Well, friends, it’s day 38 of 85 of my long-awaited Sabbatical (the first I’ve ever taken and let me just say: I’m a fan). So where am I and how’s it going?
Overall, I give the experience five stars. There have been bumps and ditches I’ve run into but since the bumps were speed bumps because I had unrealistic expectations and the ditches were the metaphorical potholes left over by the freeze-thaw cycle of self-awareness and personal growth, I can’t really count either one as detriments. Five stars, without hesitation. Highly recommenced. Don’t want to leave. Would visit again.
Getting into some of the nitty-gritty, the point of this Sabbatical was generally three-fold: To allow me to focus intensely on self-care and self-healing; To allow me to devote the first fruits of my work-mind and additional resources of time to writing and editing; To prepare me emotionally (mostly through refilling my own well) to lead my parish in what will certainly be a series of difficult conversations upon my return about sustainability and the future.
Taking the last first, the only way I’ll really know if I’m prepared to lead those conversations is when I’m actually there leading them: I had all the information I needed to lead the conversations before I left for sabbatical. What I was hoping to add was the clear capacity to be calm when others are afraid, to be rational when others might not be. Can I not take harsh or pain-filled words personally? Can I accept that to lead the conversation is a success and that the product of the conversation isn’t about success and failure, it’s about what what the parish needs?
We shall see.
On the subject of the second goal, writing and editing: So far it’s been fully productive. Some of it was like pulling teeth. Some of it was as easy as taking a deep breath and sighing afterwards. Still, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to put the writing and editing first. (In the past, writing and editing have been a distant third behind Parish Work and Migraine Hell.)
I’ve written more on the creative process on my most recent breakthrough in editing over on my Patreon account and you can check that out here. I’m also putting all sorts of goodies over there several times a week, including brand new scenes for The Crown Prince (Loki #2), and scene-by-scene a new story in my Debts of Honor continuity, which I’ll post properly on the archive after my patrons have gotten to read it first. (The scenes and content are available at all levels of patronage, in case you were curious, so a dollar does, in fact, break the paywall.)
On the subject of my first goal, self-care and self-healing: It’s been quite simply amazing. The focus on self-care and self-healing has born so much fruit and I am absolutely going to be able to take it all beyond the Sabbatical itself and I’m so excited about it.
There are three main components to this first goal and all of them were present in some form before the sabbatical began, but they weren’t really work well, none of them. Sabbatical has given me opportunity (and honestly, permission) to supercharge all three to the extent they needed, sometimes at the cost of other things. Because it was goal number one for a reason.
So, the first part of self-healing and self-care (in no particular order, they’re all very important) was supercharging my qigong practice. I did it. It’s amazing. I’m healing in so many ways. I’m maintaining it. I’m enjoying the hell out of myself the entire time.
(Wait, what’s qigong? Qigong is like… the grandmother of Tai Chi. It’s Chinese. It’s ancient. There’s no martial application. It’s totally holistic. It involves the chi meridians and acupressure/acupuncture points – but you don’t actually need to know anything about them to make it work. It’s moving meditation. Well taught, it will change your life quickly. Poorly taught, it will change your life at a moderate pace. I’ve read books and seen videos from a variety of teachers, and had a variety of teachers, but I’ve found one that speaks my language and so I’m running with it. You can find more about him here if you are interested.)
The second part of self-healing and self-care for me was figuring out the strange and beautiful alchemy of things I needed to do every morning, first thing, to have enough spoons to actually get to the end of my day without being utterly exhausted or totally depressed. I’ll be honest: I started this as a thought exercise before Sabbatical so I could hit the ground running, and that was useful. Also, this is one of those intensely personal things where the exact answer is specific to me, so if this is also a problem for you, you too need to find the strange and beautiful alchemy of things that will work for you.
And if you’re wondering what the spoon reference is, it’s a metaphorical way to describe how much energy someone with anxiety or depression actually has in order to get through the day. Spoon is the currency. Some things take spoons in order to do. Some things generate spoons when you do them. And when you’re out of spoons, you’re out of luck. Hope you’re already home with your head under the covers.
Two examples of this from my own life are as follows: my morning mantra, sometimes groaned, sometimes happily sighed, “I only need one spoon to get up.” Why? Because I’ve figured out what to do to give myself spoons in a totally healthy way, right after I get up. And it’s true that some people wake up with more than one spoon, but sleep is one of those things that is in the process of healing for me and so I’m lucky if I wake up with single spoon. Having said that, I no longer have to fear the idea of getting up with only one spoon and losing it after I trip over a cat on the way to the bathroom. (When I run out of spoons, it’s not just red-line stress levels, or even depression and anxiety I have to face, it’s often a migraine.)
Second example: A quote from my husband that now resides on the refrigerator, “The thought of eating pork gives me spoons.” Yes, it was said in fun. Yes, it was absolutely true and honest, and it points to a beautiful concept: Our thoughts can give us spoons, not just actions and interactions.
The third part of self-healing and self-care for me was supercharging my meditation and reflection practice that I share with my husband. Sometimes in the past, to be honest, I just sort of floated through it without giving it my all. And that has ended. And because I’m now fully present inside of meditation and reflection, I’m bringing that peace beyond the borders and more fully and completely into the rest of my life, and as with qigong, I’m actually enjoying the hell out of myself.