Our Corporate Retreat Disguised as a Romantic Getaway

When we took off last week to our ‘romantic artist’s bungalow’ in the mountains, of course one reason was to get some alone mini-vacay time together. But the main reason we escaped is to begin what we hope will become our annual summit, where we can talk openly about our goals – for the house, our careers, our relationship, even just for ourselves.

Living with roommates can be difficult if you’re an independent-minded, quirky individual. When you marry a similarly independent-minded, quirky individual with anal retentive particular tendencies, and you each bring along your insane pet (him: three-legged moody Rottweiler; me: raddest cat in the world), roommates are pretty much out of the question. Until a perfect storm of events leads you to share alllllll of that (yes, even your secret of reading in the bathroom) with his mom.

To be fair, given the circumstances, our living arrangement is pretty ideal. I lucked out in scoring my MIL; she’s truly an incredible lady. The three of us have regular team meetings and an understanding that being open and honest with each other is going to be what makes our temporary cohabitation successful.

As great as all this is, though, we couldn’t help but notice how stagnant we felt in 2010. Our roommate is also reeeally good at being, well, a mom, often insisting we work too hard, that we need to relax with a glass of wine and just watch TV. Which, you know, is true. We do work hard. I technically have five jobs. But I think we thrive on that kind of busy-ness, too, which is something we drifted away from last year. We’ve all sort of adapted to the most comfortable elements of the situation; we drink more wine, we chat more about our days, we watch a terrific amount of TV. Until we completely lose our shit when we’re face-to-face with a (usually self-imposed) deadline.

As you might guess, our biggest meltdowns stem from a feeling of not being in control of our situation, or not having a chance to really hash things out when we start to feel underwater. Because no matter how much she insists she’s not listening (“I’m just a ghost floating through,” she says), and no matter how much we believe her, we naturally edit those big, heavy conversations to keep the household energy at a minimum level.

So we scheduled Summit 2011, a three-night, three-day escape with the computer, pads of paper, pens, ideas and dreams. And we spent all day Friday (with a break for sandos and beers in between) dissecting important aspects of our lives and how we’d like to develop them over the year. For example, I’d like to incorporate regular dental & car care into our budget, while he’d like to figure out a way to ride his bike to work. We’d both like to go camping (in a tent! I’ve never done that before!) twice this year and transform our office into more of a yoga / music / hangout place. I thought I wanted to bring in backyard chickens. He’d like me to make dinner on the days he spends on the road for work and we’d both prefer to have regular time scheduled to do things together. Outside, even.

They’re not monumental changes (other than starting our business, which is a really big part of the equation that took up another big chunk of our retreat), but they’re little things we feel we can have control over so we don’t watch another year go by and think, “what exactly did I accomplish this year?”

He and I now have weekly morning tea meetings where we check in on the progress of these goals and set benchmarks for the following week. We even brought our goals to MIL, who gave us the green light to say to her, “can’t chat politics tonight, have xyz to do.” I’ve already been so much more productive, I even hauled my cookies to the gym last night for a turn on the treadmill. The backyard chicken thing, though. That was a bust. More on that later.

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