I’m still trying to figure out how to write a blog post that doesn’t involve 3,000 words or 30 hours. I’ve decided to post weekly from now on even though I know that what I write in Week 1 might not be true by Week 4. Like, how my sabbatical landing spot will probably begin on the east coast of the United States instead of the west coast.
With all this planning, my emotions are jacked-up so that it feels like I’m swaying on a pendulum with ecstatic and absolute on a Monday that could swing over to doubt and insecurity by a Friday. I remind myself that this vacillating uncertainly is nothing like the god-awful unknown of 2013. No, this is good unknown, uncovering the unknown and when the tiny Rosemary troll on my shoulder tries to mutter, But what will people think? Or worse, What if you fail? I easily shrug her off with: People aren’t thinking about me because they have enough to think about in their own lives. And the failure? Not possible because just doing the sabbatical in the first place makes it a success.
That’s the absolute truth.
We hold back on so many choices sometimes wondering how it will look to the outside world. But who is this outside world that we’re concerned about? It’s not our family, they love us. It’s not our friends, they’d support us however and wherever we needed. And if we did happen to fall flat on our faces, those same family and friends will be right there to help us stand up. The people we’re worried about are the ones we don’t even like, the ones we don’t even respect. In our lives, they are non-essentials and so what if they’d like to see us fail and fail miserably. Theirs are not the voices that the universe will hear at least not when it comes to us. When a person trusts what the universe is offering and they heed this instinct, the communication between that individual and the universe becomes clear. We just have to listen and respond and slap back any trolls when necessary.
I’m in pre-sabbatical mode right now which I’ll explain in a moment. Sabbaticals in general are meant to be a time of rest and relaxation except when I’m writing there is usually little rest and relaxation. On my sabbatical there will probably be a lot of running and swimming and fretting and yelling at the laptop – That sounds like crap or For God sakes, use a comma already. Sabbatical time for me means space – on the calendar, in my mind, where I live. It’s for focusing on only one writing project at a time instead of trying to edit multiple projects simultaneously. It’s a time when I sit my butt in the chair and resist texting friends asking if they want to meet for happy hour so I can escape the house and the white screen.
During pre-sabbatical, I must figure out:
– WHEN does my sabbatical begin? If you call my voicemail or send me an email, the message says I begin a sabbatical June 1st 2015 because today is when writing becomes the priority again on the calendar. That means no clients, no client meetings, no client-related business of any kind, and no business networking events. The only social events are those related to writing or editing or publishing or how can I improve my writing, editing, storytelling and on and on and on. This is how strict I have to be with myself, because I can easily fill up a week with breakfasts, coffee chats, lunches, happy hours, dinners and never write a word in between. But I will still be in Austin for June tying up loose ends until a firm departure date is set for mid-July. In the meantime, I will blog weekly with the goal of less words per post.
– WHERE will my sabbatical begin? With previous sabbaticals (Europe, 1994) and (Mexico, 2004), my primary focus was about exploring other countries or immersing myself in those cultures. This current sabbatical is about absorbing my writing but with a different vista than my current one. Some folks have asked why I’m going anywhere at all, why not stay in Austin. And I could except I desire a change to my physical environment – not permanently – but for this writing year. Even though I’m calling this my writing sabbatical, it is also a time for centering my energy and healing my heart and saying good-bye and good-bye and good-bye. It’s about growth and learning and maybe a couple of visits to U.S. landmarks. And because I do my best writing near water (recent torrential rains in Austin aside), nearness to the ocean is essential, and someplace not overrun with tourists which is why San Diego got knocked off the starting list. I had a recommendation for the Outer Banks in North Carolina and am seriously considering this now as the kick-off place. I do know that for the month of October, I will be in New York to have coffee with Hillary in Brooklyn then I’ll be attending a writing conference in Greenwich Village. (Do you believe me about the Hillary thing?)
– WHAT do I do with Gatita? My cat is needy, she wants to eat all the time, and she cries for no apparent reason. She’s exactly like me. Gatita is what I hauled back to Texas from my time in Mexico, her and her little kitty passport with her scrunched up feline face. I’ve thought about taking her on the road with me in the Jeep, but there’s a strong possibility that a month-long portion of my sabbatical time will include a return to Mexico for research on one of my stories. Mexico may have let Gatita out, but I do not think they would let her back in. Plus, as vivid as my imagination can be, I cannot visualize her hind legs stretched tall while her front paws are latched onto a rolled down window, her cat face gloriously blowing in the wind. I could picture that if a horrifying wail were emanating from her mouth at the same time. If you know of anyone who would enjoy loving on a bilingual Siamese who understands “No” in both languages, please holla.
– HOW do I manage the Hook House? This one I’ve almost figured out. The thought of packing and moving again, even temporarily, makes me want to curl up on the sofa into a fetal position and binge on Netflix. I could lease the house furnished but then I’d have to toss everything when I returned because I cannot do someone else’s cooties. But the cootie situation does not eliminate leasing a furnished house from the option list. Whatever I decide will be fine. It’s the process of decision-making that causes acid to drip into my stomach and the fact that I always learn way too many lessons about leasing after instead of before. Maybe this time will be different; and, maybe my 20-year old metabolism will return. I have until the end of this week to call the realtor.
In the beginning of this mental planning in late 2014, I kept thinking that Hook was perhaps frowning on what I wanted to do. It would have been so unlike him to embark on a sabbatical without knowing exactly what he would accomplish and with whom and how it would all turn out. But when I allow myself to trust my own instinct instead of worrying what might have been his, I feel a warmth, a reassurance of sorts deep in my chest. That’s him. That is him letting me know that whatever I decide, he’s perfectly okay with it. And, if I’m to continue being honest, I’ve been waiting. I hadn’t realized for what but now I know. I’ve been waiting for the tears to dry up, waiting until the hopelessness went away, waiting until I felt comfortable with removing my wedding rings completely. I didn’t even feel bad or sad or much of anything when I took the rings off to tuck away in their original bronze-colored boxes. After I placed my bands next to Hook’s, I kissed each one and thanked Allan for understanding.
One last thing before I close. When Oprah Winfrey was interviewed at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in 2014, she shared an hour’s worth of wise nuggets about career and life. One piece of counsel stuck with me, and it applies to how I painstakingly chose to finally grant myself this sabbatical and knew with complete certainty that this was the right thing to do and the right time to do it.
Oprah said, “Listen to what feels like the truth for you.”
I am learning to listen and to heed my truth, and I want so much for you to listen to yours, too.
Until next Monday …