitter, no Trump. The only background noise I could hear was nature, and the biggest decision I had to make was which entree I wanted to eat at dinnertime.

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Throughout the week, I felt myself coming alive again. I wandered around the breathtaking grounds for hours everyday. I ate “silent dinners,” actually used my muscles, and relished in the feeling of the sun on my skin. I ate mostly fresh fruits and vegetables (more than I’ve probably consumed in the last six months combined,) and spent hours floating alone in child-free pools. Normally an insomniac, I actually slept at night and woke up refreshed for sunrise hikes every morning.

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Every day, I felt more and more like the person I want to be.

No longer scowling or rolling my eyes, my Resting Bitch Face quickly morphed into a Resting Content Face. The voice inside my head quieted and I could actually breathe for the first time in what felt like forever.

And it felt really fucking amazing.

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But then, just like that, the week was over.

And I wasn’t ready AT ALL.

Leaving the property was a feeling similar to getting into the car with my first baby and saying goodbye to the hospital nurse. Were they really letting us take this thing home?! The notion seemed absurd – how was I supposed to take care of a baby? I couldn’t even keep a plant alive. Wasn’t there a parenting handbook or something?

There I found myself again, overwhelmed and unprepared, as I got off of the airport van and was let back in the wild, general public. After a week without decisions or responsibilities, the choice of a window or aisle was downright daunting, and don’t even get me started on how long it took me to pick out lunch.

When I arrived home 12 hours later, the hurricane of life hit me hard. Re-entry from vacation is always a bitch, but re-entry from complete time? It totally kicked my ass.

The e-mails and the voicemails… The stack of bills needing to be paid, and requests from overnight camp for items scattered all over town… The legal stuff that comes along with getting divorced, which I’d been putting off until my trip was over… The appointments and work responsibilities and conference calls… The Trump insanity.

After a week of clarity and minimal, yet meaningful interactions, reality was waiting at home, ready to punch me in the face. Suddenly, my heart was racing, my head was pounding and I couldn’t breathe.

In retrospect, it’s really no surprise that I would suffer a panic attack after transitioning from one extreme back to the other. The real world is so loud and overwhelming and stressful, especially compared to that week of solitude and tranquility.

But I learned a lot my week away; most importantly, that I am actually capable of disconnecting, and that nobody is going to put me first other than myself. So that’s my challenge now – finding a way to achieve some balance in everyday life and remembering to practice self-care so I don’t fall apart again. My birthday trip is already booked for next year, so I’m feeling really good about that.

I’m actually feeling pretty good about everything…

Finally.

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