Five Lessons From my Sabbatical
PLUS: An August menu of enjoyment, rose iced tea, and a huge bouquet of wildflowers.
August is here now. It’s the time for picking roadside blackberries, eating outside whenever possible, and seeing the big bright dahlias finally bloom.
As previously mentioned, I took the month of July off work. I wanted more time to enjoy the summer, but I also wanted to reorient myself and my attitude towards life. I’d found myself becoming obsessive and neurotic, and I needed a slap upside the head. I didn’t know exactly what I’d learn from the experience, but it felt like it would help.
Now that it’s over and I’m easing into a new routine, here are five things I’ve learned from not forcing myself to do anything for a little while:
1. Being idle is a practice.
It’s hard for me to do nothing. Even though I know it’s ridiculous, I have a persistent feeling of guilt when I’m not being “productive”.
I’ve tried reasoning my way around this. I’ve tried altering my self-talk. I’ve tried eschewing to-do lists, I’ve tried meditation and journaling. Many of these have been helpful, but the feelings still creep in every time I need to make a decision about how to spend a free hour on a Sunday.
It turns out, I just needed to practice. I needed to get comfortable just doing things slowly and for the sheer pleasure, without thought about an outcome. Once I got into the habit, it felt natural.
Adopting a puppy really helped, because we spend a lot of time just wandering around the yard while she sniffs around and explores.
May we all spend more time walking, taking it all in, and figuring things out.
2. I was really burned out on “working on myself.”
Life seems so short, too short to possibly learn all there is to know about ourselves. As a naturally curious person, I love learning about how humans work, and how I can become a better one, or at least a bit more well-adjusted.
Some of the ideas I’ve learned in this pursuit have been truly transformative. I’ve learned how to be more compassionate towards myself (and others), how to accept unpleasant emotions, how to stay relatively calm and centered – how to be an adult, basically.
But I was becoming overwhelmed by the supposed need to improve myself all the time. I hadn’t realized this until I took a break, but I’d amassed a huge list of “shoulds” to maintain my mental health, giving me even more to feel guilty about.
I’m going to pare back for a while and focus on my core practices: exercise, meditation, walking outside. Less self-help, more radical acceptance.
3. I have more than I need.
My closet is packed. I’ve run out of hangers.
Mostly, this is down to loss aversion. I don’t really shop all that much and my sewing is at a reasonable pace, but I have a very hard time parting with things that I like.
This has brought me back to the question: What is enough? And what is the point of having more than you can reasonably use?
4. Pleasure matters.
There is nothing wrong with simply enjoying your life. The more you do, the more pleasure you bring to other people as well.
Enjoy a good meal. Drink a glass of cold lemonade outside. Lay in a hammock with a pile of books. Pick wildflowers. Watch the light shift. These things can change the tone of your day, and the tone of your life.
They take time. You have to be willing to trade some productivity if you want pleasure to be a part of your life.
5. You can ignore more than you think.
I realized this when I arrived back to work on Tuesday morning and had to cull an inbox of almost 300 emails: you can safely ignore almost everything.
There is so much being thrown at us every day. There are little tidbits of information that could possibly make a small improvement in your life or your work. There are promises, new products, articles to read, ideas, tips, tricks, on and on and on.
In truth, you can almost certainly ignore all of it and be just fine. Yes, there might be something helpful and inspiring buried in there. But is it worth the tradeoff of basically giving your whole life over to sorting through meaningless fluff?
My August Menu of Enjoyment
I had so much fun making a menu of enjoyment for the summer break that I thought I’d make a new one for August. Here are some joyful things to pick and choose from this month.
Pick loads of blackberries from all the wild brambles around the house. They’re finally ripening!
Have a breakfast picnic (maybe by the water somewhere?)
Make rose iced tea on repeat. This is the tea I use. Also wonderful to drink hot with lots of milk and honey.
Go for a morning hike
Harvest tomatoes (finally!)
Bake a pie and share it
Dry some lavender
Sew curtains for the new sewing shed
Go camping again
Plan my fall sewing / knitting / crafting projects
Start a quilt
What’s on your menu for August?
Head, Heart, Hands
Things to make us think, feel, and do.
I made this green bean salad with peaches last night, using the bush beans from our garden. It is delicious. I cut way down on the oregano-flecked oil, since you don’t end up using most of it.
I made some really nice corduroy pants! I seriously love these and can’t wait to make another pair for fall.