One week ago I returned home from six days away from my husband and daughter, the longest we’ve ever been apart. I missed them dearly, but I have no guilt or regrets.
In this post I want to share some of my thoughts and feelings on taking a personal sabbatical, including the surprises I experienced.
I shut down my computer and turned on the TV. I had reached my goal of finishing enough work before leaving so that I could travel without my laptop—and had one whole hour to spare before heading to the airport. I watched an episode of Property Brothers, but found myself fidgety.
I didn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t working, cleaning, or caring for my family. As I sat in the airport waiting to board, still fidgety, I realized this was the reassurance I was looking for. I needed this personal sabbatical; I needed time to check out from the day-to-day and re-learn how to be still.
I will be the first to admit that I am very fortunate. I have work that I enjoy to fill my days and pay the bills. I have a supportive, hard-working husband. We’re able to send my daughter to a daycare that allows her to thrive and me to be an even-better mom.
I also work too many hours and worry too much. I don’t get enough exercise or enough sleep. I’m tired—and whether your work is in the home or outside of it, I bet you understand what I mean. Sometimes you just wish there was a pause button, so that you can have a chance to catch up.
An Act of Radical Self-Care
I was reluctant to admit that I needed any kind of intentional effort on self-care. I knew the facts, but working from home gives me a lot of time alone. I felt like asking for any more would be indulgent.
I had planned to visit my best friend this spring, but to also take along my daughter. But when my friend shared the good news that she had accepted a new job and would be moving, the better answer became clear.
I would visit her solo, helping to pack and enjoy her last bit of time in beautiful San Diego. Boxes full of expensive dishes would be no place for an always-on toddler and I had a great reason to accept this time for myself.
The tickets were purchased and I crafted the previously-mentioned plan of attack that would allow me to disconnect for six whole days.
At first I did feel guilty, but every more-seasoned mom I spoke with said that I shouldn’t. The more I sat with the idea and the closer the time came, the more confident I felt in the decision.
A Little Goes a Long Way
That fidgety feeling lasted for most of the first day. Then I quickly melted into a new groove of sleeping in and not having to be anywhere at a specific time. I read a lot when my friend was working and went with the flow when she wasn’t. (Confession: I even caught a few episodes of Kim & Kourtney Take New York.)
To be honest, I expected my phone to suck me in every day as I tried to craft complicated emails with two thumbs. I expected to read business books on my Kindle (which I did) and be struck with so many ideas that I’d have to ask for a pad of paper.
None of that happened. To my own surprise, I simple enjoyed myself and appreciated the space I was holding for each moment.
We did things together and with her friends. I was so focused on relaxing that I was able to easily resist the “danger” alerts that my introversion provides in new situations. I actually had fun and enjoyed not being in the driver’s seat—literally and figuratively.
While I soaked up the California sunshine, I did miss my family a lot. Skype calls, video messages, and photo texts made it all easier, but by the end I was ready to be home. I was also ready to bring as much of my easy-going attitude with me as possible.
Rededication after Sabbatical
Almost every time I’ve traveled in recent years, I’ve loved feeling unencumbered by my stuff. We don’t really need that much to survive and even thrive, which is all the more apparent when you’re away from home.
I noticed how happy it made me to have fewer decisions and a focus on living life each day. This experience reminded me that my journey towards space this year is working. I made my word visible with this trip and it left me rededicated to seeing it through.
Creating space in my home had been a stumbling block thus far, but since returning home I’ve cleaned out the bathroom closet, both freezers, and the fridge. One of the kitchen counters has been cleared and laundry has been put away.
Taking a personal sabbatical was not part of my original plan to create space, but I strongly feel my efforts made the stars align for this. I feel lighter, less tired, and more ready for the rest of 2014.