Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sabbatical and the Pursuit of Rest

It's my sixth week of sabbatical. Some of you have been asking me how it's been going and what I've been doing, though regular readers may have picked up more than a few clues.

I’ll say this first: I never thought I’d be very good at this. It’s too much about resting, playing, and taking it easy. And I’m not like the old man who reportedly said, “Nobody is better at ‘nothing’ than I am!” I’m not in that league; I get depressed by three-day weekends. But some things are worth doing badly, and I have to say I think I’m getting better at dawdling, sauntering, musing, resting, and the like.

In fact, the more I’ve gotten a taste of the unhurried existence the less I've been afraid of it; the more I like it.

My convictions that living an overextended life is itself a wasteful way to live are also growing. I’d like to share more of what I’ve read and experienced on this topic, but have been reluctant to do so. After all, some of you are nap and vacation experts; others probably feel helpless, trapped by the busy-ness of your lives. Whatever I post about rest, and margin, and letting the Holy Spirit and not the pressures of life determine your priorities, I hope you’ll keep in mind that I’m just beginning to really learn these things. But I am learning.


It's been fun to do what I think of as "stay at home mom" things. It's unlikely I’ll ever be a SAHM, at this point, and certainly it would bring some significant challenges if I was. But I have enjoyed spending time cooking and baking, housework, etc. No actual babysitting, but I've been to the M. family's house to read aloud to their eight-year-old several times, and spent one recent afternoon watching the H. girls perform in a horse show. I've gotten together with friends for coffee or walks, puttered around the house, and even did a bit of "scrapbooking" of a sort.


I’ve also been reading a lot, though that is pretty usual for me. Our church is doing this "Bible in 90 Days" thing which I've been helping facilitate, so I've spent a lot of time reading the Bible. I haven’t done a ton of writing; haven’t really wanted to. I’m thinking of trying out a daily journaling habit after Easter. And see where that takes me, ask God to chart the course. You know, I’m very much a thinker, and sometimes that gets me into trouble. Restful thinking – musing – is great. Worrying – fretting – is obviously not. Productive thinking is somewhere between the two, in terms of the energy input. I’ve got some stuff to process, certainly.

I don’t want to dive into it too deeply just yet. But soon, perhaps.

On the Social Front

Socially, this time has been a mixed bag. I still haven’t really seen people I wouldn’t probably be getting together with anyway, though looking forward to those times, enjoying them, and reflecting on them after, has sweetened them considerably. I’m hoping to spend time with a few families coming to Colorado from out of town on their spring break this week. And I think I will push myself to take a little more initiative than usual to make sure I have enough people-time each week.

One thing I’ve discovered about myself in doing this is that my usual tendency to spread myself too thin, costly as that is, has been a strategy for avoiding the disappointment of unexpected time alone. You know, it’s one thing to be given time alone as a treat, quite another to be left alone because you are a pathetic loser.

Oh, I know, you’d probably tell me I’m not a pathetic loser, but I seem to still have this fear within, that I am. Where does it come from? It’s probably some combination of enemies’ lies whispered in my ears, pressures from the media and the culture that have more influence on me than I like to admit, and unrealized childhood dreams of being a “popular” girl.

So now, with my usual coping strategy of keeping busy taken away, I find that fear resurfacing with a vengeance.

For example, this weekend there was a miscommunication with the small group I’ve been in for a long time, and lately facilitating. For the others, busy people who could really use a little more family time anyway, it was not such a bit deal I think. But I actually showed up at the house with my potluck dish (and lesson plan for the evening) in hand, looking forward to spending time with some of my favorite people. This really is the closest thing I get, here, to family time, so it's important to me. When they said, “Wait, didn’t you get the message? We're not meeting!” I was so embarrassed, so disappointed… I walked back out to my car and just sobbed and sobbed.

While I hope I can get to the root of that, talk to God about it, and get to a place of greater equilibrium about these things, I also acknowledge that living a simpler, more focused life – putting more of my eggs in one basket – may mean deeper disappointment when things don’t go as I’d like. Hmmm… worth it, to live a more intentional, less fragmented life? Yes, I believe so.

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