How to Reconnect with Yourself After Motherhood
Cavallo Point … take me away.
-Deborah Perry Piscione
I used to be a dancer … Come to think of it, I used to be a marathon runner, used to go to the symphony, used to be a best-selling author and television commentator, used to listen to country and classical music and everything else in between, and used to spend time with my friends. Shoot, I used to spend time with my husband. I USED TO BE A LOT OF THINGS BEFORE I HAD CHILDREN!
Today, I make a lot of excuses for why I can’t do this and why I can’t do that – why I can’t lose the last 15 pounds of pregnancy weight, why I can’t travel to Paris to see my best friend turn 40 (how could I do that to her, when she has been the most incredible friend to me?), why I can’t go out with the girls, why I can’t go back to school, why I can’t travel to see my mother more than once a year … The list goes on and on.
Truth be told, the only person who stops me from doing these things is ME!
I have to ask myself, has motherhood gotten the best of me?
A few weeks prior to celebrating my “28th” birthday (I’ve been 28 for a LONG time now), I thought hard about what I wanted to do for my birthday and what I needed to do. I timidly asked my husband if he would mind if I went away BY MYSELF for one night (I don’t want to hurt his feelings) – I desperately needed to. I needed to reconnect with who I am, what made me that way, and I needed to get back to being the person my husband fell in love with.
In a near-to-last-ditch effort to reconnect with myself, I traveled about an hour from my house to another world, to a resort called Cavallo Point – the Lodge at the Golden Gate.
I can’t call this place a hotel and a spa; it is so much more. In fact, it reminds of one of those old-time resorts where wealthy people in the early 20th century would spend their summers, after having traveled for days. It offers a Healing Arts Center & Spa – I am intrigued. It offers yoga in a chapel on top of the hill - I am excited! It offers cooking classes and the opportunity to do watercolor painting - I am not quite there yet, but I’m impressed that the staff of Cavallo Point have thought outside the box. In fact, the management of Cavallo Point really left no stone unturned when they thought about their guests’ experience – really, I am not trying to be a PR person for this place, but as you wait for your spa treatment, they leave coloring books and colored pencils for you in the event you want to connect with your inner child. They brought in a botanist to pick up the scents of the milieu, and they created a signature scent for the spa with eucalyptus, bay laurel, cedar, cypress and lavender. They don’t bankroll you at the restaurant, even though I think it is the best meal I’ve ever had.
Let me set the scenery, because it is almost not fair to experience such an extraordinarily beautiful site. Cavallo Point Lodge sits on 50 acres on some of the most stunning land on earth – it’s ON Golden Gate Park (the Sausalito side), overlooking a dramatic view of the Golden Gate Bridge on one side and seemingly desolate hills on the other. Nestled in between is a big pasture of GREEN fuzzy grass, palm trees (my favorites) and cypress trees. Seventeen colonial revival buildings that once served as officer housing, barracks, a gymnasium and other facilities outline the property, a holdover from an old Army base that once defended the San Francisco Bay and remained active through World War II.
I heard about Cavallo Point from a friend in San Francisco after asking her for a spa recommendation, but I had no idea what kind of an impact this place was going to have on me in only 24 hours.
Recently opened, in July 2008, Cavallo Point offers two styles of accommodations: Original officer housing, converted into traditional rooms, or California contemporary eco-friendly units. I opt for the California contemporary and learn that they use old blue jeans between the walls for insulation and create an allergen-free environment by using steam to radiate heat. Just learning new things makes me feel alive again. Most of my off-business-hours learning these days is STRICTLY about my children’s development or lack thereof; I always get a kick out of people who ask me what historical or political books I am currently reading (yeah, right!) – because I used to read those types of books but no longer have the time.
Upon stepping into this room, I wish that it were my bedroom and not a place I was only visiting for 24-hours. On one side of the room, floor-to-ceiling glass overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge, and the other opens to sheer, desolate hills (I was told that I might hear coyotes, raccoons or other creatures making night calls). The surroundings are bringing out my inner beauty – reminding me how I used to see beauty all around me. These days I mostly see my children doing things they know they shouldn’t be doing.
I can’t remember being in this type of silence – ever. I was a bit worried about sitting in silence, because I am majorly out of practice. I thought I would have to force myself to do it, but I comfortably ignored the Bose system and the vast flat-screen TV that stood dominant even amid the towering ceilings. I opted to sit in front of the gas fireplace, playing musical chairs between the sitting area in front of the fireplace, the balcony overlooking the unobstructed view of the bridge, and the plush reading nook that is difficult to extract yourself from due to the extreme comfort. How amazing it is to sit alone, in silence, and say hello and welcome to myself.
