Everything is in the middle.
The first week I spent slowly withdrawing. This last week I spent scrambling to stay. When I look at it that way, that makes the time in between sadly emptier or less full–to put a wee more positive spin on it.
We spend a lot of our lives in the middle, don’t we? The in-between. That space before a decision. The time looking. The time adjusting. The time getting to and fro or just circling. Like Pema Chodron said, “we are always in process.”
Though we move from moment to moment, I find it hard not to bookend time. To mark the beginnings and endings. To snag momentos and mental snapshots of what will never be again. I feel a little somber wrapping up my time here. Maybe because this me time was really about putting on training wheels. The middle ground before the change I seek that’s altogether new.
The middle is where momentum builds. Where the pendulum dips before the next rise. The valley between peaks where all points of view hold promise. Where potential pools… Who knows where I’m going next. I’m happy to be in motion. Re-fueled and in a higher gear.
When I tell people about what I’ve been up to in my 30 days of me time, I get things like, “Wow, aren’t you lucky.” If this all happened by chance, my luck is remarkably predictable as this is my third career break in ten years. I went to Paris in 2005, to Argentina in 2010 and, now, the faraway and most exotic Wesport, Massachusetts. (Apparently my luck arrives on a renewable five year plan.)
Am I lucky? To step outside of your world where the only consequence is positive is lucky, I suppose. It’s easy to judge as some selfish luxury, but really, there’s a lot of practicality to sabbaticals. And to some folks, breaks are the things that move them forward.
Stefan Sagmeister, a world renowned designer, gives a great TED talk on the Power of Time Off. It’s about how he rejuvenates by taking year-long sabbaticals every seven years. His rationale? Here’s an excerpt from his talk:
Right now we spend about the first 25 years of our lives learning, then there is another 40 years that’s really reserved for working. And then tacked on at the end of it are about 15 years for retirement. And I thought it might be helpful to basically cut off five of those retirement years and intersperse them in between those working years. (Applause) That’s clearly enjoyable for myself. But probably even more important is that the work that comes out of these years flows back into the company and into society at large, rather than just benefiting a grandchild or two.
Sagmeister goes on to talk about how time off re-ignites his work. He owns a wildly successful New York design firm with clients like the Rolling Stones, HBO and the Guggenheim. So it’s easy to see how someone with his clout can shut down for a year and pick right back up again. What about the rest of us?
I put my life on a shelf for a month.
I have to check out to tune in. Similar to that 60’s psychedelic sentiment–without the drugs.
The house I’m renting is delightful. There’s a panoramic view of the river just over the sun deck, a lawn blanketed in at least a foot of snow and a short pier at the end jutting out into the icy, glassy water. It’s even snowing softly yet steadily, accentuating the already soothing scenery.
All I need is some wood for the wood burning stove. And to figure out how to hook up my Apple TV for my guilty pleasure of back-to-back episodes of House of Cards. My box of paints are waiting to be cracked open. My Kindle is loaded.
There’s so much bubbling over, I don’t even know if 30 days is enough. What does it take to live a life where you’re tuned in to yourself all the time? Why do we get lost? When does the questioning fall away so that I can just be?
A shelf holds things. Displays them. Keeps them for later, periodic use. At some point, we dust the contents off. Shelves hold things we’re aware of. We know what’s sitting where and why. But we leave them there until the right moment–contented that they’re easily within reach when we’re ready.