“Can we take a moment and breathe a minute? I need to pause to feel what all of this means.” I spoke as I glanced at the faces of my two friends on the Zoom screen. A tear slid down my cheek while deep disappointment registered in my chest. Massive anticipation seemed to slither out of the window in front of me.

“Damn, Covid.” I muttered with resignation under my breath. 

We sat quietly for a bit, letting our hearts catch up to the heavy discouragement we felt as we decided to cancel the retreat in Panama that we had been dreaming about for almost a year. Our flights had been purchased months ago, our anticipation had grown, and I had begun to write out a detailed packing list, including sunscreen and a beach hat. We were set to leave in a few short weeks. 

As Omicron surged after the holidays, one of us had been hit hard. We felt the reality and impact of the pandemic as it continued to plummet.

We had continued to plan and hope, but this was the third retreat we had to cancel. Numerous other cancellations had mounted as well–reunions, weddings, and holiday gatherings. We were weary.

I was in the middle of our long Wisconsin winter, and this decision made me feel so beat-down. I wondered where to go with all the angst I felt as we made the choice.

The evening prior, I had felt the hope for goodness begin to slip away as I called our host. She was handling all of our flights and communications, and she knew the lay of the land in Panama. She had been the first to propose the idea for a retreat and up until now her enthusiasm had never waned. She had significant reservations now, and they were disconcerting. I knew we had to pay attention.

“Really?” I thought. “Are you kidding me?” Frustration surfaced as I began to let go of my images of beauty, connections, and the ushering of freedom for this group of women. I could picture the faces of some of them and could almost taste us relaxing and laughing together, engaging deep places of pain and heartache. I held imaginations of returning home, having held each other’s stories in profound and healing ways. Honor, promise, and transformation had all seemed moments away. 

I had to lean into our team’s wisdom and trust God for goodness despite our loss. 

We muddled through our best options: cancel the whole thing or let each woman decide if she felt well about travel despite the potential for a ten-day government-induced quarantine following any Covid-positive test. What were the chances one of us tested positive, and what would it feel like to leave one behind?

“No,” I interrupted, as we analyzed. “We can’t let them make that decision. It’s a difficult part of leading, but we need to decide for the group. The stakes are high if anyone gets sick.” As much as I longed to move forward even with a handful of attendees, we needed to make the hard call. We were carrying the burden of the queen. The queen bears the weight and presents a way forward.  She protects and defends for the good of those in the group, and she stands strong in her directive. The queen deals with the backlash of the decision, good or bad. 

We gave ourselves the night to pray, listen, and do more research. I hung up the phone sensing a pivotal direction.

The next day we zoomed together again and in unity knew we needed to make the call. We had to cancel, communicate, and refund these dear women who had dreamt and anticipated with us. It felt devastating but prudent. It felt queenly.

It has been some weeks since that fateful day. I was supposed to be at the airport today on my way to a sunny and memorable week of transformation.

I frantically tried to assuage my grief by booking a last minute trip to Arizona or Florida, but that didn’t work out.  Instead, I cleaned my kitchen, tidied our bathroom, and then bundled up in my down parka and heavy boots to spend a chunk of my day doing errands and grocery shopping. The temperature gauge on my car read in the low teens. This day a far cry from warmth and rest at a luxury resort. 

I looked out my window at the grey, gloomy skies while a tear slid down my cheek and deep disappointment registered in my chest. I sat with the tension of a queen. Once again I muttered, “Damn, Covid.” 

I hope we made a good decision.

Maryhelen Martens has been gathering and connecting with others since she was a young girl growing up in rural Wisconsin. She is a lover of whimsy and play, beauty and depth, all of which she experiences in her relationships. While her emotions and voice were shut down for decades, she is finding them again and using them in healing groups, story coaching, and writing. She’s always been drawn to water and sunsets and more recently to the desert and sunrises. She’s curious about that. Mother to three authentic adults, Maryhelen lives with her steadfast husband Keith on the shore of Lake Michigan.