I look in the oversize mirror – in natural light – and get an HONEST reading of who I am right now, not who I was. I told my husband on the phone that night that if we had a full-length mirror in our house, I probably would have already lost the pregnancy 15 (there I go again, making excuses). Could this place possibly have the power to knock me into shape?
The sun begins to set, and I decide to test out the Bose sound system. Don’t tell anyone, because this is embarrassing, but a David Grey song comes on, and I begin to dance, with my only witness being the Golden Gate Bridge. I FEEL FREE, ALIVE, and I can feel the veneer that has been pasted on me since motherhood starts to erode away.
A Fine Meal
Why make a move, when I can order room service from Cavallo Point’s signature restaurant, Murray Circle? I order whatever I want for dinner; I deserve it. I order a young lettuces salad with Champagne vinaigrette for $10, and the swordfish for $18 – everything organic that could be (even the towels in the room are made of organic cotton). I take a bite of food … “Holy crap! Am I back in Italy?” I am not even a foodie, but I have not tasted food like this since my sabbatical in Italy, although I am not sure that I have ever tasted food like this. It turns out that the dining is run by a Michelin one-star chef by the name of Joseph Humphrey, and his talents are evident. This may be the finest meal I have ever had, and I did not even have to take out a loan for it.
Yoga in the Chapel on Top of the Hill
I have difficulty sleeping that night because I am fearful that I will not wake up in time for my 7:30 a.m. yoga class. I also spend a good portion of the night concentrating on the foghorns, warning passing boats about the dense fog around Golden Gate Bridge.
I don’t do yoga on a regular basis, but every time I do it, it does help me to reconnect. There is something about doing yoga early in the morning, but this time it is in a converted chapel on top of a hill, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge – a religious experience! The yoga teacher is fantastic, not much into the chime thing, which I like, and the stretching poses heighten me again to my five-seven frame.
I am not usually a spa person, which is why I so thoroughly enjoy the Healing Arts Center & Spa at Cavallo Point, because the focus is on wellness and transforming your lifestyle. There are no manicures and pedicures here, but there are outdoor pools and Jacuzzis (all temperature-controlled to take on the Sausalito breeze),and facials and massages, but what I really like is that they have a handful of experts who offer everything from weight-loss counseling to how to maximize your workouts. Because my time here is short, I opt for a pumpkin facial to help remove some of my recent post pregnancy spots, and the signature massage, which integrates the signature scents of Cavallo Point. There is no darkness at this spa or need to create manmade luxury, as floor-to-ceiling glass is everywhere to maximize the natural light and surrounding gorgeousness. It is an incredible day … I am happy, at peace, laughing and seeing splendor everywhere.
It is quiet, and I don’t want it to end. I honestly don’t want to go back home, not now, but I have to.
Yes, I am blessed to have three beautiful children, a loving and supportive husband, and a fabulous career, but I am honest about where I am. Motherhood is hard (especially with three kids ages 3 and under), and as we all know, no one talks about it, no one prepares you. I need to stop masking my feelings, share with my husband and others the challenges I face, and let my needs be heard and acted upon.
I don’t know how to replicate this on a daily basis; it is not possible. But what I do know is that it took three children, an extra 15 pounds of pregnancy weight, and my “28th” birthday to get to this place called Cavallo Point.
Thank you, Cavallo Point, for allowing me to dance again.
601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker
Sausalito, CA 94965
From $225 per night
Eat & Drink:
Murray Circle is one of the finest restaurants I’ve ever been to, and yet there is zero snob appeal. Feel free to wander out onto the veranda, and eat out there, too – the view is to die for.
Farley Bar is adjacent to Murray Circle, this friendly atmosphere makes me feel like I am back in an old-time British pub.
The Tea Bar at the Healing Arts Center & Spa serves unique wellness drinks that offer various benefits, including youth and vitality, and 10 loose-leaf teas from Modern Tea. Soups and salads are organic, seasonal and local.
Healing Arts Center & Spa at Cavallo Point
I know this was the best birthday ever – no pressure, nowhere I had to be, sheer relaxation – but it was also one of my finest days ever.
I passed one of the gardeners on my walk to the spa and became agitated when his leaf blower interrupted my Zen zone.
Challenge to Myself:
Hope to keep reconnected to myself throughout 2011 (the jury is out!).
Photo Credit: Michal Venera