|Marie and me some time|
before the sabbaticals
My own need for a break had been building up. I was doing too many things and spending too little time on them to make them worth while. The more I took on, the more frantic I became and the less grounded. It never occurred to me that I was allowed to stop. If Michael had not said he was now unavailable until next year, I would never have thought it possible. Next year? I said, astonished. And then as the penny dropped, I saw myself wrapped in blankets on the sofa, the doors padlocked, the house phone in the bin, the fridge full of apple crumble, and I said - I am having one too.
Much of the work of a sabbatical is personal. If I am stuffed full of ideas, plans, notions, movement and worry, then letting go of all that will create spaces and those spaces may not feel comfortable. There is a difference between driving fast and being safe and in control, and careering off at the speed of light whizzing round corners and wondering how it got to be this fast. And the slowing down, when we are going so fast, cannot be an emergency stop otherwise we will be chucked through the metaphorical windscreen. When going that fast all our energy goes into keeping to the road, and we think that this is how fast we should be going, it is normal, so we better focus or we may crash. Being reminded that we can slow down by seeing someone showing us how and then getting out of his metaphorical car and walking off into the sunset, changes everything.
I went home, shut the door, made some tea and cancelled everything. Then I sat down and waited for Nirvana.
Chapter One. The Good Days.
These are the days with nothing in them. It does not matter what time I wake, it does not matter if I get dressed or not and my only difficulty is which sofa to sit on. The sense of peace and relief makes me smile, and I look about my home with real joy. Deciding to disconnect from everything feels like a very good idea at the beginning - and it is a good idea - it just is not simple. I can't not turn up for the things I have agreed to do, and so I do have to get dressed sometimes and go out and perform. But slowly, I have wound my engagements back leaving only those that could not be tampered with, and found a growing sense of relief in not feeling like I had to do anything else. My studio was left like the Marie Celeste, intact but abandoned mid flow. My writing was put away into a locked casket and hidden fifteen feet below ground (not really) in case I felt guilty about not doing it, and I stopped making plans. There is a saying that nature abhors a vacuum, and so does family. Family will be sucked into free spaces if they are allowed to, so that is lovingly checked. Oh the freedom to sit on the sofa and think about the books I wanted to read and catch up with. The pleasure of letting the hours tick by, and as there is no plan for the day, nothing has to be achieved. Bliss. I had the image of my mind being like a kettle filled with limescale. I was allowing the limescale to drop away, and into the nice new kettle bits in my mind, new plans were going to form. Another image was that I was a blocked sink, and all the old tea leaves and bits of soggy lettuce clogging the drains were going to be washed away for ever, and the water of my new and wonderful ideas would then flow effortlessly down the pipes.
|Family abhors a vacuum|
- What do I want to eat?
- Where do I want to sit?
- Shall I get dressed?
- Shall I stare at the wall?
- Are there any sweeties in the house?
- No one likes me
- I have not achieved anything
- No one comes to anything I do
- I am too fat
- I am scared of people
- People are scared of me
- I don't deserve success
- Everyone likes me
- I have achieved a lot
- People always come to things I do
- I am gorgeous
- I am delighted with people
- People are delighted with me
- I deserve success
Chapter Three. The Ugly Days
Can it get any worse? Isn't a sabbatical meant to be fun? It is fun. It is wonderful, but the decluttering of the mind, the putting on of the brakes when we may have been going faster and faster on the autobahn, will bring a certain amount of trauma when still and facing what we have lost sight of in ourselves and our lives. Things like perspective, self examination, assessing what is working and what is not and so on. I do not think my life was out of control, not at all, it is simply that I had forgotten what I wanted to do and what I am truly good at. And I am prone to thinking and saying dreadful things about myself when I give away my power. Then I feel sorry for myself.
|A Balrog. The people on the right are the neighbours who can't|
ignore they live next to a Balrog an longer.
There are many more good days than bad or ugly and this sabbatical is still only half way through. I imagined I would have so much time to focus on cooking, writing lists, reading, sitting and having great thoughts. Instead, my time has been spent dealing with all the nonsense I have allowed myself to come up with. I have sat on my sofas a lot - I have two, a red one and a pink one - and I have tried writing lists but what I most need is time to think. Thinking with attention, and thinking without. Thinking with attention means focus and a furrowed brow. Lots of deep and meaningful sequential thoughts. Thinking without attention is letting your mind go on a wander. Letting it meander off into the ether, you just watch it go and soon you are lost in a lovely journey without boundaries or stress. Then you fall asleep.
I have not asked Michael or Marie how their sabbaticals are going, I don't want to hear that they are having a great time and it is only me doing the I'm a Balrog thing. I will sum up the sabbatical below
- It is such an indulgence doing nothing
- It is really hard work doing nothing
- I am not doing nothing!
- There are sweeties in the house
- I am so glad I am doing this
- Some plans are forming for next year
- I am not a Balrog
- Even if I was, I would be a nice one
- I am really glad I am not doing as much as I was
- My clothes do fit, I am just attention seeking.
My sabbatical ends in January 2020. If all goes well, I shall sail out of it like a ship in full sail, filled with wisdom and good food. I will meet up with Michael and Marie and we will all laugh about how good life is now, and getting into our metaphorical life cars, we will stick to the speed limit. And I will have a clean limescale free kettle head with all the old bits of sweetcorn removed from the blocked drains, the water of my ideas will be flowing smoothly and no one will notice that my metaphors are really odd.
|Emerging full of wisdom, food and metaphors.|