Self-help in the sun. With wine. What’s not to like? My F**K it week with John C Parkin

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Well I’m back from my F**K It week and I don’t know what to say except it’s been emotional. Much more than I was expecting. I thought the week would involve standing in the sun shouting ‘F**K It’ with a bunch of strangers and then maybe doing some sort of embarrassing dancing. And maybe some tree-hugging.

As it turned out there was no dancing and only one tiny little bit of shouting, right on the last day. There wasn’t even much swearing, actually. In fact it was more deep and beautiful than boisterous and funny (the tone of the book) and that’s a good thing. Although I did hug a tree – but that was for a laugh. The tree did not laugh back, which is a relief.

So how to describe the week? I really don’t know. Which is strange. I can usually ham out descriptions of most things and would normally have been scribbling notes all week but this time I didn’t. Which is apt, of course, on a F**k it week. I couldn’t be f**ked to work or think or type and so I didn’t. Even now my brain is a blank.

So this really isn’t going to be the best written blog post but… you know what I’m going to say… F**K It.

Anyway, fifteen of us turned up to the Fuck it Retreat which was held in the amazingly gorgeous Urbino Resort in, er, Urbino. The place was way more fancy than I was expecting, but not in an intimidating way. We were from Germany, France, Holland, Glasgow, Texas, Finland and the UK. We were ages 20 to 50-odd and from totally different walks of life.

On the first day we had to sit in a circle and do that cringe-making thing of talking about yourself and why you’d come on the retreat. John (Parkin, the author of the book and an utterly lovely, kind, funny man) and his wife Gaia (who runs the retreats with him and is quite amazing – one of those women who looks at you and you feel like she’s just seen your soul) reckon that every time they do a retreat a different theme emerges and this week was about burn-out.

Most people there had been pushing themselves very hard at work to the point where they were making themselves sick. I listened to these gorgeous 20-somethings talking about not being good enough, always trying harder and driving themselves into the ground and it made me sad. I was that person too. Still am to a lesser extent.

For most of my twenties I was obsessed with work and never thought anything I was doing was good enough. I tried harder and harder until I got sick. And then I beat myself up for getting sick. By 28 I was just a permanent case of tonsillitis. I blamed my immune system for letting me down but of course it was the brain that was doing it. Tell yourself you’re crap and useless everyday and your body’s going to pack up. I still have that in me. I was doing that a bit with rejection therapy month.

We were all pretty uncomfortable blurting out our stories but it was a very good experience.

It showed that when you strip away all the rubbish – the stuff we do to try to make ourselves sound clever, look cool, seem important, fit in, get attention – we’re all human beings doing our best to fight our various demons and in that way we’re all ultimately the same. Sounds cliched and soppy but there you go.

From that first morning a deep bond was forged between us all.

For a week we spent the morning doing F**K it stuff with John and Gaia in the morning, then hanging out together by the pool in the afternoon and then putting the world to rights over long dinners in the evening. It was gorgeous.

STOP BEING A SOLDIER

John and Gaia’s response to all our stories was that we were like soldiers – we keep going no matter what, which can be a good trait in many ways but ultimately it ends in exhaustion. They say – unsurprisingly – that it’s time to stop trying so hard. To stop trying to make everything perfect, stop worrying about the future, analysing the past etc. To stop thinking that you’re not good enough unless you get the next promotion, get thinner, get richer etc. To basically say F**K It to it all.

They say that the moment you do that – the moment you let go, surrender and trust yourself and the world, good stuff will happen. That actually trying LESS gets you a lot more.

SAY F**K IT TO THE WERTHER’S ORIGINAL

To demonstrate this idea we had to do this weird exercise where we held our arm out while our partner grabbed hold of it. We had to try our hardest to get our hand in our pockets (to grab an imaginary sweet) while our partner tried to pull our arms in the opposite direction. The harder I tried the harder my partner would grip against me and my hand got nowhere near my pocket.

Then we were told to take a different approach. The sweet was still in our pocket (a fictional Werther’s Original) and we still wanted it but we weren’t that bothered if we did or didn’t get to it. We had to lighten up about it all and not force the issue. Instead we were told to just relax our arms and play around with it and see what happened. It was weird. I wiggled and twisted my arm, as if I was just shaking it out for fun and it got to my pocket straight away. Lynda, who was grabbing my arm and trying to stop me, looked confused. ‘I was really trying,’ she said.

SAYING F**K IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU DO NOTHING

So there you go. Saying F**K It doesn’t mean doing nothing – it just means not caring so much about the outcome. You go for the sweet (or the job, or the man, or the house) but you do it with a relaxed attitude and accept that what will be will be. And actually, if you’re too tired to go for the sweet (or the job, of the man, or the house) then sod it, don’t. Have a nap. Take a year off. Take three years off. Take your life off.

All easier said than done, of course. Most of us have been brought up with the message that we have to work hard, push ourselves, never give up etc.  It’s almost like we’re punishing ourselves –  but why does life have to be so hard? Really, why?

Anyway, this is just a bit of what we were doing in between pasta eating, pool lolling and wine drinking.

EMOTIONS ARE F**KING SCARY

There were also a load of breathing, Qigong type exercises to do with energy flow which I can’t really explain, and then a morning spent floating in a pool of water that was body temperature. I cried like a baby in that one. Not sure why but I did. It was a letting go, I guess.

When we’re busy pushing ourselves through life, we’re also busy pushing our emotions down so that they don’t get in the way. We ignore the fact that we’re sad, lonely, tired or lost, choosing to keep so busy that we don’t have to face our feelings.

I realised last week that feelings scare the crap out of me. I always keep things rational and in control. I am terrified of feeling overwhelmed and losing it. Whatever ‘It’ actually is. I will probably write more on that at some point but not sure what else to say about it right now.

F**K IT – THERE’S NO ESCAPING AFFIRMATIONS

There were also affirmation cards – bloody affirmations! You can’t escape them. Even swearing English self-help gurus like them… but actually in this case, I quite liked them. This is the card I got:

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So that’s all for now. Might do another post tomorrow. But then again, I might not. F**K It.

Here are a few more lovely things about the retreat.

1) WE ATE CAKE FOR BREAKFAST – not caked pretending to be muffins, or croissants but ACTUAL CAKE

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2) LISTENING TO A FRENCH WOMAN AND A GLASWEGIAN TRY TO COMMUNICATE

I fell in love with Lynda, a Glaswegian social worker whose accent was so thick it baffled the equally fantastic Stephanie (who is French but lives in Germany and sells toiletries). The word ‘like’ proved proved surprisingly tricky over breakfast.

Lynda: “Ae, I like dancin’

Stephanie: ‘Uh? Lake?’

Lynda: ‘Noo, LIKE. I LIKE dancin.’

Stephanie….’Uh? Lake dancing? You dance by a lake?’

REPEAT FOR TEN MINUTES.

Totally exaggerating all that (forgive me Lynda and Stephanie xxx)  but it had me in giggles.

3) ITALY IS PRETTY. OBVIOUSLY. And the Urbino Resort, where the retreat was held, was utterly beautiful.

Cue smug pics:

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4) MY LOVELY NEW FRIENDS (sorry old friends, you’re dead to me now…)

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[easyazon_link asin=”1781802963″ locale=”UK” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”hemebl08-21″]F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way[/easyazon_link]

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