Featured Guest: Mariane Leon, A Recipient of Rest

Mariane Leon, one of our Recipients of Rest, is a body justice advocate and photographer. We hosted Mariane at Getaway Brazos Valley in October. Here is Mariane’s thoughtful reflection on their work, their connection to nature, and what they’ve learned about grief, community, and rest in the last few years.

I wouldn’t call myself an optimist by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a realist with a burst of enthusiasm every once in a while. As a journeyer of self-love and a body justice advocate by way of photography and virtual diaries, it’s teetering on this fine line of positivity and critical thinking that keeps me grounded.

I would love to use 2020 as an excuse, but my complicated relationship to social media, Philly-raised grit, and my unrelenting attempts to love myself are definitely to blame for my personality. In all fairness though, 2020 has been… a year. As I sit back and take yet another moment to reflect, I can’t help but feel the heaviness in my chest as my “mile a minute” thinking slows to a singular place: exhaustion.

In all the pain felt in this year, as a fat, Black femme living in an insufferable world, I often find myself desperate for rest. I don’t just mean 8 hours a night, I mean rest. Rest like boundaries. Rest like doing nothing. Rest like not having to explain myself or argue for my right to exist. Rest like being unbothered. Rest like not being on the 12th Zoom call of the day. Rest like being so disconnected that I can finally connect to myself again.

Needless to say, Getaway was right on time. It didn’t take much convincing when I got the notification that I had been nominated and chosen for a Year of Rest. The idea of being whisked away into peace and quiet was nothing short of ideal. I was in the middle of planning a partial cross country road trip from Philly to Texas and while I had no real idea of where I would be, I was certain of the day I’d Getaway: October 22nd.

For most, that’s just a random day, but for me it’s anything but random. It was a chance to grieve the loss of myself in dark moments. The loss of relationships as I reclaimed space. The loss of stability as COVID tore the outdoors, employment, and physical connection from me. And last, but most certainly not least, it was a chance to grieve the loss I have carried for three years (and counting) of my beautiful mother.

Ah, got ya. You’re reading about loss and you may want to turn away. There’s sadness here, yes, but there is so much more. Grief is such an interesting thing. While some might think – “why would you want to be sad on your Getaway?”, others might understand that there is no better way to process sadness than tucked away amongst the trees.

If I have learned anything over these last three years, it’s that grief sucks, but it’s not our enemy – resistance to it is. Grief is inevitable and we take its gifts for granted sometimes. Grief has given me a wonderful circle of fellow grievers on and offline. It has given me tools to sit within the communal grief of the Black community. Beautiful, vibrant humans who are finding joy, connection, pain, and discomfort throughout their lives, literally laughing through tears and inside jokes that may be considered morbid to those outside of these not-so-exclusive grief clubs. 

Grief has given me perspective on all the Hallmark movie things I used to roll my eyes at about time, love, and getting older. Grief has given me so much pain that I can’t help but I feel less afraid of what I can and cannot handle. Grief has also given me an appreciation and understanding of the complexity of emotions. My mom (who I affectionately called “mamadukes”) is who I now, more than ever, longed to have on this earth to hold me through these trying times but I am just as grateful that she doesn’t have to live through even more pain. It’s hard to accept both can be true because grief isn’t a binary of sad and happy or staying put and moving on. Grief is fluid and forever – much to the dismay of those living with it, but there are ways to cope, process, and survive.

At Getaway, I tucked myself into one of the most comfortable and beautiful beds I have ever laid in, shrouded in trees and silence to cope with my grief. I made sure to pack my grief essentials for the night: a Loss deck, a grief tincture, a journal, some meditative candles, and some CBD. While I still wanted nothing more than my mamadukes to pull me to her chest, I was still held warmly by nature itself, easing my mind with the soft hum of its existence.

Being able to have this experience was such a sweet reminder of all the ways we can find peace. The intimacy that comes with rest is deep. It stays with us long after we have moved on and busied ourselves once more, only to return again. The act of letting go, of being still, of turning off the noise to just be is critical. I carry this knowledge with me daily. I share it with my clients who are often looking for rest in their relationships with their bodies as they work to love themselves in a world that banks on their insecurities and self-hatred.

I will be the first to tell you I don’t know much, but occasionally the universe reveals its secrets to me through countless (and often repeated) lessons. Rest gives me the time, energy, and calm needed to return to the truth: I’m a small part of a larger stream of energy and consciousness. My inclination to find rest in nature deepens that truth for me. I always return to the noise of cities and systems, but I can see how giant redwoods connect to my windowsill bamboo plants and the same moon that kisses the furthest parts of the ocean can be seen from car windows on busy highways.

So, while I was sad as I pulled away from my little cabin in the woods, I know I’m infinitely tethered to the time I had there. For that, I am forever grateful and I cannot wait to return again.

Ready for your own escape? Book your Getaway today.