Jul 29 The #1 Question about Taking a Sabbatical
“Wow, you are taking a sabbatical? An actual career break? And you really didn’t get fired or downsized– you just chose to leave your job? Wow. SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?”
Do? What am I going to do?
First of all let me tell you what I am NOT going to do. I am NOT going to tell you all about de-cluttering my house and selling things that still have tags on them and hauling bags the size of baby elephants full of unnecessary impulse Target purchases to the donation bin. Sure, I will be doing those things but I am pretty confident everyone got the memo that less is more, consumerism is over the top in our communities, and we should all move to tiny houses parked in someone’s field to live a more fulfilling life. I truly love the idea of simplicity and I am actually clearing out our closets (I have a candle closet for Pete’s sake) but I will not be spamming Instagram with my good deeds of adding to our landfills. Sorry folks – you can get your de-clutter fix somewhere else.
I will also NOT be posting selfies of me and all my friends having lunch at all the newest spots in Nashville or our trips to the farmers’ market to get the perfect vegetables or shopping for our new yoga pants at Athleta (so I can then show you how far I have come in my attempt to master the crow pose). Having time to connect with my girlfriends is high on my list and I have missed it, but it is personal.
Because when you have a full calendar of work travel and friends have asked you, I don’t know maybe 27 times, to go to dinner and you decline every time because you are in [insert any city name here], they stop asking. And at first the NOT asking feels like a relief because you hated to say ‘no’. Not for the general people-pleasing syndrome that afflicts so many of us but because you hated missing these moments – the laughter and candid conversations that only good girlfriends can provide. Knowing what you were missing was hard and when you didn’t know, it kind of felt better. For a bit. But that laughter and those candid conversations are like fuel from the gas pump for your soul – the premium stuff that costs more but is totally worth it if you want to drive an expensive European sedan (let’s face it, in my fantasy of comparing myself to a car, I am not an expensive sports car anymore but a well-made, comfortable sedan – worth every damn penny I might add).
So yes, I will be doing the girly things with girlfriends that girls do but I will keep those group selfies just for me… Although I can’t promise that if the food at one of those new amazing Nashville hot spots is particularly mind-blowing, a few ‘foofies’ won’t find their way to the internet – the classic food selfie always brightens my day.
The final sabbatical activity that I will NOT be sharing is a play-by-play photo montage of my attempts to re-balance my body. Like so many, I have realized that the warning labels about stress and your cortisol levels and lack of sleep and turning 40 are actually true and not fake news. Those days of eating whatever I wanted (really, is there anything better than chips and cheese?) and just doing a few spin classes each week to maintain my weight left this airstrip on a non-stop flight to NEVER COMING BACK. It is time to move on from this break-up and pack up the clothes in my closet that taunt me with their small numbers and impossible to button waistbands… de-cluttering, check.
In this new reality of a tortoise driven metabolism, walks in parks with my husband, hikes with my best girlfriend, and a race to my favorite yoga studio most days are reminding my body of what it is meant to do, what we were made to do – move with grace, climb with strength, and revel in unison with nature’s seasons. It is not about a number or a size but how I feel and I want to feel like a badass with curves. So I will not be sharing snapshots of my scale each morning or clips of me flexing my biceps on Snapchat. That is entirely not news worth reporting. However if I am feeling especially badass-y one day, I will definitely share that news.
Now back to the original question that I am asked almost daily – what am I doing? What big plans do I have? What is next?
When I began discussions with my husband about taking a break, I supplied him with a four-page document of my ideas. That’s right – four pages. Please don’t judge because if you let your mind wander, you’d be surprised how many things you can think of to do with ample free time (I did not worry about money in this daydreaming exercise, which helped – pilgrimage across Spain anyone?). But the closer it got to day one of the Sabbatical, the less I thought about that list and more about these words…
The thing is that before day one, I was constantly doing. I always had lists and ‘what’s next’ in my sights. My mind was always swirling the waters so there was never settling – it remained perpetually murky. In my twenties and thirties my favorite saying that would – without fail – make my husband’s eyes roll to the heavens was ‘think about where we will be a year from now’…
Those decades were about rushing to get married, buying a starter house and then buying a bigger house. Having four kids before I turned thirty (I only squeezed out three but that was plenty in hindsight), paying for daycare, paying for cribs and then big girl/boy beds. Paying for Ikea furniture and then ruining it and paying for Pottery Barn furniture instead. Saving for family trips to the beach and Disney, applying for the better job and then getting the better job. On and on, the merry-go-round spun.
So as day one approached, I decided that if I could stop the swirling and spinning that gravity could take over and perhaps things would slowly settle into place. I was concerned that the swirling was actually denying me the clarity I craved. I needed to stop seeking and gathering and just be at rest. For the word sabbatical is a favorite cousin of the word Sabbath and since ancient times the idea of stopping has been a vital part of the rhythm of life. And after 41 years, I think still waters would be positively lovely.
So yes, I am de-cluttering and lunching with ladies and getting my Namaste on but for right now I am mainly trying to just listen to myself. When I wake up I have ideas of what the day will hold but if my day unfolds differently that is just fine. I don’t have to think ‘where will I be a year from now’ – I only have to show up with excitement for today. Feeling the flow of the world around me, being attuned to the moods and needs of my three favorite teens/tween and my husband, savoring the opportunities that arise and the conversations that are presenting themselves, and delighting in all that I have today. No seeking or planning or cajoling. Just being alive and grateful and intentionally aware of the space I occupy. I know myself and the planning and the ‘to-doing’ aren’t gone forever but for now they can watch from the stands because this is the game plan.